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Meeting the Minimees
Minimees are a bright and lively bunch.  It may say something about the ethos, created in Minimees by Jackie and the other helpers, that this group is so articulate and outward going. They were good to be with! (CLICK HERE to go to Jackie’s own interview.)

So I came to meet Gemma, Dora, Bernice, Cherine, Danielle and Sam. (Hope I got the names right, girls, we didn’t stop formally check them!! Tell me if they’re wrong when I’m next around) Soon they are talking against a noisy background of happy children playing. They soon opened up and talked.

“The kids are why we’re here; it’s all for them. We’re like a support network for each other. All the kids interact with each other which is good, for example (pointing to a young toddler) she’s an only child.”
They tell me that the age range for the mums is usually between sixteen to twenty five although, one adds; there have been older Mums here in the past, in their forties.
“We don’t see age as an issue. We’re all mums and we’re here and bonded by that, we’ve all got kids and we’re all just good friends. We’re all at different stages as well and we all help each other out.”

I ask the obvious: “Tell me what it’s like being a young mum?”
“It’s not easy!”
“I love it!”
Mixed responses but the majority are really positive.

Jackie comes in and prods the conversation. She nudges them to speak: “What I’d like to know is what is it like to be a young single mum living in Rochford?”
“It’s not a big thing anymore is it? It’s not as if we live somewhere where people look down on you.”
“Saying that though, I watched Loose Women the other day (lunch-time chat show for those out of the know) and they were saying that where you have your maternity classes they were thinking about taking into schools for pregnant girls, and they went on saying but wouldn’t that make it acceptable to girls as if that was bad. But I think the thing is that it doesn’t matter what age you are to be a good mum; if you’re going to be a good mum you’re going to be a good mum regardless of how old you are.”
“I’ve had nasty midwives because I’ve two kids by twenty, saying they have pairs of jeans older than me!”
“And that makes you feel bad about yourself?” Jackie offers.
“Yes,” comes the reply. “They asked me to go for sexually transmitted disease tests, just because I’ve got two.”

We’re getting on all right so I risk a harder question: “When you got pregnant was it planned or an accident?”
“It was with my first but the second was a bit of an accident, but they’ve both got the same dad and after six years we’re engaged so it’s not as if I’ve been sleeping around. People automatically assume you have been sleeping around.”
“Yes people automatically assume that, or that it was from a one night stand or she was drunk in the park or something like that.”
“My daughter wasn’t planned but I can say that from the moment I found I was pregnant I’ve never once ever, ever doubted myself when it comes to her. The one thing that I’ve done with my life is with her.”

Jackie prods again: “What do you think about the Government pushing you young mums back into work when your children are so young?”
“I hate it! Unless you’re actually ready to leave your child, it’s no good because you’re not going to be happy.”
“I’ve been working five nights a week, sixty hours a week, so I barely get to see him (her own child) at all. I work as a Carer.”
“When I saw I was pregnant, I was more than happy. She’s had me, they need their mum, and it’s true of single parent dad families as well, where the dad brings them up.”
“The government don’t give you enough money to look after your kids and so you have to work and when you put them in day-care, you have to be a super-mum to handle it all.”
There are clearly a variety of views..
“You do get girls who get pregnant to get a flat.”
“Yes, but I do enjoy working a certain amount of hours because you get to be somebody else as well as a mother, the difficulty is childcare which doesn’t make it easy.”  
“But if the government gave you the money to be off for a year, would you still work?”
“Yes, I’d still work at least two nights a week to give me that break.”
“I think the problem with Rochford is that they need more full-time nurseries because there are only two full-time nurseries in Rochford. I was paying £150 a week for two days; you get some help but not a lot. It’s too much.”

Jackie prods yet again: “So what do you think about Rochford in general.”
Again the answers are varied.
“In all fairness I wouldn’t take her out in a buggy after seven o’clock at night because you have so many young kids, because they’ve got nothing to do.... I’m not saying it’s a bad area because it’s not, but youngsters haven’t got a place to do anything.”  A host of voices join in.
“I grew up in Rochford and purely because I know people in Rochford it’s all right. If you were an outsider coming into Rochford seeing all these kids hanging around then I know you’d feel uncomfortable, but because I’ve got younger brothers and sisters, then I obviously know some of them who are their friends and you feel safer, but if you didn’t know them you’d feel intimidated because they are everywhere.

I think it is time I prodded:  “OK, being real, how would you like Rochford to change?” The first answer surprises me.
“I wouldn’t. I think it is all right.”
“Somewhere for the kids to go.”
“More funding for Jackie. She’s running so many clubs. Basically she works for free. If she doesn’t get help with it there’s nothing she can do; she needs the backup from everyone else.”
One of them strays into politics and states untrue things. Jackie tells her off.
I ask, “What’s wrong with this place?”
“You need somewhere that’s long-term, that’s open all the time.”

The exuberant conversation explodes on and I drift to a quieter part of the hall where Jackie eyeballs one of the young Mums: “Tell us what Minimees means to you.”
“It just means you have time to meet new people, it gives you a break. It gives the kids a chance to meet other as well and to socialise. It gives you a chance to make new friends.”
Jackie adds for my benefit, “They’ve become a little community in their own right.”
Another Mum chips in, “If they would give more money to Jackie she could do more things, and we’d help out. There’s young girls who need to hear about contraception and she could make such a difference.”
On the way out Jackie looks awkward. “Look it’s not about me, it’s about them, it’s about the community’s need.”
I nod – and leave.
“Minimees” @ St. Marks Hall
Meet Catherine Parker:
Before I enter the melee that is ‘Minimees’ – the mums and their young children - I encounter Catherine who works for Catch22, a charity that works with young people and families. She tells me she comes down to support Jackie who runs Minimees, and offers counselling or general support. What sort of support, I enquire? Sometimes they may need some information on money matters, she tells me, and so I can get someone to come down and help them, or talk about everyday things with their babies. A counsellor of some five years, working with Catch22 for about ten or eleven months, she’s been helping out with Minimees for about six months, a valuable resource to supplement Jackie and Tina who oversee the young mums.
Catherine & Jackie
Some of the Minimees
Meet the Minimees (6th October 2010)
Minimees is a young mums group that meets on Wednesday mornings at St. Marks Hall.