The first family I visited had four children, the eldest being seven. I also had four children with a seven year age gap so I was in my comfort zone. The mum was extremely able and competent as a mum so it was more a case of just that little bit of additional help, particularly adult company and helping a bit with the children.
My second family was totally different experience; a single young mum with two children under three. I thought I had got it sussed what being a single mum was, because my husband worked abroad a lot, and my own daughter is a single mum with two little children. I thought I knew what the different issues were – but I didn’t at all.
This particular mum hasn’t had a supportive upbringing in a family environment and I didn’t realise beforehand what a huge impact that has had on her ability to parent her children. She did not feel loved by her mother and she needs the love from her two little children, so the whole thing of setting boundaries becomes vastly complicated.
I have done a lot of talking with Janice, my co-ordinator because it is out of my comfort zone and I have no experience of this kind of family situation. I have visited and played with her children when she did not know how to play with them. It is in situations like these that we don’t realise how much we learn to parent from the way our own parents and grandparents are with us as children.
I would say to someone who was thinking of volunteering – well go for it! The preparation training is very thorough and equips you for all sorts of situations, and the co-ordinators are always there if we are not sure what to do next.