15 Beautiful & Revealing Photos Destroy the Stereotypes of 'Young Motherhood'

young motherhood by Jendella Benson

With the average age of first-time moms in the US higher than ever (at 26.3 years of age), young mothers often find themselves faced with unfair stereotypes. That's why Jendella Benson, an artist and photographer based in the UK (where the average age of first-time moms is 30.2 years), started the Young Motherhood project, a social documentary aiming to examine (and disprove) those stereotypes.

"My inspiration for the series was young mothers that I knew personally," Benson told The Stir.

"I knew firsthand that their lives were nothing like the stereotypes that are ingrained in our collective consciousness when it comes to young mothers. They were working hard, doing a brilliant job with their kids, going to uni, chasing their dreams and all these wonderful things, but then the pervasive idea was young mothers are lazy, irresponsible, promiscuous, and that their lives are effectively going down the drain. I wanted to challenge that."

And Benson's photos (and their subjects' stories) do just that: challenge the idea that young mothers are bad mothers. 

"I hope the project challenges people's stereotypes and forces them to address their own biases. I hope it pushes individuals to be more empathetic," said Benson -- and we hope so, too! Click through our slideshow to see some of her most compelling photos, and learn more about Benson's work on her website.

 

Image via Jendella Benson

  • Angella (with Isaiah, Talitha & Gabriel)

    1

    Image via Jendella Benson

    “We made our decision that whatever challenges come, we have [to] take [them] head-on. I don’t think you can ever be prepared to have children, I think it’s just kind of like a day-to-day thing, you take the challenges as they come, you overcome, and you look back and say ‘Man, that was hard, but we done it.’” 

    More from The Stir: 10 Reasons Having Babies in Your 20s Rocks

  • Amy (with Amanda)

    2

    Image via Jendella Benson

    "I’m a teacher, so I deal with young people who become pregnant regularly. I just always say to them that things just take a little bit longer, you can achieve everything you wanted to achieve, but sometimes it will take a little bit longer. So I went to university, but I was just a few years behind my peers who went at the traditional age. It doesn’t mean that you can’t get there, but [also] you should enjoy your baby and not be ashamed of it."

  • Andrea (with Cidonye & DeAndré)

    3

    Image via Jendella Benson

    "I was in a really good relationship. I’d gone through some health concerns previous to that and there was a possibility that I may not have children. So when we found out that we were pregnant it was great news, so we took it straight to [our] parents! I decided to be a mother. A part of me did think ‘Gosh, I’m 19, maybe I am too young?’ But in my mind I felt like I was old enough to deal with the pregnancy and the forthcoming baby. I felt like I was grown, I felt like I was old enough to be able to handle what I was experiencing."

  • Chantell (with Siantae)

    4

    Image via Jendella Benson

    “It’s a huge responsibility, but it’s what I know now, and I really enjoy the fact that I’ve got my daughter. I’m her first teacher, she looks up to me and I love it because it challenges me to be a better person in myself. She’s a really good girl. Sometimes maybe I wish I’d waited ’til later, but now when I look at my daughter and she’s the age she is, [and] I’m the age I am -- we’ve grown [up] together. So I don’t wish I’d had her later, I’m glad I had her when I did.” 

  • Charity (with Noah)

    5

    Image via Jendella Benson

    “[I had] friends saying 'No, no, you like to go out, you like to do this...' and I was like 'Is that life though? I’ve got a life in me!' It annoyed me a bit and I was quite upset with a few people, and to be honest, even to the point where if they comment about him now, like 'Oh he’s so gorgeous!' -- well you didn’t think I should’ve had him! At the beginning I was quite bitter towards [them] because it upset me, because I wanted support. I never considered [abortion], I had my beliefs and I [didn't] see abortion as a way out."

  • Dee (with Jasmine & Alexander)

    6

    Image via Jendella Benson

    “The stigma of being a young parent is increasing because of feelings about welfare. I think people really don’t like young parents for a lot of reasons, but most of it is economic. It’s not acceptable to be homophobic or racist or sexist anymore, but you’ll often hear discrimination towards young parents. [You hear] that they’re scum of the earth and all the things that are said about their morality.” 

    More from The Stir: 5 Big Perks of Being an Older Parent & 5 Big Misses

  • Emily (with Luke)

    7

    Image via Jendella Benson

    “Throughout my pregnancy I definitely got more confident. I got more confident as a woman and I definitely felt the transition between being a teenager and being an adult. I had to leave a lot of friends behind, because it wasn’t about hanging out with your friends, having a drink and going to the pub, or messing about anymore. It was all about planning for the future and settling down, and doing what you need to do."

  • Grace (with Daniel, Miriam & Rebekah)

    8

    Image via Jendella Benson

    “I remember being on a hospital ward on a shift, and I had my name badge and underneath my name badge there was a picture of Daniel on the other side. And one of the patients saw this picture of Daniel and she said 'Oh, you’ve got a son.' I said 'Yeah, he’s two.' 'Oh, you’re not married?' I said 'No, I’m not married, it’s just me and Daniel.' 'Oh, you must still love him though, mustn’t you?' Well, yeah! He's my son, yes, I do still love him!"

     

  • Jennifer (with Josiah & Casey)

    9

    Image via Jendella Benson

    “I gave up on my studying, I worked, I had my child, I took time off, and then when he was about 8 months, I went back to work full-time. I remember I would go to work with tears in my eyes, because I felt like I was forced to go back to work, I felt like the government was tying my hands. I didn’t want to leave him so soon. I didn’t have any financial support from the father, and it was really all on me. As tough and as challenging as it was, you just do it. Somehow you just find the strength to cope. Each time I was telling myself ‘I’m not just doing this for myself, I’m doing this for my child. I’m his whole world, so I have to do what I need to do.’” 

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  • Justina (with Kaiden, Shenekia, Kiarn, Siân)

    10

    Image via Jendella Benson

    “It made me super determined to do something with my life. Essentially when I got pregnant everyone wrote me off except for my mum. They said I wouldn’t amount to anything, I’d ruined my life, I’d never have a career, I wouldn’t be able to get a decent job. At the time, because I wasn’t with her father, it was like ‘Nobody is ever going to want you, you’re never going to be able to get married, nobody’s going to take on you and a child.’ I was super determined to prove them wrong. When I was able to, I went back to college and I studied and I worked, and I worked, and I worked to not fulfill that kind of stereotype."

  • Leonie (with Elyon)

    11

    Image via Jendella Benson

    “Especially him being a black boy as well, I have to make sure that I raise him in a way that he’s not deemed by society as being a problem. Even though he’ll have that stigma [that] he’s come from a young, single mum, I want him to know that he doesn’t need to be whatever anybody labels him to be. He will be special, he will be different, because he was raised right."

  • Lucy (with Alfie)

    12

    Image via Jendella Benson

    “Looking back now, I did it on purpose. I didn’t understand that was what I was doing at the time. There were lots of things going on in my life that I was very confused about and very worried about. With the hindsight of an adult, as someone who is much more mature and has had all the experiences that I’ve had as a mother and someone who has set their life up, I can see now what I was doing. I was trying to control my environment, and I was trying to control what was happening in my life."

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  • Modupe (with Samson)

    13

    Image via Jendella Benson

    “Before I got pregnant, if I saw someone else who was pregnant and young I always thought ‘How can they be pregnant? They’re so young!’ And then when I was in the situation I was like ‘Oh, so it can happen to anyone!’ So I was very conscious of people around me and what they would think of me as well. There was another girl and she fell pregnant shortly after me and I remember her telling me and, it’s really bad, but I wanted to be by myself. I didn’t want to be grouped [with her], like the 'teenage mums,' I didn’t want to be put into that stereotype. But I was put into it anyway, because I was a young mum.” 

  • Naomi (with Ella-Rose & Sienna-Rae)

    14

    Image via Jendella Benson

    “When I became pregnant I didn’t know anything about any government support. Even until after I had Ella, I didn’t know. I was totally unaware of so many things. A few weeks after I had her, my sister was like 'Do you know about this and do you know about that?' and I was like 'No.' Even months after, I went to see a health visitor and she was like 'Have you applied for this and have you applied for that?' And I was just like 'I didn’t even know that existed.' It would have been a lot easier and a lot better if I actually knew before I gave birth.” 

  • Natalie (with Joshua & Megan)

    15

    Image via Jendella Benson

    “There is a sense now that I think ‘Ah, I didn’t do the university thing, I didn’t have any of those opportunities.’ But then actually I had a whole load of other stuff. I know some people now who are really struggling to conceive, now I’m at an age where people are planning or trying to have babies, and so it is that sense of I do feel a real privilege and a real blessing that I’ve had the opportunity to do that, even if it wasn't in the best circumstances or in the planned way."

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