Lauren Marks-Clee on starting a support network for new parents, The Parenting Chapter
What prompted you to start The Parenting Chapter?
My husband and I had a hard time navigating the reality of parenting when our son was born, because we were so fixated on the “perfect vision” that was presented during pregnancy. When we realised how different our version of parenting was, we felt like failures. We Googled, read parenting books and sought professional help, but soon realised that there is nowhere for new parents to go for clear, honest and realistic advice. After getting over my annoyance at this, I decided to set up The Parenting Chapter (TPC) and became passionate about empowering new parents. I also wanted to provide greater support for second-time parents, who may feel nervous if things didn’t go to plan the first time around, and support for grandparents, so they can be a part of the support network.
What challenges have you faced in trying to get this off the ground?
One difficulty is that there are so many different and valid parenting viewpoints, all of which need to be publicised. We cover from late pregnancy through to children age three, and I wanted TPC to be as inclusive as possible by highlighting some of the less-discussed issues such as same-sex parents, adoption, bottle feeding, miscarriage, hands-on dads and c-sections. I was shocked at how hard it was to get professionals and parents to open up and be really honest about these areas. But once they did, it was both heartbreaking and therapeutic. For some people, it was the first time they had spoken about their experiences. This got to me.
How do you think the continuity of care from health professionals fares in this country (and in light of cuts to maternity wards/budgets)?
While I don’t think we should go back to the days when women spent a week in hospital following birth, I do feel sad about how the continuity of care has diminished. The link isn’t being made between postnatal mood disturbances and the lack of support that new parents have access to. I think postnatal care from health professionals is as good as it can be, but that’s not good enough. They need to be given more training in empathy, mental health awareness and CBT techniques, and be allowed to follow their instincts, rather than having to tick hundreds of boxes.
What did you find to be the most helpful resource in your first year as a parent (and was there more than one)?
My tribe of mum friends who I collected during pregnancy and met at baby-and-toddler groups, in cafés and even changing areas! Their support has been invaluable. Also, learning to trust my gut feeling. I ignored it at first, but when I trusted it I solved things in a way that worked for me. For my husband, it was joining The Dad Network and becoming part of an inclusive group of dads who are unashamedly hands-on, supportive and very open.
Tell us more about the charity Brilliant Parents.
Brilliant Parents is a social enterprise run by Meave Darroux, who hasn’t had it easy when it comes to parenting. She was helped by a methodology called Triple P and decided to use this to run support groups for parents in less advantaged areas of the UK, as well as in schools and prisons. Through professional and peer-to-peer support, Brilliant Parents helps to build confidence and empower disadvantaged parents and those who have children with learning difficulties and behavioural needs. It gives them the tools to accept what they have and who they are, and to take the bad days with the good.