Hannah, 19, is a mum to 11-month-old Lilly. A Youth Music project has helped her bond with her daughter and find a supportive group of friends.
Since Lilly was eight weeks old, Hannah, from Bodmin in Cornwall, has been taking part in the ‘Music Makes Me Happy’ project for young parents with babies or toddlers, run by WILD Young Parents Project.
The weekly music-making sessions include ukulele, singing and Makaton (a simple sign language that can be used alongside songs or speech to help with children’s language learning). The songs and skills that Hannah’s learned from the group have provided hours of fun at home too, and given her a real sense of achievement.
Bonding through music
“I do Makaton with Lilly all the time now,” says Hannah. “She likes ‘Row Row Row Your Boat’, she’s always rocking to that. We make music together every day, I’m always singing to her, making noises and stuff. She loves it.
“[Without the project] I wouldn’t know anything about Makaton. I’d be singing to her but she wouldn’t know what I’m doing, so having the actions helps a lot. I know a lot of the group use Makaton with their babies as well.
“When you’re making them laugh and smile, it just makes you feel like you’re doing well and like you’re actually achieving stuff with them, so it’s like music is helping you progress at the same time as having fun.”
“I was quite nervous when I started because I didn’t know anyone,” Hannah recalls. “I was really quiet and now I’m like the noisiest one there! Singing in a group, taking it in turns to start and count in – that’s built up confidence.
“I’ve made so many friends through the project, and even people I knew when I was younger, it brought me back close to them as well. They started group with me and then we’ve become so close again. We meet up constantly and message every day.”
Having a close support network is important for young people growing up in a rural area like Cornwall – and especially for young mums like Hannah. “I live with my partner now,” she says. “My mum lives in Bude [about an hour’s drive away] so it’s not like I can just walk round the corner to my mum’s. That’s why it’s nice to have friends I can just walk round the corner to.”
“Every time we go to weigh-in [clinic] I’m judged by the other mums,” says Hannah. “It’s the older mums who look down, like ‘they’re too young to have kids, they won’t know what they’re doing’. We know just as well as them. We may be younger but it doesn’t make us any less of a mum.
“At WILD everyone’s equal, no one puts people down, no one judges anyone, you can be yourself. If there’s something you need help with, they’re there, and if they can’t help they find the people that can.
“[Coming to the project] makes you feel better within yourself, and you make so many friends for life and people going through the same situation.
It makes it a lot easier on you knowing you’ve got people you can always turn to.
The best stress relief
“I can never see music not being in my life,” continues Hannah. “Music is the way I relieve stress and chill out. Being a young mum is a really stressful job, so finding a way to release our stress has been really helpful.
“I’m just more comfortable with what I’m doing with Lilly and everything now. I’m a happier person than I used to be, it’s made me nicer to be around, there’s less arguments with my partner. He’s always singing to her, playing music with her too.
“Whenever there’s music going on, everyone’s happy. Even if it’s not us singing, even if we play music through the speaker, it makes Lilly happy again – she’ll chill out, go to sleep sometimes even if she’s mid-tantrum so it’s quite handy!”