Homestart: Support for Multiple Birth Mums

Family-with-volunteer-929x1024My name is Angela Barnwell and I have been a volunteer with Homestart for the past 15 years.  I had three children in 4 years so am acutely aware of the stresses and strains involved in childcare.

Homestart is a charity and our main purpose is to give assistance, support and friendship to mums with children under 5 years of age.  This is especially useful if mums are some distance from their own mothers and family.  We are none-sectarian, none-political and work across the whole spectrum of society within the UK.  We have branches in most boroughs of the UK and I am based at Richmond-upon-Thames – this can take me anywhere within the borough.  We are in the phone book and also on the web.

Most of our mums are referred to us by social workers, doctors or pediatric nurses, and we also deal with self-referrals.  Some of our mums have multiple births and if these are first-time births we give help and assistance and support in dealing with the first months up to a year or maybe a little longer to help mum cope.  This is where an extra couple of hands can come in handy even for a few hours.

We give support to mums who may have several children and a new baby arrives.   By taking the older children out to a playground or just playing with them can give the mum just an hour or two of self-time.  We have mums who suffer from post-natal depression or just natural anxiety and general tiredness.  I have dealt with mums who find the whole business of child care very exhausting and puzzling.  A little boost in self-confidence is all that some mums need.  Unfortunately no baby comes with instructions and even within families each new baby can present with many differences.

I think it is very important to point out to mums that they must look after themselves first and foremost.  This is not being selfish but self-survival in order that they can look after their children properly.  As far as possible I encourage them to get their husbands/partners involved as much as is possible in the everyday care of the children – perhaps reading bed-time stories to the children in the evenings.  This is not always possible if Dads are working long hours but they should try to shoulder some of the burden at the weekends.  A little guidance to mums on how to feed their babies and children from the early stages in as healthy and nourishing a way as possible is always useful – even on a very limited income.

I find it extremely satisfying to gain the trust of the mums so that they can feel safe in talking to me about anything they may have on their minds as, sometimes, as an outsider I can see things differently from close family members because I am not emotionally involved with them.

As Homestart is a charity, we have to organise fund-raising events throughout the year.  We receive no financial assistance from either the government or the local authority as a matter of course.  Some of the supermarkets and other trade organisations have schemes whereby their customers can choose who they would like the supermarkets to nominate for support so, if you see these offers anywhere, please recommend Homestart Richmond.

Each year the Mayor of the Borough can select charities they hold dear to their own hearts to support over their term of office.  Last year Homestart was very privileged to have been selected by the past Mayor (a lady) who raised a tidy sum for us.  We are hoping the present Mayor, another lady, will also keep us in mind when charity money is forthcoming.

I find it a great honour and privilege to work with Homestart families – I love babies and children and have always been very interested in their physical and psychological development in order to bring out the best in them.  If I can help mums in any way, I am more than satisfied.

To find out more about Homestart Richmond visit http://www.homestart-richmond.org.uk