Being Proven Right

I’ve written a piece for the Young Parents Associates blog called ‘The Exception To The Rule’. It’s about being told that no matter what we achieve as young parents, we will always be ‘the exception to the rule’, and society’s determination to paint young parents as no-hopers and layabouts when the reality for the majority of us is very different.

The piece has been shared on Twitter, and already I’ve been proven correct. People do want to believe the stereotype of young parents that they’ve been fed by TV shows and newspapers; that as a group we are all workshy and irresponsible, throwing our lives away, wasting our youth and popping out kids for the benefits and the council house. The level of ignorance is astonishing; people refuse to read the full article because they are so set in their ways.

Everyone is entitled to their opinions, of course, and if people actually read the posts and still feel the way they feel, that’s fine – at least they’ve read the post, at least they’ve taken the other side into consideration before making their decision. To not even take the time to read it says a lot more about that person than it does about any young parent.

Why are these people so set on hating young parents? There’s so many of the arguments that I just can’t wrap my head around. The one about ‘wasting our youth’ is the most laughable; am I supposed to regret that I spent the last eighteen months pregnant or caring for a child rather than getting wasted and high every weekend? Am I supposed to resent the amazing family holidays we’ve had at the seaside and wish I had vague hazy memories and some foreign symbols tattooed on my arse as a reminder of a holiday in some hot, sticky, drunk country?

That’s not to say I judge people who live that life. That’s their life to live, they obviously enjoy it and have great memories, but why should that diminish mine? I have a life I love – we are financially secure, I am working, we rent a fantastic flat and best of all, have a beautiful, thriving daughter to show for it all. If you asked me to choose between partying and enjoying the youth I’m supposedly throwing away, or the last two years, I’d choose the last two years in a heartbeat.

As for the other arguments… well, as I said in the post, they don’t hand out free council house keys in your Bounty Pack. We’ve been renting privately since March last year (before that we were renting student accommodation), so are most of the young parents I know personally. In fact, I don’t know of any who are living in council houses off the top of my head, and I think that’s a stronger argument than the couple of cases the Daily Mail shows you off these promiscuous no-gooders.

Almost every university has a student parents society, with many of the members being young parents. What does that say for the argument of young parents being uneducated? And even if they’ve dropped out of education for now, that’s either a decision they’ve made that is best for them and their family, or they’ll return to education in a few years time and continue learning.

If you have formed your opinion based on meeting young parents, reading about their experiences, studying the statistics, keeping an open mind and you still choose to keep thinking that young parents are, by and large, no-hopers, and those who achieve are just exceptions to the rule, by all means carry on. We’ll always disagree, but at least you’ve thought about your opinion.

Deciding that young parents are wastes of space based on a couple of Channel 4 TV programmes, a story in the Daily Mail and that teenage mum you’ve never met but she lives on the council estate so she must be dodgy? Well, that’s just sheer ignorance, and I’d rather be a teenage parent, whatever you might think that entails, than be ignorant.

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