What do you get if you cross a jaded primary school teacher with some soul searching, two under-fives and the desire to make a difference to the lives of ‘ordinary’ mums in the north west?
I’m Catherine Briars, the bouncy, excitable, newly appointed Parents in Mind Service Delivery Manager for Widnes and Runcorn.
The birth of your child(ren) changes everything, doesn’t it? It makes you more tired, more anxious and more fragile than you ever thought you could be. You worry: constantly, unabatedly, excessively; about breastfeeding and tantrums and homework and fussy eating. About the right school, the wrong car seat and the best ‘way’.
And nits. No don’t get me started on the nits.
Yet, at the same time, parenthood makes you the most aspirational, the toughest, the very bravest you ever thought imaginable…eventually – with the right support, cajoling and guidance (once you get past the wobbly bits – mental and physical).
Sadly, some of us reach this second rush of parenting far later than we could, because that support, those gorgeous sunshiney-individuals who take us by the hand (our mums, our partners, our best friends, our aunties, cousins, neighbours), those guys who have LIVED IT ALL BEFORE US, maybe aren’t quite so present for some new parents.
Or maybe they’re too present. Too close, or too proud, or too expecting.
For whatever reason, many new parents feel isolated.
Anxiety, depression and poor mental health do not sit comfortably amongst the idyllic notions of early motherhood bandied about at baby showers, on greetings cards or between the hard-backed covers of cutesy baby books.
That doesn’t make them any the less present or debilitating.
Parents in Mind is a wonderful new scheme that hopes to face up to the very real mental and emotional difficulties thrown at us during the perinatal period, and provide new parents a space to offload, and to normalise the intensity of the whole bloomin’ thing.
Sometimes a Parents in Mind peer supporter will just offer a much-needed listening ear. Sometimes, peer supporters will share information with new parents about local services and initiatives that will boost confidence and offer solace. Sometimes, peer supporters will help new parents seek out specialist intervention and support. But in all scenarios, Parents in Mind will take the hand of those who feel lost, and help them rediscover the parent, gosh the person, they’ve been all along.
Like it has done for me.
Such a change of focus and scenery – from classroom and whiteboard and reading book, to conference and laptop and networking – should surely be more daunting and inaccessible?
And yet it is fun. And somehow straight-forward. And comfortable. And exciting.
Because of the people surrounding it. With all their enthusiasm and passion and commitment and care.
It makes me so delighted I made the leap.