I opened the letter and started reading:
“Dear Miss Kibbles.
We would like to invite you to our young mother’s group.
By coming to this group, you will be able to gather support from, health professionals and other young parents in your situation. We can give you up to date advice on benefits, counselling, stopping smoking and substance abuse issues. We also offer parenting classes as well as practical help such as cooking courses”
Of course, it was a fifteen years ago when I revived that letter. I had just given birth to my first child. I was 22.
Did you know that every woman who has the audacity to have a baby under the age of 25 is a feckless, benefit scrounger who has probably got knocked up by some loser who was sent to prison shortly after? She’s probably got a drug problem to.
Except when none of that is true.
It was sent to me by the haughty, full busted, bespectacled, middle aged Health Visitor who barged her way into my home a few days later.
Yes, barged. She pushed past me into my home.
“Did you receive the information on our young mum’s group?” She asked, looking me up and down.
Yeah, I had done. But, as I explained to her, I didn’t think it was aimed at me. I didn’t have any substance abuse problems and I wasn’t in receipt of any benefits.
“All young Mother’s are vulnerable!” She infomed me, “All Mother’s under 25 need help and guidance. Would you know where to go if you needed housing support? If your benefits were stopped?”
My back was up.
“Why would you think I was vulnerable just because of my age?” I asked, struggling not to add “YOU CONDESCENDING BITCH” at the end.
At that point in my life I was married (the Health Visitor didn’t believe me at first, as I hadn’t changed my name and was still ‘Miss’). I owned my own home. I had just sold my sucessful business and I wasn’t vulnerable at all. I even had a cleaner and a Land Rover on the drive.
The thought that anyone would be so short sighted to think that if you had a child ‘young’ you were in a bad situation made me really angry.
It wasn’t just the Health Visitor who made that assumption. I used to get it a lot. Even from friends that I had been to school with; people who had just left university and looked at me with distain because they thought I was wasting my life – I just carried on and ignored them. I was actually having the time of my life, travelling with my baby, working on some great projects and meeting some amazing new people.
When I had my second baby at the grand old age of 34, I had none of the stigma that came from being a young mum.
I was the right age for a middle class mother to have a child, so no one cared a jot. It was funny to me that actually, it was at 34 where my life had gone to shit. I was back studying another degree full time while trying to eek out a living as a freelance writer and therefore claiming benefits to help out. The nice house and fancy cars were long gone and I was living in a rented shithole. I was more like to be cleaning toilets than having someone come round to clean mine. I was depressed and run ragged.
But still, it was okay because I was in my 30’s. I wasn’t young and vulnerable anymore.
Not all young mothers are scumbags who need help. Not all 30 something mothers are sorted career women who need no help. Could someone tell the health visitors that please?