Like most 19-year-olds, Christine Joy Teo is working hard to complete her studies. But unlike most of her peers, she’s already a mother of a 3-year-old child.
When she found out that she was pregnant with her then-boyfriend’s child, she was in a dilemma.
At first, Christine felt compelled to keep the baby because she’s a Christian. But she was also unsure if she’s ready for motherhood at 16 years old.
After speaking to her parents and relatives, who told her to do what she felt was right, she decided to keep the baby as a single mother. She knew that her supportive family would be “there for her no matter what”.
Christine gave birth to Queenie and took a break from school before resuming her preparation for N-level the following year.
Queenie quickly became the centre of attention in the Teo family. Video Credit: Christine Joy Teo
“During my N-level period, my parents took turns to forgo their sleep to take care of [Queenie’s] midnight crying,” said Christine.
“Time was definitely not on my side,” she added. “Pulling all-nighters was not even for studies but to take care of the crying and screaming in the middle of the night.”
Christine said she’s so exhausted that she found it hard to stay awake for classes at times, which affected her performance. This made her feel really “down” despite being a “happy-go-lucky person”.
She also learned that raising a child is very financially taxing. “You’ll need money for the necessities like diapers and milk powder.”
There’s no support from the child’s father, Christine added. “From the beginning, he was not in the family picture,” she said. “Parenting duties were all on me and my family.”
Eager to lighten her parents’ burden, Christine took up part-time jobs with the help of her cousin, Ms Zoey Wong.
“It is very courageous of her to juggle both [her studies and raising a child] at the same time. I think it takes a lot of effort,” said Ms Wong, 25.
Christine also started an Instagram account, The Tiney Workroom, to sell her handmade clay figurines and keychains.
However, her parents did not want her to spread herself too thin.
“When my parents heard that I was looking for part-time jobs and trying to manage my studies while taking care of Queenie, they told me that all I needed to do was to study and not worry about Queenie and money,” Christine said.
Respecting her parents’ wish, she’s currently focusing on completing a Nitec in Beauty and Wellness at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College East.
Her close friend Ryan Teo, 19, said Christine is someone who doesn’t use motherhood as an excuse for not being able to achieve anything.
Her cousin, Ms Wong, added: “She has grown over the years and I think being a mother has taught her many valuable lessons.”
Regarding her plans for the future, Christine said Queenie is her top priority.
“Right now, everything I’m doing is for my child,” she said. “Queenie’s happiness comes first.”
Christine’s advice for young single mothers out there is: don’t give up and tough it out for your child.
“Be strong, stay strong, do it for your kid,” she said. “There are things your parents sacrificed to raise you and it’s your turn to do the same.”