One in five young mums feels lonely all of the time

Thursday 23 March 2017

One in five young mums feels lonely all of the time, as a new Young Women’s Trust report reveals the isolation of motherhood

YWTA Young Women’s Trust report released today, ahead of Mother’s Day, shows that one in five young mums always feels lonely and more than a quarter leave the house just once a week or less, as the isolation that young motherhood can bring is revealed.

Polling by Survation on behalf of the charity found that 57 per cent of 16 to 24 year-olds feel lonelier since becoming a mother and more than half have less contact with their friends. More than two thirds said they had fewer friends since having their child.

Being out of work and education to care for a baby can be both a cause and consequence of loneliness. Young mums who took part in Young Women’s Trust focus groups said they hoped to get jobs and it was widely agreed that it felt good to earn your own money rather than take benefits. The isolation many face can, however, make it harder for them to get back into work or education, as they lack networks and their confidence and mental health can suffer. Many are unable to even leave the house. 26 per cent leave the house once a week or less, with some leaving just once a month.

When they do get out of the house, young mothers face judgement by members of the public. 73 per cent of the young mums polled had experienced rudeness or unpleasant behaviour towards them when with their children in public. Focus group members said they had been criticised in the street and on public transport about their parenting and asked personal questions by strangers.

This negative attitude towards young mum was apparent in the workplace too. One in four experienced discrimination when their employer found out they were pregnant and 39 per cent had been questioned in job interviews about how being a mother would affect their ability to work.

Young Women’s Trust is calling for specific support from the government for young mothers who are not working but want to.

Young Women’s Trust chief executive Dr Carole Easton OBE said:

“As this report shows, being a young mum can be really lonely. You can feel unsupported. It can be a struggle getting out the house. And it’s easy to lose touch with people.

“Feeling isolated can have a negative impact on young women’s confidence and their mental health. Combined with a lack of networks, this can make it harder to look for jobs and can lead to young women being shut out of the labour market.

“More support is needed for young mothers who want to work. This could include mentoring to help ease women’s move back into education or employment. We would also like to see greater recognition of the loneliness young mothers experience and further research about the ways to counteract it.”

Laura Davies, a Young Women’s Trust advisory panel member who had her son Max at 20, said:

“No one ever tells you that when you have a child you will feel an overwhelming sense of love that you cannot describe, but also an overwhelming sense of loneliness when you realise that your life won’t be the same again.

“Despite having my child with me all the time, I felt very lonely. Motherhood had alienated me from my past. While all my friends were off forging a future for themselves, I was under a mountain of baby clothes trying to navigate my new life. Our schedules were different and it became hard to find the time.

“Trying to find mum friends when your self-confidence is at rock bottom is daunting. I found it easier to reach out for support online than meet people face to face. Knowing they couldn’t judge me on my age gave me comfort.”

The Young Women’s Trust report also looks at young mothers’ financial situations and their experiences of work and public services. The findings are stark:

  • 26 per cent had had requests for flexible working related to their pregnancy or child turned down;
  • 79 per cent said cheaper childcare available in their area would play an important role in allowing them to secure work, while 83 per cent mentioned flexible hours and 81 per cent part-time;
  • 74 per cent had had their concerns about their children’s health dismissed by doctors and 79 per had been patronised by nurses, midwives or health visitors about parenting techniques, including breast-feeding;
  • 68 per cent had felt unwelcome in a parent and toddler group;
  • 36 per cent often felt judged negatively by friends and family for going to work, while 53 per cent felt they were judged badly for claiming benefits, showing it is hard to win.

Dr Easton concluded:

“Young Women’s Trust’s report shows that young mothers are clearly committed to their children’s upbringing but often face huge challenges in their everyday lives, including stigma, isolation and money struggles.

“Young mothers can find it particularly hard to get jobs as their path is strewn with obstacles: difficulties in accessing or paying for childcare, choosing to miss out on time with family, employers’ treatment of young mothers and inconsistent support from Jobcentre Plus.

“The report recommends access to affordable childcare, better support for young women at job centres and advertising jobs on a flexible, part-time or job share basis by default.

“Giving young mothers the support they need to get jobs will not only help them to become financially independent but will benefit businesses and the economy too.”

Survation spoke to a representative sample of 319 mothers aged 16 to 24 on behalf of Young Women’s Trust.

ENDS

Notes to editor:

  1. Young Women’s Trust released a report about the experiences and challenges young mothers face, What matters to young mums?, on 23 March 2017, ahead of Mother’s Day on 26 March 2017.
  2. The report’s findings are based on focus groups held by the charity around the country and a survey carried out by Survation, which asked about finances, employment, social networks, stigma, childcare and employment support. The survey was conducted in February 2017 with a representative sample of 319 mothers aged 16 to 24.
  3. The survey found that young mothers felt more lonely:
    1. 57 per cent feel lonelier since becoming a mother;
    2. 19 per cent, or one in five, feel lonely all the time;
    3. 70 per cent feel lonely at least once a week;
    4. 53 per cent said their contact with friends had decreased; and
    5. 26 per cent, or one in four, leave the house just once a week or less and five per cent leave once a month or less.
    6. When asked about how their lives had changed since becoming a mother,
      1. 65 per cent said they spend significantly less time doing what they like;
      2. 66 per cent found they and their friends started having different interests;
      3. 61 per cent said it became more difficult interacting with people their age;
      4. 68 per cent found it easier to be friends with people who have children than those without; and
      5. 11 per cent, or one in ten, said they were “extremely worried about the financial situation in my household”.
      6. When young mothers did leave the house, they told of how they were judged badly by the public and public services:
        1. 73 per cent experienced people being rude or unpleasant to them in public when they were with their child(ren);
        2. 74 per cent reported that doctors had dismissed their concerns about their child(ren)’s health because they were a young mother;
        3. 79 per cent had been patronised by nurses, midwives or health visitors about parenting techniques, including breastfeeding; and
        4. 68 per cent had been made to feel unwelcome in parent and toddler groups.
        5. Young Women’s Trust supports and represents women aged 16-30 trapped by low or no pay and facing a life of poverty. The charity provides services and runs campaigns to make sure that the talents of young women don't go to waste.

For an embargoed copy of the report or to speak to a young mother who has experienced loneliness, please contact Bex Bailey on 07963018281 or bex.bailey@youngwomenstrust.org

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