DJs should give free rave tickets to mums

Alice O'Keeffe's "Squeezed Middle" column

‘‘What’s your name, darlin’?” The bouncer examines his clipboard. “Erm, Amanda Collins,” I say, my voice going a bit squeaky. I am lying to the bouncer in order to get guest-list tickets to a house rave.

No, that is not a typo. I, a thirtysomething, suburban mother-of-two, am attending a rave in Kentish Town. I have a very tight dress on. I feel like I should also be wearing a badge reading: “DON’T LOOK AT ME. I AM NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HERE.”

The only reason I am here is that DJ Slippa, the headliner, is a childhood friend of mine. One of my new resolutions is to get out of the house more. So when his sister offered me her spare ticket I thought, why not?

In more innocent days, Slippa (aka Dan) and I used to play “Daddies” together in the sandpit at Highbury Fields playground. Since then, our paths have diverged somewhat radically. I am living in a slightly-toosmall flat, bringing up two children and spending weekends grappling with Ikea self-assembly furniture. He is earning megabucks, jetting around the world first class, buying flats across Europe with nary a mortgage, playing to crowds of adoring fans, batting off the groupies . . .

 The bouncer waves me on. Inside, the club is dark and thunderous. Young people are milling about clutching bottles of water. I can’t help but notice that many of the girls are wearing very impractical shoes.

I make my way rapidly to the bar and spot my friend Lizzie, who is just about to be served.

“Thank goodness you’re here!” I pant. “I feel like a prehistoric fossil!”

 “I don’t think fossils wear Lycra. What is that dress?” Lizzie, who is more rock’n’roll than me, has bought a double vodka and Red Bull. I ask for a bottled lager (£4!!!) and we retreat to a dark corner.

Slippa’s set is about to begin. Hundreds of mobile phones wave in the air and green lasers dart up and down. In a puff of smoke, Dan emerges from the wings and ascends a great altar-like construction in the middle of the stage. He raises his hand to the audience, presses a button, and a bassline shudders up through my feet. The place goes crazy.

After watching for a few minutes, I turn to Lizzie. “What do those buttons he’s pressing actually do?”

“Oh, nothing. The music is pre-recorded. He’s just pretending,” she says.

Truly, the world is a strange place. Dan gets paid thousands of pounds an hour for pratting around on stage, not even pressing buttons, but pretending to press them. Meanwhile, I slave away from dawn till dusk raising the next generation and I get paid . . . nothing.

Never mind all that. It feels amazing to have a dance. My body has spent so long in the service of small humans that I’d almost forgotten it could move just for fun. As I head off into the far-too-late night, I conclude that in return for their huge salaries DJs should have to give free tickets to all mums. Come on, fair’s fair.

A New Year's Eve rave in Las Vegas. Photo: Getty

Alice O'Keeffe is an award-winning journalist and former arts editor of the New Statesman. She now works as a freelance writer and looks after two young children. You can find her on Twitter as @AliceOKeeffe.

This article first appeared in the 09 September 2013 issue of the New Statesman, Britain alone

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“I felt very lonely”: addressing the untold story of isolation among young mothers

With one in five young mothers lonely “all the time”, it’s time for employers and services to step up.

“Despite having my child with me all the time, I felt very lonely,” says Laura Davies. A member of an advisory panel for the Young Women’s Trust, she had her son age 20. Now, with a new report suggesting that one in five young mums “feels lonely all the time”, she’s sharing her story.

Polling commissioned by the Young Women’s Trust has highlighted the isolation that young motherhood can bring. Of course, getting out and about the same as you did before is never easy once there’s a young child in the picture. For young mothers, however, the situation can be particularly difficult.

According to the report, over a quarter of young mothers leave the house just once a week or less, with some leaving just once a month.

Aside from all the usual challenges – like wrestling a colicky infant into their jacket, or pumping milk for the trip with one hand while making sure no-one is crawling into anything dangerous with the other – young mothers are more likely to suffer from a lack of support network, or to lack the confidence to approach mother-baby groups and other organisations designed to help. In fact, some 68 per cent of young mothers said they had felt unwelcome in a parent and toddler group.

Davies paints what research suggests is a common picture.

“Motherhood had alienated me from my past. While all my friends were off forging a future for themselves, I was under a mountain of baby clothes trying to navigate my new life. Our schedules were different and it became hard to find the time.”

“No one ever tells you that when you have a child you will feel an overwhelming sense of love that you cannot describe, but also an overwhelming sense of loneliness when you realise that your life won’t be the same again.

More than half of 16 to 24-year-olds surveyed said that they felt lonelier since becoming a mother, with more than two-thirds saying they had fewer friends than before. Yet making new friends can be hard, too, especially given the judgement young mothers can face. In fact, 73 per cent of young mothers polled said they’d experienced rudeness or unpleasant behaviour when out with their children in public.

As Davies puts it, “Trying to find mum friends when your self-confidence is at rock bottom is daunting. I found it easier to reach out for support online than meet people face to face. Knowing they couldn’t judge me on my age gave me comfort.”

While online support can help, however, loneliness can still become a problem without friends to visit or a workplace to go to. Many young mothers said they would be pleased to go back to work – and would prefer to earn money rather than rely on benefits. After all, typing some invoices, or getting back on the tills, doesn’t just mean a paycheck – it’s also a change to speak to someone old enough to understand the words “type”, “invoice” and “till”.

As Young Women’s Trust chief executive Dr Carole Easton explains, “More support is needed for young mothers who want to work. This could include mentoring to help ease women’s move back into education or employment.”

But mothers going back to work don’t only have to grapple with childcare arrangements, time management and their own self-confidence – they also have to negotiate with employers. Although the 2003 Employment Act introduced the right for parents of young children to apply to work flexibly, there is no obligation for their employer to agree. (Even though 83 per cent of women surveyed by the Young Women’s Trust said flexible hours would help them find secure work, 26 per cent said they had had a request turned down.)

Dr Easton concludes: “The report recommends access to affordable childcare, better support for young women at job centres and advertising jobs on a flexible, part-time or job share basis by default.”

Stephanie Boland is digital assistant at the New Statesman. She tweets at @stephanieboland