Natasha's story: life as a young parent
My name is Natasha and I’m a young parent. Today I would like to share my story with you.
Where should I start? Let’s go back to when I was a child. I have four siblings, 2 brothers and 2 sisters. Life was alright, I remember playing a lot with them and obviously can’t forget the family day trips. Things at home started to not be so good and my sister had been removed and taken in to foster care. Shortly after me and my brother followed. I was now aged 11.
Foster care and independent living
Living in foster care was a new experience for me. I was excited and scared all at the same time. Adapting to this new life I started to not take school so seriously, hanging around with the wrong type of people and generally doing as I pleased. From the ages of 11-15 I constantly got into trouble with the law. Unfortunately, I hadn’t completed my GCSE’s which at the time I didn’t see the importance of. However, I blagged my way into college and started studying Fashion.
By the age of 15 going on 16 I was living independently and relying on social services money to support me, as I wasn’t old enough for a job or a bank account. Most of my days I spent at home by myself or I would sleep over at a friend’s house for a week at a time. Desperately always needing money and not coping without company I latched onto the first person that gave me both. This was when I met my children’s father. He showered me with a lot more than I could provide for myself. After about 2 months of dating we were officially girlfriend and boyfriend. I was still attending college but mainly for the social connections. I felt happy and can just remember living for each day. No serious thoughts of the future had yet crossed my mind.
Becoming a young parent
A month later and I found out that I was pregnant. Being under social care I had the support of social workers and the father planned on sticking around. My pregnancy went well, and I gave birth to a little baby girl. She was the most amazing thing ever. I lived in a mother and baby unit for the first two months of her life. This was very restrictive and depressing. I then eventually moved out to living independently again. So now we could all get on with being a happy family. Well, that’s what I thought. Life with a baby was easy for me in terms of looking after her physical needs, its basically doing what you would do for yourself just for an extra person. It’s the mental side effects that I had never considered before giving birth. I started to lose friends, my partner started being controlling. Inside I was fighting against being that young care free person and trying to comprehend the new changes in my life. It all became too much. I stayed at home most of the time with my daughter isolating myself. I also developed OCD for a period of time because of the constant cleaning I was doing at home. I allowed their father to not help me with the baby believing it was solely my job. Life like this continued for about 3 years.
I then fell pregnant again with my second child. Although I was in a relationship I knew I was a single parent. Everything was down to me so falling pregnant again I was excited but very worried that life would be how it was the first time. Making changes in our relationship was the first step. When my second daughter was born I could not go through the things had before! I promised myself to take both the girls to children centres, do a lot more outdoor activities and show them the world.
Young Mum's Together
I registered at the local children’s centre and started attending, just the standard stay and play. This is where I heard about Young Mums Together groups (YMT). Initially I thought why would I go to sit around other young mums? That’s sad. Every time I went to the centre they would continue to try and get me to attend. One day I arrived as the Young Mums Together group was about to begin and finally I went in. It was an inviting room with children’s toys, outdoor area and snacks. As my 1st child was 4yrs and currently in nursery part time she came along with us too. She really enjoyed going. Being able to get stuck into messy play was her cup of tea. Watching her explore and take an interest in so many things amazed me. It took a while for me to become a regular attendee to the groups. Partly because I felt like a loser for going and partly because my cleaning, cooking and boyfriend were a higher priority at the time.
Meeting and bonding with other parents
After a while I began to see the benefits of going. It wasn’t just a place for me to watch my daughters play. Other topics were addressed during sessions. Things that were relevant to my life even if nobody knew it. I started to actually have conversations with someone other than my boyfriend. So I made it a regular thing. I would try my hardest not to miss a group and would even get down hearted if they weren’t running it for whatever reason. Being regular helped me to bond/connect with other parents who were also regular. Before I knew it we were travelling to the groups together or going for a tea straight after. It was great! The kids enjoyed going, even remembering the route there and trying to guess the craft activity. My second girl was such a happy little baby she was developing perfectly and became very comfortable in the group environment.
Volunteering and building confidence
Opportunities started to come up, free trips with the children’s centre, drop in sessions for weaning and things like that. Most of all, MHF started offering a 6-week volunteer programme. At first, I didn’t even consider it because as always, I had no childcare. Then I heard that they provide childcare! I was so excited to be able to do something different. By this time, I was so bored of the robotic routine I had got myself into and was itching to do something. The volunteering consisted of helping on the days of the group. It literally was just a perfect opportunity for me, so I completed the training and began volunteering.
This really built my confidence. Knowing that I was still useful to other people just left me smiling after groups. It also taught me how I can be encouraging towards other young parents and this helped me not think so negatively about my own life. About a year later to my surprise I, along with other volunteers, we had the opportunity to apply for a job with MHF, working with the YMT project. I hadn’t thought about working too much because my rent was high and was quite comfortable with my benefits. I was always too nervous to make changes to my income because I was unsure of what I was entitled to and how I go about getting it. Despite these feelings, I was willing to apply for the job and see where it took me. So that’s exactly what I did. I applied, and to my amazement I got the job.
Starting work on Young Mum's Together
Young Mum's Together had referred me to two services that helped me through this process. Having little money for the initial childcare fees and the worries of handing in the right paper work would have overwhelmed me if I didn’t have these external services support. In Jan 2017 I began working with MHF on the YMT Project. My partner wasn’t happy that I was working but I sure was. Although leaving my girls was a little hard, not having to do any mummy duties for 16 hours a week was heavenly!
My work consisted of running YMT groups, supporting parents in between sessions and office work. At first, I felt a bit rusty and anxious. I hadn’t written anything longer than my kids names for about a year and I couldn’t even say when the last time I used a computer was. Nonetheless I just got stuck in. I was always a quick learner and it didn’t take me long to get the hang of things. Running groups made me feel great. Being able to use the experience I’ve had by helping others through their current situations was so satisfying. I began self-developing on things like reading, public speaking and many other professional skills. A lot started to change in my life. My kids were proud of me and I enjoyed them more because they weren’t always around me. I had the determination to do my very best and began thinking about my future. YMT was more than a job for me, it was a life line. It was as if the job description were tailored to my needs. Learning about all the different things involved in the young mum’s project it heightened my enthusiasm to make a difference. The passion behind my team’s work encouraged me to want to become more and to never settle for less.
"It’s now 2018 and the YMT groups have transformed my life. Not only has my confidence, self-respect, resilience, mental health, adaptability and attitude changed but we as a family are doing the best we have ever done both physically and mentally."
I would like to just say thank you to MHF. The difference you have made I’m sure you will never know but I will never forget.
Thank you for listening to my story.