It would be fair to say that Mum and Me was, and still is, Kim Marr’s baby. For many years, when Kim worked for the children and families teams in social work in Angus, she saw mums struggling to carry out the job of parenting their children on a daily basis.
“There is no instruction manual that arrives with your baby and none of us have a degree in parenting,” says Kim, one of the family support workers at the Mum and Me group in Arbroath.
“When this is combined with a poor experience of being parented, and little or no support from family or friends, it makes what could be an already difficult job completely impossible.”
Seeing that many mums could benefit from long-term nurturing support and that mums from all walks of life have difficulties and could learn from each other, Kim founded Mum and Me.
“Some mums have mental health issues and need support, some are isolated in the community for a variety of reasons and need support, and some mums perceive that society places high expectations on them and fear that they will fail, and they too need support,” she explains.
Mum and Me began in February 2012, starting with one session each week on a Tuesday morning, with only a handful of mums and little ones.
“We had a small band of five volunteers to run the mums’ session and the creche,” Kim recalls.
“It wasn’t long before we had to open up an afternoon session as we had an explosion of interest. We continued at this level until December 2015, when sadly due to a lack of resources, but not a lack of interest, we had to close.
“In the following years, it was noted by myself, mums who had previously attended and both health and social work professionals in the town, that there was still a need for this group to run, so, in the summer of 2018, a charity was set up with a committee of trustees to oversee the running of the group,” she continues.
“My colleagues Louise Smith, Tracy Bedwell and I left our jobs in the social work department to take up posts as family support workers for Mum and Me and we now have four full sessions running each week on Wednesdays and Thursdays and enough names on the waiting list to fill another session.”
Mum and Me is based in the halls of St Andrew’s Church in Arbroath with enough room for the mums to work on their projects, the children to have plenty of space to play and a kitchen where lunch is prepared – sometimes by mum and sometimes by volunteers.
“Each mum is offered one session each week, meaning we are currently working with 47 mums and 58 children weekly.”
Anyone can be part of the Mum and Me group – the only stipulation is that you are a mum.
“When we first began, we said you need to have at least one child under five years of age, but as time has gone on, and some of the children have moved on to school, we have mums who want to remain in the group for support and now attend without their children,” says Kim.
The team find that diversity in backgrounds works very well, with all mums learning from each other and respecting each other’s differences.
“Mum and Me has become a community of mums who aim to support and help each other,” Kim says.
“Morning sessions begin with a cuppy and a chat. After about 15 minutes, the children head to the creche and, once settled with Tracy, Louise and our fabulous volunteers, the mums have an hour and a quarter of time to themselves.
“During this time, there are many cups of tea and coffee consumed, lots of chatter had, crafts made and life skills learned,” she explains.
“Most importantly, relationships are formed, support and encouragement is given and the mums’ confidence and self-worth is built up to ensure they can reach their full potential as individuals and as mummies!
“It is an utter pleasure to watch mums grow and develop in a way that is beneficial to their little ones.”
Mum and creche time is followed by a story and song session with mums and children, learning and enjoying some close time together. All of this is followed by lunch, where the afternoon session begins, giving a crossover of mums.
“We can frequently have 20-plus mums, upwards of 20 children, plus six staff all sharing lunch and chatting together,” says Kim. “This is a very busy hour and is always very noisy!
“The afternoon session then continues in the same way as the morning ran.”
During “mum time”, the mums have learned to make soup, knit jumpers, sew dresses, shirts and shorts, designed and created a craft bags and made hundreds of pompoms.
“We have had instruction on child first aid, made Nurture Trees and taken part in messy play and soft play sessions,” adds Kim. “Plus, we have planned and run a very successful craft fair and have had trips out to the park.
“Whilst I have a plan for the chat each week, it is very much led by the needs of the group at that time and discussions have included weaning, potty training, behaviour management, sleep issues, relationships, returning to work, the price of nappies, ideas for birthday presents and how to survive on next to no sleep!”
Naturally, as Kim reveals, the Covid pandemic has had its effect on the group but the team weren’t going to let it get the better of them.
“This year has been so different and difficult for everyone, and also for us as a group,” she says.
“For one thing, we couldn’t meet as a group, and in this time when everyone needed more support, we had to change our approach to allow us to continue.
“Tracy, Louise and I took responsibility for a group of mums each. We phoned, FaceTimed or messaged each mum on a weekly basis. We went old fashioned and wrote to our mums, delivered Easter eggs to doorsteps and put together little care packages every now and again,” she smiles.
“We have a private Facebook page exclusively for the use of the mums in our groups and we used this as a platform to chat to each other, pass on information, set photo challenges, post ideas of activities of what to do with little ones in the house all the time and took part in a weekly quiz organised by one of our volunteers.
“Tracy and Louise each read a story weekly for mums and wee ones to watch together. A zoom chat was organised each week to allow some form of chat between everyone.”
As the restrictions began to ease, the group was able to meet again outdoors in the park but since October, they have evolved again. “We have visited each of our mums on their doorstep each week in rain, hail or shine,” says Kim.
“We’ve provided each family with a craft pack for their children, accompanied by an instructions video on Facebook.
“Similarly, we’ve made simple Christmas decoration packs for the mums, the weekly stories have continued and we have a ‘jammies and cuppy’ chat on Facebook, which is attended by roughly a dozen mums each week,” she continues.
Although they haven’t been able to have any Christmas celebrations this year, Santa, a reindeer and three elves visited all of the families on their doorstep, dropping off presents and taking photos to treasure.
“We don’t know when we will be able to return to our normal way of doing Mum and Me, but we will be hoping to incorporate some of our new ways of delivering our support to the mums together with our previous ways of working,” says Kim.
“And since October, we have received 16 new referrals – it looks like 2021 is going to be another busy year!”
To find out more about Mum and me, call Kim Marr on 07986447365.