The expectations and realities of parenthood can be quite different. Plans for maternity or parental leave usually include leisurely days where yourself and your sleepy newborn will finally have the time to catch up with friends, household projects and all those other things that have been on the long finger for so long. There will be, without a doubt, plenty of those lazy, hazy days. There are also other days; the ones where a shower is like a gift from the gods and getting dressed feels like a major achievement. You realise that time isn’t your own because there’s a new (tiny) sheriff in town and that you haven’t had a conversation with a grown-up all day. This is where a local Parent and Baby/Toddler group can throw you a lifeline.
As the name suggests, these groups benefit both parent/carer and child. While your baby or toddler has an opportunity to interact with babies of similar age and developmental stage, you can enjoy a chat with other parents/carers and pick up some very helpful information and tips from that peer group, as well as from the group leader. They provide a weekly space that has a subtle structure – for example, free play, craft activity, tidy-up, snack, story and song – and which allows both you and your child to meet friends, explore new things and learn.
The group provides a weekly window, usually for 60-90 minutes, where you can meet with others who understand exactly where you are at this particular point of parenthood. Suggestions for dealing with sleepless nights, easing the pain of teething, sibling rivalry and finding time for yourself are generally always points of discussion. The sessions also provide a great opportunity to see developmental milestones in action. Your baby, for example, might be a newborn but there may be a mom with a 3-month old in the group, or a dad with a 9 month-old who is crawling. It’s fascinating to see what lies ahead and again, to pick up some ideas from other parents/carers.
For some parents, grandparents and carers, the weekly catch-up and opportunity to learn about play or language development is enough. For others, the understated hand-holding and support makes them that bit more confident in their parenting role. Which ever you are, it doesn’t matter; if you are caring for a baby or toddler, these groups are a welcoming and supportive place for you.