Hannah Greaves was just 17 when she became pregnant.
She is now a single mum to four-year-old son Arlo and is intrigued at how single mums through the decades have fared.
Nut she wonders if people’s perceptions of single parents have changed dramatically over the years.
Now a postgraduate student at the University of Huddersfield, Hannah is doing a project about unmarried mums bringing up their children in Huddersfield between 1940 and 1975.
She is very keen to hear their stories. learn about their experiences and the way they were treated by society.
Now 21, Hannah runs a blog called theuniversitymum which gave her the idea.
She said: “The responses I received to it inspired me to try and bring unmarried mothers into the academic realm as something more than just a ‘problematic strata of society’ studied in sociology and economics, but instead as individuals and people who have their own history.”
Hannah, who lives in Marsh, gave birth to Arlo three weeks after finishing her A Levels.
When she found out she was pregnant, her then boyfriend and his family said they wanted nothing to do with the baby if she kept it. So they broke up and she was single for most of her pregnancy.
She has since raised Arlo and continued her education with help from her parents.
“I definitely think society hasn’t come not far enough from the last century and there’s improvements to be made in our attitudes to single mothers,” she said.
“At things like antenatal classes, they presume you don’t know how to use contraception because ‘you’re pregnant so obviously you don’t’. Obviously I do, but things happen like condoms breaking.
“It makes me uncomfortable when people congratulate me so much for going to university because I’m no better than the mothers who don’t. I have student loans and debt up to my eyeballs while other women are choosing to stay at home with their children. Childcare is expensive so financially that makes sense.
“I don’t even like the term single parent because it defines me by someone else and the lack of a partner. That’s not what I am.
“I think it’s something worth discussing in newspapers and in academia which is exactly what I’m doing.”
Hannah, who did a history degree at Leeds University, is now doing an MA by Research degree in Public History, Oral History and Community Heritage.
She is using resources such as the Wesleyan archives in the Heritage Quay museum for her research, but she needs to do an oral history project too, which she wants to make into a documentary.
Appealing for other mums to come forward, Hannah said: “I would like to interview women who had babies out of wedlock in 1940-1975, particularly anyone had a baby in a maternity home - even if they placed the baby with an adoptive family.
“I am keen to hear from women who raised their children within the community to look at how raising a child out of wedlock affected them.
“I would also love to hear from the ‘illegitimate’ sons and daughters of women who may have now passed away.”
She can be contacted by email on email@example.com.
Hannah shares the joys and frustrations of being a parent on her blog
This real world adult stuff is super hard. There is a temptation to just pack a suitcase, pool savings and buy a one way ticket (with Arlo of course) and live a very minimalist lifestyle country hopping, home educating or, I believe they call it “world schooling” or winning the lottery to make ends meet, but that’s a pipe dream, and right now I have to then figure out how I’m going to factor in school hours and a part time masters degree into this part time job and parenting business.
I’m writing this at midnight because I can’t sleep. It’s beginning to hit me, now, nearly four years into this parenting lark, just how difficult it is having a child and trying to function as an adult, earning money while working around nursery/school hours. It’s not only that, it’s finding a job that allows you to work in a manner which enables you to balance things at least three weeks in advance to give everyone involved the proper notice to ensure that the child is not left stranded at one location while you are obliged to stay in another.
How do people do it? Help?
Since my son was born people have remarked on how “good” he is and I even find myself doing the same. He was a regular sleeper, cheerful, sociable, happy to be passed from person to person, would sleep on anyone, anywhere and was happy to be put down in his own space to sleep from a young age.
As he’s got older he’s quite a calm and quiet child, would much rather sit and read a book than run and scream and he’ll happily sit at table in a cafe with a colouring book. His behaviour and personality is everything that people believe to be “good”, an echo of this Victorian seen and not heard ideal for compliant, quiet, and malleable children that will fit into our society’s closed spectrum of “acceptable” behaviour. Children are not born to be naturally manipulative.
The truth is that the vast majority of children are not like that and so what? Why does my son get to have the “good label” and others are “naughty” or “bad”? This leaves very little room for the natural spectrum of normal childhood behaviours. It’s about time we reassessed what we label as good and bad behaviour, by placing these narrow boundaries upon what our children should or shouldn’t do we simply create more space for children to be labelled as deviant.
Children have the right to express themselves, and before they are adults this may be in any way they see fit.