On a good day the Sparkland baby has access to all sorts of exciting developmental and social activities, from swimming to sign-language to yoga to gym and sing-song sessions.
But let’s face it, not every day is a good day for new parents – the tiredness, responsibility, expectations and desires to be the perfect parent or carer can be pretty overwhelming at times. Some of us have been through difficult births, have babies with special needs, are single-parents, can’t afford to go every place we’d like… sometimes it’s just about being new to the area and not knowing anyone for support or a chat, and sometimes even the most confident carer just gets tired and emotional – like every other person in the world.
Of course, a happy baby needs grown ups around them that are doing okay themselves. Although giving your baby the care it needs is a priority, so is caring for yourself. Reaching out for help or support can be hard, but it is available – loads of groups are ready and willing to share their experiences, expertise, or just take time to listen. So if your days feel more grey than sunny lately pick up the phone (many places have freephone numbers), or log on to your computer (or visit your local library or community centre, many of which have free internet access) and take them up on what they’re offering. And if you’re a friend or family member of a parent who’s looking a little frazzled, offer them a smile, a sympathetic ear, or just leave this page of The Spark lying about for them to find..
Mothers for Mothers are a group of women who have suffered depression or distress after the birth of one or more of their babies. They offer support, advice, information and most of all a listening ear for any worries or concerns you may have, mostly over the phone, but with occasional gatherings, and also the option of linking with a supporter who will personally maintain contact with you while things are difficult. Mother for Mothers works in Bristol, South Glos and BANES.
Helpline: 0117 975 6006 www.mothersformothers.co.uk
The Association for Post Natal Illness has phone and postal volunteers who will regularly keep in contact with a mum having a hard time. They also offer support to dads and families of those with PNI – volunteer dads are available to talk about their experiences and support.
Helpline: 020 7386 0868 www.apni.org
Home-start volunteers will visit you in your own home for a few hours each week, either to just sit and chat, or to help with practical chores. Volunteers are parents themselves so understand how difficult it can be, and the service is confidential.
Home-start has regional groups all across Sparkland. Free info line: 0800 068 63 68. To get some support, or find out how to become a volunteer: home-start.org.uk
The National Childbirth Trust may be known as a place for information and advice before you give birth, but they also run weekly informal classes for parents to share tips and difficulties, as well as more social coffee mornings.
Find your local group at nct.org.uk or Enquiry Line: 0870 444 8707. To talk to a qualified breastfeeding counsellor, call the Breastfeeding Line: 0870 444 8708
The La Leche League is all about supporting you to breastfeed. But also offers help around your baby’s sleep (or lack of).
Helpline: 0845 120 2918. Find local groups on www.laleche.org.uk
Contact a Family can offer advice, information and support to parents of all disabled children – no matter what their disability or health condition. Through them you can contact other local families for support. They also provide loads of leaflets, workshops and training.
Helpline freephone: 0808 808 3555 www.cafamily.org.uk
Gingerbread is a place for lone parents and their families to get support. With both information, resources and a useful website there are also local volunteer-run support groups.
Advice line for practical advice on legal/benefits/rights etc as well as support: 0800 018 4318 www.gingerbread.org.uk
Based in Bristol, SPAN is a multi-racial organisation of single parents working to improve the lives of one parent families in the UK and Europe. They support local self-help groups as well as aiming to give single parents a voice and affect policy-makers at all levels.
They also run a website which offers information, advice and first-hand experiences to help you manage and enjoy life as a single parent, including a message board, info about local groups and a comprehensive list of links to organisations that can support you in all sorts of areas, from bereavement to welfare rights.
Netmums is a great resource for all sorts of friendly informal parenting information – it’s run on a local level so you get genuinely local info from pre-school facilities or shops and places to eat, to parenting tips and hints.It’s all based on folk sharing their experiences of what works or not, and offering support and asking questions of people going through the same thing. There’s an online coffee house where you can chat to other mums (and dads), and message boards where members often organise themselves to meet in parks or at local events.
Recent research shows that more than 150,000 children a year are affected by the imprisonment of a parent (Source: Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, www.tandf.co.uk/journals/rjsf). The Prisoners’ Families Helpline is a free and confidential service for anyone affected by the imprisonment of a close family member or friend. They offer personal support as well as information and leaflets, and the website has useful advice on how to talk to a child about having a parent in prison.
Freephone: 0808 808 2003 www.prisonersfamilieshelpline.org.uk
Just don’t feel you’re equipped with the skills for the job of parenting? Parentline Plus holds regular parenting groups and workshops, has loads of useful down to earth advice on their website and has a free 24 hour support line run by volunteers who are all parents themselves.
Parentline: 0808 800 2222 www.parentlineplus.org.uk
Janine Wilson moved to Bath just three weeks before her twins were born. When Olly and Lilah were six weeks old she went to her first social/support gathering. ‘It was a LaLeche League meeting. They gave advice on breastfeeding the twins and it was great meeting some lovely people within walking distance.’ Over their first year the twins have attended baby massage and swimming classes, the post-natal baby club – “they saved my sanity and offered pearls of wisdom,” – Sing and Sign, Twins Club, ‘Creepy Crawlies’ at Baskerville Gym, and nursery a couple of mornings a week. “I’m actually having to drop some of the formal groups now so I’ve got time to socialise and consolidate my new friendships!”
First published issue 48 (Spring 2007)
Written by Beccy Golding
Disclaimer – details correct at time of going to press, but may now have changed. Please make your own checks.