Then I began to notice that they had bags under their eyes too. And odd socks. And a baked bean stuck their jumpers. And a look of exasperation when their well behaved child started up. And occasionally, said well behaved child would lob a petit filous pot across the room. I noticed that some parents looked sad, and some looked wary. Some worn out, and many just really, really looking for a friendly face and a cup of coffee. And maybe a bit of cake. No, definitely a bit of cake. And to hell with the organic, sugar-free, slimming plan.
Other parents can be a lifeline in times of need. And times of need can be anything from One Of Those Days to a true crisis point. Other parents can act as a mirror to reflect your own needs and desires and they can demonstrate understanding that many times can only come from someone who truly knows how you are feeling. They are the people that are there to help celebrate the highs and commiserate the lows. They will be the ones helping to pack up party-bags to delegating exactly whose fault was the hair pulling. Although my own parent network is very fledgling, I know how vital it is. Even if you have just one mummy friend, they can make the difference. When I was growing up, my mum was part of a strong NCT local network that gave her a circle of fiercely protective biscuit-wielding friends that still form a substantial tower of support and provided both my and my sister with lifelong friends also.
Having like-minded fellow parents was for me tested when I reached my own crisis points, in neonatal and Paediatric Intensive Care. Whilst in neonatal I had no parent friends and was not at a point whereby I had the emotional capacity or time to start seeking them out. Practically it would have just been a bit weird, turning up to a baby group alone with nothing but a picture of a tiny poorly baby. I was however put in touch with another younger mum, just as we went home. Her baby was a term baby who had spent a stint on SCBU after birth and she was also alone in her former circle of friends, being the first to foray into the murky world of parenthood. She became my only mum-friend and a tentative one at that for a long time. However, I came into contact with many parents over the following months, mostly in the form of support workers. There were a group of women I met who directly influenced me and gave me the strength to acknowledge that I could do this. All the women were older than me and in entirely different circumstances, they only came into my life in a professional capacity, but their words touched me. Some I met just once, some handful of times, two I still keep in contact with now on a more personal level. Anna-Bet, Anne, Fiona, Mel, Bridie and Vicky, I don't think you will ever know what an impact you made on me for the better. Each of you shared one similar aspect of the early days of my motherhood that made me know that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Be it a fellow NICU experience, other single parents, other young parents, another traumatic birth, a fighting spirit; it made me feel normal which was something I desperately felt anything but.
Over the months, I tentatively began to go into the big wide world and meet other new mums. The friendships are still very much developing but they restore my confidence in a way that nothing else can. Other mums fight as well, very hard for each other. A nurse I came into contact with on PICU who looked after my daughter saw I was struggling in accepting where I fitted into the world and doubting my parenting abilities and went above and beyond her job to try and help me. She wasn't paid for it and it was not her job description but she understood, not just my situation, but me personally. She was a world apart from me, her home life could not have been more different, but she was so protective and let me know that I was one of thousands of struggling mums. Words can make such a difference. And now I am dipping my toe into the world of parent-blogging. It started out as a personal way of processing my feelings following a whirlwind that was the beginning of parenthood, and ended up being another form of sanity saving. Of course the internet has much to answer for, but it connects you to people you would never meet otherwise, not least for geographic reasons, who make you feel that little bit more normal and able. Likewise, I am beginning to meet other mums through neonatal support groups. There is nothing like being able to sit with a stranger, with no words, but a deep connected sense of understanding. It can be like a secret language. You know too.
Reassurance and support that you cannot put a price on.
Do Something Yummy and help out not just children who deserve a hand, bur their parents too. No one wants to suffer or to admit they would quite like a spot of help, but we all are so glad when it is there. If your child is having a rough time, you want to be mummy, not a carer. And sometimes, you need a break. Just enough to put the kettle up, or your head down for a nap. I have been in recipient of respite help before and it makes such a difference. No one ever thinks it will be them, but everyday 10 families are told their child has cancer. And I bet none of them saw it coming.
"Do something yummy because every mummy deserves some fun"