Having a Home Visitor may make a difference. Home Visitors offer social contact, a listening ear, someone to go for a walk with, or help with small tasks such as folding washing or holding your baby, while you put your feet up or get on with a creative project. They may play with your older child or give you the opportunity to give them that extra attention they may yearn for since the advent of the new arrival in their family.
Home visitors also have a wealth of information on community services, which may enhance parenting, ideas about the care of babies and young children, and may assist families to develop supportive networks. They do not provide therapeutic support for families or individual needs, but project workers can refer families to other community and health services. They are not house cleaners but may do small practical tasks.
When expecting my first child, my vision was a bit optimistic. In my mind, I pictured us having long walks along the beach, taking the baby to yoga classes, myself full of tolerance, energy, always ready and waiting.
Then my beautiful baby arrived.
I had no sleep for the first few days and it was as if my breast had superglue on it, I just couldn’t get her off. My anxiety increased with every cry and my desire to please her was running thin. I was tired, overwhelmed and run ragged; trying to rise up to the standards I had conjured up.
I am a professional woman, and I thought that, having twice travelled the globe, taught in kindergarten, handled most things, and very ready for this baby, I could do this too. It was just that no-one told me I couldn’t get time off, not even for lunch, nor when I was asleep really. (I was the type of first time mum who was anxious with every groan, giggle or burp.)
Ten months later, I’m coping but unable to ask for help. Why would I need help? I’m capable, loving, competent, ‘set-up’, ready for my baby. I just didn’t give myself any credence for the reality that this mothering job is 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and that I needed a break. It was hard admitting at first that I could use help.
One Mothers Day I went along to a gathering, where I met the co-ordinator of this program and she told me the Home Visiting Program was to support the mother in any way needed, and that I could have a Home Visitor come to my home once a week and help me. I felt ready and before I knew it I was to meet Jenny. It still took me a few visits to realise that she was there for me! She could do a few simple chores, make me tea, and more importantly, she connected to me. I had someone now who I could trust and rely on. Someone who knew how I was feeling as a mother, my triumphs, discouragements, my fatigue and excitement.
For me having a Home Visitor taught me that it was great to ask for help, it was ok to feel weak and vulnerable. Jenny just knew, and supported me. She gave no unsolicited advice, no condescending voice, just pure support. Next Jenny taught me how to nurture myself, spend time on me, paint my toenails, and read a little. As my trust in Jenny was high, my mind could shut off and take a real break.
The difference her weekly visits made were that I could renew myself, return fresh and tolerant again to be with my toddler. It has been a great letting go of my thoughts of control and perfection. The idealism has gone.
Now, since that Mothers Day, I have had my second baby and thanks to the Volunteer Home Visiting Program, I am a supported mum and my kids are therefore supported kids.’
The Volunteer Home Visitors have been through a thorough screening, criminal record check, comprehensive training and attend ongoing training sessions. They will visit families in their homes for a few hours weekly to offer assistance.
This innovative service is designed to value families who have babies and/or children under the age of three. Anyone is eligible to use the service, and it particularly recognises the extra demands on a family when a newborn is introduced into the home. Guidelines are in place to ensure child protection, family wellbeing and optimum working conditions.
The Volunteer Home Visiting Program operates throughout NSW. There are various similar programs operating within Australia and worldwide which you may be able to plug into. Information on these may be found through your local Family or Neighbourhood Centre.
Established almost three years ago as a Families First Project, by the NSW government, the VHVP is funded by the Department of Community Services. It is based on the premise that supporting a family in this time of transition in a child’s early years can prevent difficulties further down the track.
Anyone interested in the program, either a family who would like a visitor, or someone who has experience with children and would like to become a volunteer, please contact 02 6687 2592, for the Ballina/Byron area or 02 6621 2489 for the Lismore area. Other areas contact your local Family Support Centre.
Published in byronchild/Kindred, Issue 10