'Doubts and Fears Don't Make You a Bad Parent' – Gen Z Mums On Having Kids Young

Growing up while raising a child isn't easy. But despite the challenges and other people's judgment, young mothers have a lot to be proud of.

This article originally appeared on VICE Germany.

After many of her friends became young mothers, Berlin-based photographer Lucia Jost realised that the tabloid media and reality TV stereotypes of the teen mum don’t actually reflect reality. 

“All the young mothers I know are incredibly self-sufficient,” she said. “I have enormous respect for these women and the relationship between mother and child.” That’s why she decided to portray young women with their kids in her latest photo project, Motherhood – A Mother's Hood, showing the duos in their homes or spaces they feel comfortable in.

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I spoke to the women photographed for the project about what it’s been like to have a child early in life.

Yahel, 22, and Ariel, 3

Yahel and Ariel.

When I think about being a mother, I always picture my mum, who took very loving care of the four of us. She’s the strongest woman I’ve ever known. Before I became a mother, I thought motherhood would be the most fulfilling thing in the world, and I still see it that way. But even though my child is my absolute priority, I know I have to take care of myself, too. You’re not just a mother – it’s important to keep that in mind.

Before I became a mum, I would’ve liked to know that you’ll have doubts and fears, but that doesn't make you a bad parent, it just makes you human. Becoming a mum so early was hard. You have to grow up while having full responsibility for a small human. It’s been by far the most time-consuming and hardest thing to ever happen in my life. There isn’t much room for error. But I’m so proud of it.

Jada, 25, and Naima, 2

Jada and Naima.

As a young single mum and artist, I've often felt I should take a step back in my own growing process so I don’t come off as a “crazy” or “bad” mum. I’d internalised the trope of the self-sacrificing mother more than I would have liked. But when I began sharing my experiences with other young and creative mums, I started feeling less alone and more confident in my own sense of self.

Naemi, 19, and Kalim, 1

Naemi and Kalim.

I grew up in a big family, with six siblings. My sister also has two children, so I’ve already seen a lot. The people around me always saw me as a mum, and my best friend also said she’d always known I’d have kids young. In retrospect, I wish I could’ve raised my son with his father and not as a single parent, but that makes me even prouder of my son and myself. 

On the playground people often tell me I’m too young, but I think I'm just as much of a mother as anyone else. My favourite thing about motherhood is waking up next to the little one and seeing him looking at me. He just makes me incredibly happy.

Paula, 23, and Elio, 2

Paula and Elio.

I found out I was pregnant when I got home from a New Year's party. That was a pretty interesting start to 2018. I was completely in shock. After a couple of weeks, it became clear to me I wanted to have the baby. I just had a feeling. There’s no right or wrong decision in this kind of situation.

Before becoming a mother, I had a beautiful mental image of motherhood, defined by unconditional love. I’ve always felt joy at the idea of becoming a mother someday. 

Now, I do feel unconditional love, but I also don’t want to sugarcoat things too much. The decision to become a mother has turned my whole life upside down, forever. Being a mother doesn’t mean you’ll always be loved and successful – you have to work hard for those things. You need to be functional, even if, for example, you’ve had a traumatic birth or are going through a tough separation. In these phases, being a mum means putting your issues aside and carrying on.

No matter what you’re going through, society expects a lot from you. Most of all, you’re expected to be content and grateful. But it’s OK to be sad, angry or desperate – we’re only human after all. Despite it all, I can say it was the best decision of my life.

Tagged:

Photography, children, Single Mothers, VICE International, VICE Germany

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