Young Singaporean Mothers
Motherhood is often dubbed the ‘toughest job in the world’. While sleepless nights and a lifetime of worrying are part and parcel of raising a child, teen mothers often have to deal with the additional stigma of being ‘irresponsible and reckless youth’.
Yet, despite the backlash, some girls choose to keep the child. Although teenage pregnancy shouldn’t be encouraged, stigmatising them or invalidating their experiences doesn’t make for a kinder Singapore.
Pushing past these stereotypes, these 8 Singaporean teen mums share with us the invaluable lessons motherhood has taught them.
*Names have been changed to protect identities
1. Motherhood gave me a new purpose in life
“When I was 18, I was a wild child. I’d play truant, smoke and shoplift. But one day, I realised I had to stop my antics because I became pregnant.
Everyone wanted me to abort the child, including my divorced mother. But I wanted to prove her wrong, so I moved in with my boyfriend’s family and gave birth to a boy.
Getting pregnant changed my life for the better. Before childbirth, my life was a mess, but having my son motivated me to get rid of my bad habits.
I’ve quit smoking, and I’ve been taking evening classes to expand on my skills. Thanks to him, I’ve become more aware of the need to plan for my future for the sake of our family.”
2. Motherhood taught me a kind of maturity even adults fail to grasp
“When I gave birth at 18, my boyfriend and I didn’t have a steady income. But keeping the child forced us to get a job and plan our future together.
People assume we’re irresponsible and financially incapable of parenting because of our age, but we’re both fully employed and making ends meet for our newborn.
Just because we started a family early doesn’t mean we can’t take care of ourselves. A 30-year-old can also be unemployed and incapable of providing for another human being.
Becoming a mother forced me to grow up, and I matured in a way people can only fathom when they have a child of their own.”
3. Motherhood is a luxury not everyone gets
“My dream of being a mother was crushed when I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, a condition which made it near impossible for me to conceive.
But miraculously, I fell pregnant in secondary 4. I felt it was my only chance to have a child, and with the financial help and support from my parents, I kept the baby.
There are moments where I feel I’ve made a mistake, but knowing motherhood isn’t something everyone gets to experience, I’m grateful for my baby.”
4. Motherhood brought me closer to my family
“I was 16 and I got pregnant the first time I had sex. When I broke the news to my parents, my usually calm and collected mother broke into tears and my father left the room speechless.
Ashamed, I moved into my boyfriend’s house. My parents and I didn’t speak until I gave birth.
Although the pregnancy caused some distance between my family, we eventually became closer thanks to the baby.
My parents now dote and take care of my daughter while I continue my studies, and parenting has become a common topic for us to talk over the dinner table.”
5. Motherhood made me understand every mother’s sacrifice
“Since young, my life goal was to become a mother. When I realised I was expecting at 16, I was over the moon.
Soon, I came to realise motherhood isn’t all about singing lullabies and watching cartoons together. Motherhood is mostly about sacrifice and the willingness to put someone else’s needs above my own regardless of how exhausted I feel.
While my friends went on shopping sprees, I had to stay home and feed my baby or coax him to sleep when he cried.
I wish I knew just how much I’d have to give up for my child. It makes me appreciate the hard work all mothers put in for their kids.”
6. Motherhood made me feel important
“It was after my final year exams when I got knocked up by my ex-boyfriend. He was three years older than me, and when he heard about the pregnancy, he took off.
My parents pushed for an abortion but I couldn’t bring myself to agree to it. I even became depressed and contemplated suicide.
But when I saw my baby for the first time, all those negative feelings washed away. I felt a sense of belonging and responsibility; I felt needed because a child was depending on me.
Motherhood is about taking on the tremendous responsibility of guiding a child to grow up healthily and happily.”
7. Motherhood made me realise how strong I was
“When I had my first child at 17, I was an emotional wreck. The father of my child had left, and I was diagnosed with depression. As I couldn’t cope with the pregnancy, I thought of putting my baby up for adoption.
Fortunately, my own mother counselled me into realising that motherhood was never going to be an easy journey, regardless if I was prepared of not.
I took her advice and never gave up on my son. I signed myself up for therapy in an effort to become a better person, and eventually a better mother for my child.
Looking back now, I’m most grateful that I didn’t give up on myself. My son and I have come a long way since my ‘dark days’, but we pulled through, together and stronger.”
8. Motherhood is a lonely road if you don’t have support
“I was 19, alone on an exchange in Europe when I discovered I was pregnant. Fearful of what my parents would think, I hid my pregnancy.
I was depressed and helpless, and the only person who knew was a counsellor from a local university, who introduced me to a support group for unwed single mothers.
During the six months while I was away, their encouragement and open minds gave me courage to keep the baby.
Now, when I look at my daughter, I think of those ladies and how grateful I am to them for guiding me through my pregnancy.”
Becoming A Mother
Juggling motherhood and teenagehood is no easy feat for these young mothers. To raise a child at a young age requires courage and maturity, and as a society, we should support and respect their decision.
If you are a pregnant teenager in Singapore who needs someone to talk to, visit Babes’ website or call its helpline at 8111 3535 (24 hours).