Should I have this baby?

Dear Suzie,


me and my boyfriend are 18. We have been together 4 years and really want a baby. I’m hopefully going to university in september while my boyfriend finishes his studies at college. The only problem is that i will have to travel for almost two hours everyday there and back, and i can’t drive. Me and my boyfriend are getting a flat within the next couple of weeks and i don’t want to go and live at uni because i’m scared that we will split up because we don’t want a part time relationship. As we can’t get proper jobs with proper pay we have to claim benefits so money’s tight. We have been thinking about getting pregnant within the next couple of months (during my exams), this way i can take a year out and learn how to drive,and then when my boyfriend has finished his studies we have already planned to move near to the university. We know that we will get extra help with a baby, and my boyfriend is more than happy to stay at home and look after it. Is this the right thing to do. Please help!

I think you know perfectly well that the answer is no. The very fact that you ask me shows you know the answer is no. Not because you’re still at college, not because you’re 18 but because you seem to think having a baby means you get help.

Sorry, kid. Yes, new parents do get support, mostly from family but also sometimes from various authorities. But the reality is that you are on your own, two presumed adults with a tiny, helpless new life entirely dependent on you. The very fact that you think you can go into it half cock, relying on help, shows how very immature the two of you are and how very unwise this would be.

Of course loads of parents go into parenthood unready and unsure. And many of them muddle through proving themselves to be excellent parents. And many can rely on help from various sources. But many do not.

You’re fantasising you and he can both go to college while bringing up a baby on benefits? Do you have any idea what standard of living being on benefits gives you? I’m willing to bet within a very few months you’ll have split up or left your studies, or both. And what sort of a life does that give to your child? Who is, remember, a living, breathing, growing person not a ticket to the good life.

Frankly, the most serious aspect of this is that I don’t feel that you’re being honest with yourself about your motives. You have one problem. You want to stay with your boyfriend even though you and he will be 2 hours part while he’s at college and you’re at uni. And you say you can’t find good jobs – what, summer jobs? Most people would be planning to spend their summer holidays finding accommodation midway between the two places, fast track learning to drive, or investigating public transport and going out and bloody getting a job. Don’t tell me they don’t exist – jobs with a five figure salary may not be easy to find but jobs paying more than benefits are all over the place. Yes, really. Not exactly rocket science. Yet you come up with the brainwave of solving this problem by having a baby.

There are two real reasons you want a baby. One is that you think it will cement him and you together. You’re scared him being at college and you being at uni, especially since you’re 2 hours away, will drive you apart. And you may be right. This is a time in your life when you both change. What seemed set for life at school does often become the wrong thing when you’ve had time and perspective and the opportunity to meet new people and see a bit of the world beyond your back garden.

The other reason is that you’re scared to make that step away from home. You’re looking for a way out and you know if you have a baby, sooner or later you can gracefully, with a good excuse, give up your uni place and sink back into comfortably being a wife and mother.

Here’s the bad news. Oh, you can do it. Go ahead. Then write to me or call Parentline a few months into being a Mum with the frustrations and stress of being an 18 year old Mum with a college boy partner. Or in a few years time when you’re struggling with going back and making up for lost time, getting the qualifications you so need and now want, but having to do it while balancing your family against yourself.

You’ll probably have gathered by now I’m SOOOOO against this. But that’s only my opinion (albeit based on a lot of professional experience). I’ve met a lot of young mums who have made it and are terrific mums and happy with their lives. But I have to say nearly every one of them was a single mother, or at least with a new partner. And every one of them said the same thing. They loved their children, wouldn’t be without them….but wished they’d left the very hard job of parenthood for a few years, and hadn’t realised how difficult it was.

Get a summer job. If you must, find a home midway between your colleges and find a way of both of you getting to your classes. Or, better still, go and do your college career the way it’s supposed to be done – as a full time student, living and socialising with the people you’ll meet there.

Yes, I know it’s hard to leave your home and scary to meet and make new friends. It a large part of the point of college – to help you learn how to step outside your boundaries. If your relationship was meant to be you’ll see each other every other weekend and talk and txt and email, and on holidays it will be like you had never been apart. If it fails, it’s because it was meant to fail.

But have a baby? At 18? As a way out of your fear of a new experiences? In a word – NO.

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