I became a mum at 17 and a granny at 41

I was just 40 years old when my daughter Bee called to tell me that I was going to be a granny.  

My friends were still doing the primary school run for their own kids and there I was, about to become a grandmother. My first thought was to start dying my hair. 

Being a young gran has been nothing but a positive experience for me. It may not have been how I imagined my life would pan out, but having a baby at 17 means I’m able to look forward to being with my daughter and grandson for many years to come. 

I was never maternal as a child. I never longed to be a mummy or to get married. I was also a massive nerd, which was definitely not as cool in the mid-90s as it is now, and I was the last person my peers expected to ever have sex, let alone be the first teenage pregnancy in our school year.  

Nobody knew, not even me, that as I went on stage to collect the Headmaster’s Cup for academic achievement at our GCSE presentation evening, that I was already pregnant. 

When I tell people that I had my first daughter when I was 17, in the summer holidays between the first and the second year of my A-levels, they look aghast. 

‘It must have been so hard for you!’ they say, but it really wasn’t. I was incredibly lucky to have a lot of family support, but I also had a straightforward, adaptable outlook that I think we can lose as we get older. At 17 I was flexible and relaxed and thought I knew it all, and I took parenting completely in my stride.  

Of course there were challenges. I was juggling college and parenting, and money was practically non-existent, but I had so much support from my family and Bee’s dad was fantastic, standing by us and doing everything he could. My friends might have been out partying while I was at home with a baby, but it gave me plenty of time for A-level revision! 

I look back on the account of Bee’s birth that I wrote at the time, and although I remember feeling so grown up, it sounds wildly young. ‘At quarter to six I had an internal exam and they said Zippy [our name for the bump] was ready to pop out,’ I wrote.

‘Lots of people seemed to be running around putting on plastic pinnies… I did one massive push and Zippy kind of catapulted out all at once. The cord was really long but it was all so lush.’ 

This matter-of-fact approach continued as my daughter got older and my second daughter Belle came along when I was in my 20s. I felt ancient by then of course, an old hand. I remember going to a breastfeeding group and being the youngest by far, yet the only one with more than one child already. 

My first couple of years with Belle were hard work but I had so much energy. Even though I was awake several times every single night, I didn’t feel as tired as I do now at the thought of washing the dishes! 

There have been difficult times of course, and having a child before you’ve established yourself financially is never easy. I couldn’t have created the life for us all that I did without the support of my family, and I know how lucky I am to have them.  

Bee was 23 when my grandson was born and becoming a granny at 41 hasn’t been without its challenges. I have to balance wanting to spend time with my grandson with having to work, being the sole breadwinner at home, and still being there for my younger daughter Belle, who is 20 and lives at home.

She has autism spectrum disorder – diagnosed late in her teens – and that has been a challenging process for us both. 

I imagine that being retired would free up a lot more time for grandparenting, but unfortunately I’ll be waiting a while for that – perhaps I’ll get there in time for great-grandparenting duties.  

It’s all worth it though for the lovely smug glow I get chasing him round the park and knowing that people assume I’m his mum. (Deciding to go ahead with the hair dying definitely helped here too). 

Parenting and grandparenting always come with challenges; there is no perfect age that’s going to make everything easy. There will be pros and cons to weigh up, sacrifices to be made, but always joy to be found too, however old you are when you first have a baby or become a granny. 

I was at the birth of my grandson and I can honestly say that whether you’re experiencing it first hand as a teenager or watching it as a 41-year-old, it really is, to quote my teenage self, ‘all so lush.’ 

You can find Jo’s blog here

Age is Just a Number

Welcome to Age is Just a Number, a Metro.co.uk series aiming to show that, when it comes to living your life, achieving your dreams, and being who you want to be, the date on your birth certificate means nothing.

Each week, prepare to meet amazing people doing stereotype-defying things, at all stages of life.

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