Yvonne is 25 and lives in Enfield, North London, with her daughter, Jaeda, who is six and her son, Kaylan, who is five. Becoming a parent at a young age meant big life changes for Yvonne, but she’s determined not to be stereotyped and is working to build up a business and give her kids the best possible start in life.
I got pregnant at 17, but didn’t realise until my children’s dad said to me that I looked like I was getting bigger! When a friend said the same thing, I decided to take a pregnancy test. It was positive. I knew then that either way, whether I decided to keep the child or not, my life was going to change.
My children’s dad and I had been arguing all the time and at that point we weren’t together. I booked an abortion – I didn’t want to be a young mum and I didn’t want to be a single parent. However, after going for my consultation at the abortion clinic I decided not to terminate the pregnancy.
My children’s dad and I got back to together and tried to make it work. I carried on at college until I was nine months pregnant, and then I had my daughter, Jaeda. Things were going ok. And then when my daughter was seven months old I got pregnant again unexpectedly.
The realities of being a young mum
I felt like I’d messed up my life completely at that point. My relationship was struggling and again, I considered having an abortion. I just thought, ‘I’m 19, I’m only just getting to know one child, how am I ever going to be able to love another one as well?’ But an older friend at the time told me, ‘You will. It just comes naturally.’
Being a young mum – well, I won’t ever promote it. A lot of young girls seem to think that a baby will bring them love. They just don’t realise how much it costs to have a child. And if you’re not mentally ready for parenthood, it can mess you up. I think I went through a kind of depression when I was pregnant for the second time. I didn’t care about my appearance at one point. It was like, where’s my life going?
When the doctor told me I was having a boy things started to change. I felt more positive and looked forward to my son arriving, and to teaching him to be a good man who respects women. Things still weren’t great with the children’s dad though. We were off again, on again, he would walk out on me during arguments, would do spiteful things and emotionally abuse me.
At this point my mum, who raised us on her own after my dad left when I was five, said to me, “you’re going to be a single mum.” as she could see I was in an unstable relationship. But I didn’t want to accept that as the truth.
Things came to a head when he smashed up my house. After that I couldn’t love him anymore. I was just staying with him because I felt like I needed him to be there for me and the children. Eventually, I realised I wanted more from my life and broke up with him, trying to keep things calm and friendly so we could both continue to be good parents to our kids – no fights, no courts.
However, he couldn’t take it and broke into my home. At that point I got an injunction against him. I refuse to say bad things about him to my kids’ though – I want them to have good memories of their father. They can make up their own minds about him in time.
Last year was when I had my big lightbulb moment and realised what I wanted to do with my life. I was studying at university studying criminology at the time, when I had a vision of myself standing in an arena speaking to thousands of people. It dawned on me that what I wanted to be was a motivational speaker.
I realised I was doing the wrong course at university. I had two choices: I could either keep going, get the degree and the pride of having finished university as a single parent, or I could stop and follow my heart and make my dreams come true. So I decided to stop the course.
Changing the world
Since then I’ve been doing everything I can to get my life coaching business, LoveLifeInspire, off the ground. I told my mum, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I’m going to do it.’ At an event I met a woman who told me I should start making motivational Youtube videos. She told me to just go for it, be authentic and try and do one a day for 30 days. The next day I thought, what have I got to lose? If I can empower someone else, it’s worth it. So I made 44 videos over 44 days. This then enabled me to create a documentary with youth project Fixers, which was shown on ITV news in January.
I’m always busy, always learning. I don’t think I could be a good coach if I wasn’t. I have a daily timetable to help me and the kids manage our schedule. There have been stressful moments, times when I’ve felt inadequate, when I’ve wondered if I should have stayed on at university and got a degree. But we all have our own path and I chose the entrepreneur path where I get to create my dream job.
At the moment I’m trying to arrange opportunities to speak at schools to young girls about sex, relationships and their identity – it’s so important for them to know the truth about themselves and society. I recently met my local MP who said to me, “If I could put you in a bottle and sell you, I would. You’re going to change the world!”
I’m a professional life coach, but my most important clients are my children. I want them to have choices and to build a strong relationship with me where they know they can tell me anything. It makes me so proud when I’m told how well they’re doing at school, for example. I always want to surprise people about what a young mum and her kids can achieve.
Becoming a mum as a teenager changes everything – your friends change, your daily life changes, your body changes. You have to learn to embrace who you are and to accept that yes, you’re a young mum, and you’re going to move forward. For me, though, it’s not about how I started. It’s about how I finish.
For detailed step-by-step advice on everything from benefits and tax credits to childcare and your wellbeing, read our guide to self-employment.