Everyone needs a friend June 1stI’m kicking off this Home-Start blog for Volunteers’ Week by stating the obvious: being a parent is very hard work: physically, mentally and emotionally. Perhaps because of the intense dependency of babies and preschoolers, perhaps because you’re not generally told beforehand how hard it’s going to be, it can come as a shock. It was a shock to me. There was plenty of chat in antenatal classes about how hard labour was going to be, but nothing about how the real hard work starts once you get your baby home! To be fair, my first baby was pretty much a text-book experience. I had post-natal depression, but she was an easy baby and didn’t even particularly bother herself with the Terrible Twos phase. I sometimes forget that as the memories blur into my experience with babies two and three, who were, well, “not textbook” is probably the best way to describe it here. So when I found out about Home-Start a few years later, I knew that it would have been a huge help to me if I’d known about it when my children were little. Home-Start is all about managing life with your young children. It’s about acknowledging that parenting can be tough even in the best of circumstances; and the best of circumstances includes a solid family and friends support network, good health and no financial pressures. With even one of these factors absent, it’s easy to fall off the rails. If a parent falls off the rails, the children will be affected. The very appealing thing for me about Home-Start is that volunteers are not there to fix problems as such, but to make living through them just that bit easier. There are many professionals (in varying degrees of availability!) to help young families with health, financial or other challenges, and such services are vital. But they may not be quite enough. Everyone needs a friend, someone they can talk to informally and just share life’s experiences. Talking to a sympathetic friend is a great way to get perspective on your problems. I think this lovely friendship quote encapsulates the Home-Start service: “Don’t walk in front of me… I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me… I may not lead. Walk beside me… just be my friend.” Volunteer stories Helen-Jane Shearer lives in central Scotland. She has just completed the Home-Start Volunteer Training Course, and having survived the preschool and primary school years with her three children, is now looking forward to supporting other families through that time.