We all know that parenting is hard. The sleepless nights, inconsolable crying (not just the baby), feeling like it is the best thing whilst simultaneously feeling like it is the hardest thing, the pressures to do the ‘right’ thing and the ever-present feeling of not being good enough. For some people, it is harder than others especially when there are additional pressures. Maybe those pressures are financial – in Gloucestershire child poverty rates are as high as 43% in some areas – or maybe families are struggling with mental health. Whatever the reason, becoming a parent, whether for the first or fifth time, can be overwhelming to say the least.
So what do we do in those times of feeling overwhelmed? When everything is too much? When you feel alone? We know how important our support networks are but more and more of us are living away from our families – it is easy to say ‘it takes a village’ but what do you do when your family are miles away? We know how important it is to look after ourselves because ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’ but what do you do when you can’t bring yourself to take a shower let alone make an appointment to have a haircut? (And what is self-care anyway? A whole other blog post, I think!).
At Home-Start we train volunteers and match them with families that are overwhelmed by parenthood. Volunteers who are parents themselves, visit families on a weekly basis and provide non-judgemental support. They listen, they hold the baby, they play with the kids and they help to remind parents that they are not alone. They support parents to develop that precious relationship with their baby which is arguably the most important thing in these early years. They work with Home-Start staff to signpost families who need additional support and make sure that families get exactly what they need to give children the best start in life.
So much research shows that if we can support families in these early years then we make a lifelong impact. We can’t always prevent difficult situations for families but we can provide support to help them better navigate these challenging times. The benefit can be noted for generations and for the child for their life-time.
We have two fantastic schemes (in Stroud and in The Cotswolds) that are supporting families across these areas offering home-visiting and group work. The exciting news it that we are planning to launch a third scheme which will cover Tewkesbury, Cheltenham, Gloucester and the Forest of Dean, meaning that no matter where a family is living, we will be able to provide Home-Start support. But what is the key to a successful Home-Start scheme? It’s local people supporting local people. It’s the ordinary of us doing something quite extraordinary by giving up a few hours a week to support a family, or a few hours a month to be volunteer to make sure the schemes that are running are run well and doing all they can to support as many families as possible across the county.
Whatever you can give – whether it be money, time or help spreading the word about what we are doing, you can make a difference and no contribution is too small. Sometimes there is a tendency to assume that we aren’t quite good enough or we don’t have the right experience to do these things but I can assure you that you absolutely will have something to give and we cannot do it without you. If you want to find out more about being part of this exciting journey then contact firstname.lastname@example.org
If you live within the Stroud District, Quedgeley or The Cotswolds and want to volunteer or find out more about support that is available please contact the relevant scheme:
www.homestartsd.org – Stroud District and Quedgeley
www.home-start-cotswolds.org.uk – The Cotswolds
A Guest Blog from (MumBoss) Emma Desjardins
Emma Desjardins is the Development Officer at Home-Start Stroud. She lives in Gloucestershire with her husband and two awesome boys aged 1 and 4. To find out more about the work of Home-Start you can visit www.homestartsd.org and www.home-start.org.uk .