May is mental health awareness month and although it’s an issue that can affect anyone I really want to focus in on the difficulties stay at home parents can face when it comes to emotional and mental well being.
Feelings of isolation, anxiety and depression followed and some what hindered me through out much of my early adult life, in part (I realise now) it was probably due to the fact that my upbringing and my single adult lifestyle did not match. Coming from a large family, once I left home the biggest learning curve for me was coping with being alone. It was a huge shock to understand that in the real world, not every room you entered would be filled with people and if it was it still wasn’t a given that they’d be happy to see you (or indeed vice versa).
Becoming a stay at home mum was like revisiting those first years of independence, all over again. I’ve needed time and it’s taken a while to re-establish myself. In all honesty it’s probably had a lot to do with the fact that I spent more time reassessing my new mum bod and how I might one day squeeze it back into a pair of skinnies, than I did reassessing my new mum life and how I might squeeze myself back into society.
In recent weeks however, this little, unassuming, red bricked building in the heart of a waining (and some what neglected) community has been my life line. You see even with all the best intentions and motivation, getting out when you’ve kids in tow can lets face it be:
- Counter-productive – The logistics alone of having multiple humans to bathe, dress, feed, strap in, load up and then change again because just as you go to turn the key in the door you discover that in the time it took you to put your shoes and coat on they’ve managed to stir up the poonami of all poonamis! Before you know it the day is almost done and your exhaustion levels are maxed. Endure that a couple more times and even the mere thought of repeating the nightmare process becomes daunting and the comfort of couch a soothing beacon. Elmo on YouTube anyone?
- Impossible – If you drive; where are you going to park, that’s a reasonable distance from where you need to be, once you’ve managed to repeat the above process, but this time in full view of every passer by? If you use public transport; how are you going to keep them entertained/contained? If you walk; will the weather hold out, are you fully equipped with clothing for changeable weather or the super human skills to get the buggy covered, rain coats on and you brollied up?
- Expensive – Freebies are few and far between, which is ok because despite having the worst paid job in the world no ones expecting hand outs, but all the cereal coupons in the district are not gonna afford you reasonable entry fees to anything remotely child-friendly and even pubs/restaurants/coffee shops are more welcoming to dogs than they are children or god forbid the breast feeding mother. And getting out the house needs to happen at least more often than your birthday!
- Lonely – Standing alone in a crowded room I think best sums up single handily dealing with a screaming baby, toddler or child in public.
- Intimidating – Every look or reaction to what you’re doing/ what they’re doing can feel like a scaring swipe at your soul especially if your confidence levels are low and no matter whether you are being judged or whether you’re projecting your insecurities you’re still feeling what you’re feeling and that can be more counter-productive than placing a vito on ever getting dressed, bathing or leaving the house.
So why the library? I hear you cry! Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…
Once a week libraries the nation wide hold free baby/toddler groups, where young children and babies of all ages can come together to play, sing, dance and listen to stories read by the wonderfully patient and extremely imaginative library staff.
And the imaginative play doesn’t stop there. Next the kids get to craft and create,
as they collectively make their way through the individual activity books supplied for them by the library via the Book Trust.
All of which I might add is going on while another member of staff takes your order for either tea or coffee, which is served with juice and biscuits for your miniatures. Absolutely free of charge!
We’ve been going to our group for four weeks now and it’s helped both Theon and I. He gets to practice his nursery rhymes and interactive skills and I’ve got to know some of the parents in the area as well as discover what’s going on in the community. Just last week we attended the Farnworth Family Fun Day, a free event supported by the library and put together by locals to celebrate local suffragette Mary Barnes.
The greatest aspect of the library however, is not just the enrichment that the children get or that brew you didn’t have to make yourself and got to drink all the way through, it’s more than that. The library is a safe haven, a community hub inclusive of everyone. It’s a place you can group with other people or secretly huddle away in a quiet corner, on a comfy seat and read any book that ever there was. It’s the uncelebrated heart of every community, where you can find information on everything going on within a stones through of your home and I mean everything, from local kid friendly events to support groups tailored to fit your needs .
It’s a manifestation of what society is meant to be, made real by a multi-coloured, patch work of multiple contributions that turn that unassuming, red brick exterior into the most beautiful of creations.
And that’s always going to be worth smiling about and leaving the house for.
Find your local library here.
For more info on any of the topics discussed above please don’t hesitate to email us for a helping hand on: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or better still if you know of any groups/activities happening in your area, or have a story to share that might be beneficial to our other readers, then please comments below!