"I won't say it was always easy. There were sticky patches... but you get through them purely by the love in your heart” - Michaela Deane explores the world of students who also happen to be mothers and fathers.
Being a young parent is often something that is looked down on or frowned upon. From the minute we hear of another young girl that’s pregnant or a young boy who is about to become a father, we can hear the complaints from a mile away, usually something along the lines of, “they’ve ruined their lives!” However this isn’t always the case, in fact it rarely is.
Having a child at a young age is not the end of the world, it doesn’t mean that life has to come to an abrupt halt. I have always admired the young people who have children, but do everything in their power to be as successful as they possibly can be. Here we see a few of their stories.
Darryl Reilly is a Business graduate from the west of Mayo, and has a five-year-old daughter named Skye. Growing up as a “slightly off the rails” teenager, he never imagined that parenthood would be part of his life so early on.
When he had just turned 18, he had a teary-eyed bombshell laid on him when his girlfriend told him that she was pregnant. However Darryl had a positive and optimistic approach to the situation.
“Before you find out news like this, you always assume that if you ever hear them scary words that your life is about to spiral out of control, when in fact it galvanises you as a person.
"It makes you grow up on the spot. You have just confronted what would be a major issue in any young person’s life. Did it make me sick? No. Did I die? No. Did it make me grow up instantaneously? Yes.”
In the beginning of August 2009, just a mere few weeks after he graduated, Darryl’s daughter was born, and his life changed immediately. He gave up on the idea of going away to college, eager to be there for his little girl in her first few months of life. Instead he enrolled in a Business PLC course, and completed it receiving six distinctions and two merits.
However when Skye started preschool, Darryl knew he had to make a change. “I decided that staying in Belmullet with a minor qualification was never going to give me the job status and financial status that I yearned for, to ensure that me and Skye both have the best in everything in life.”
He went on to study Business in GMIT Castlebar, and recently completed his Business diploma in Galway Business School. Looking back at being young and becoming a Dad, Darryl recognises that sometimes it was very tough. “I won't say it was always easy. There were sticky patches and bad days at the office, but you get through them purely by the love in your heart.”
He has learned a lot from his journey as a parent, but knows that there’s so much more to come. “I'm only 5 and a half years into the never ending journey of being a parent. But when I got on that train at the first stop, I was merely a boy still lost in adolescence, now still so early into the journey, it has made me a man.”
Aishling King is an 18-year-old Leaving Certificate student, and mother to a three-year-old little girl called Aimee-Faith. Becoming a parent at fifteen was extremely difficult, as Aishling had to take four months off school after she had her baby in March before her Junior Certificate.
Now studying for her exams, she finds it tough splitting her time between school and motherhood. “It's so difficult, because you feel guilty when you're not with them and you feel like you're prioritising books over them.”
Although she is eager to go to college and become a teacher, Aishling admits that being a single mother has impacted on where she’ll be studying. For the first year or two, she will be leaving her daughter at home in order to give herself a proper chance at succeeding in college, but still wants to be as close to her as possible. “I wouldn't be able to take to Dublin or Limerick as it's too far away, in case something goes wrong at home.”
Aishling admits that being a young mother puts a lot of extra weight on her shoulders. “It's a lot of pressure on you as you're not doing things just for yourself anymore, it's also for your child.”
She also recognises that people sometimes look down on her, but tries to focus on what’s most important to her. “I try and be the best mom that I can be. I wouldn't change having her for the world, and I'd be empty inside without her. She's everything to me.”
She recognises that without the help of her friends and family, and through the support of her teachers at school, she wouldn’t be where she is today and is extremely grateful for their help.
Caitlin Fisher is twenty years old and currently repeating her Leaving Certificate. She is mother to a three-year-old named Kade. Caitlin’s son was born when she was in Transition Year, and she admits that the hardest thing for her was going back to education.
It was through her teachers that she realised how important getting a proper education was. “Although they helped me, they also gave me lots of advice and made me realise that I needed to seriously get my life in order.”
Her friends and family made it their goal to help Caitlin succeed, and she says that her mother is her biggest support. “She will always help me out by taking Kade for a few hours so I can study, and looks after him while I'm at school.”
All of this help is proving extremely beneficial to Caitlin, who wants to go to university and study what she’s passionate about, to set a good example for Kade. “I'm determined not to become a typical teen mum stereotype.”
What’s most important to Caitlin is being able to give Kade everything that he wants and more, something that all parents want. Since having him, her life has changed completely and she now admits that, “all my dreams and goals revolve around him, he gave me reason and helped me get control of my life.”
The next time you hear of a teenager who’s about to become a parent, try not to look at them so negatively. Having a baby doesn’t mean that everything is over, it just means you have another person to bring on your rollercoaster of a journey through life.