This Stunning Photo Series Defies Stereotypes About Young Mothers

April 14th 2016

Laura Donovan

Young parents often face negative stereotypes and judgment. One photographer is hoping to challenge the stigma surrounding young parenting with a series of photos of women who had children early in life.

Young Motherhood project

Jendella Benson, a U.K.-based photographer and filmmaker, is gaining widespread attention for her project Young Motherhood, which features video footage and photos of women who had kids at a young age. The portraits show the mothers beside their children.

Benson started the project three years ago and has since photographed nearly 30 mothers all over the United Kingdom, she told The Huffington Post in a recent interview.

Young Motherhood project

Benson told The Huffington Post that her friends who had children early in life inspired her to undertake the project:

“I could see first hand how hard they worked to raise their children and work and continue their education, which was in direct contrast with the stereotypes of irresponsible young mothers with no ambitions other than to get benefits [welfare] and a house from the government. This myth is really pervasive, and it actually affects women in terms of how they are treated and perceived by society, from health care professionals right through to strangers on the street. I wanted to challenge these ideas as well as honor the work and lives of women who choose to have children at a young age.”

Young Motherhood project

Chantell, the woman pictured below with her daughter, Siantae, told BuzzFeed that she feels that she and her child have grown up together.

Young Motherhood project

"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," Chantell told BuzzFeed. "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, I’m the age I am — we’ve grown [up] together. So I don’t wish I’d had her late. I’m glad I had her when I did."

Amy, pictured below with her daughter, Amanda, told BuzzFeed that she managed both higher education and motherhood at the same time.

Young Motherhood project

"I’m a teacher, so I deal with young people who become pregnant regularly," Amy said. "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."

Many people have shown gratitude for this eye-opening photo series.



Young Motherhood project

The stigma surrounding young motherhood.

Many people unfairly look down on young mothers for becoming parents early in life. Three years ago, the Candies Foundation came under fire for perpetuating negative stereotypes about young moms with its star-studded campaign for National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month. The ads implied that becoming a mother is a less valuable use of a young woman's time than pursuing higher education, a professional passion, etc.

Candies Foundation teen pregnancy ad

"Being a teen mother is certainly no cakewalk (nor is mothering at any age), but the Candie’s campaign shames both motherhood and teen sexuality under the guise of faux-feminism," Ms. Magazine writer Marinda Valenti wrote in 2013. "Many of these PSAs are not even specific to teen pregnancy: Mothers of all ages change diapers and feed and pay for their babies. Theses messages make motherhood sound like a punishment for being sexual, and shaming mothers or female sexuality isn’t exactly what you’d call feminist."

Candie's responded to the backlash by saying it was merely trying to expose the truth and not shame teen moms:

Check out Benson's video for the Young Motherhood project below:

To view more Young Motherhood photos, go to Benson's website for the project.