For me, being a mum is the single most important thing in my life. When I first applied to the Frontline programme, I wasn’t sure how I would manage demanding academic work, a full-time job, and having caring responsibilities. It’s tough, but it’s also worth it!
I’ve already learned so much, but here are five things that have really stood out for me.
1. I am able to better empathise and understand some of the challenges that parents go through.
Parenting, as amazing as it is, can be extremely difficult and I’m not immune to this. When working with families, I think of how I would cope with parenting my own children. For example, if I was faced with adversities such as poor mental health, poverty or being in a violent relationship. This allows me to have a level of respect for the families that I work with. It also ensures that my expectations towards other parents are realistic, and I am able to provide practical advice when it is needed.
2. I can be affected emotionally when working with a family and child. But acknowledging this makes me more reflective and self-aware.
There are times where I have felt overwhelmed. For example, I worked with a family where their newborn baby was extremely poorly and taken into the neonatal unit at the hospital. This was something that I had gone through with my own son when he was born, and was very emotional for me. I couldn’t help but compare my experience with what the parents were going through.
Because of this, I recognise the importance of reflecting on and considering how my experiences influence my practice. That way, I know the decisions I make are for the right reasons. Talking to my peers and consultant social worker really helped me to be reflexive in this situation.
3. I have developed life-long skills on the Frontline programme which have made me a better parent.
Learning about and deepening my knowledge of child development, parenting interventions, systemic theory and many other areas, enables me to support the families that I serve. But I’ve also found that it’s helped me to be a better parent for my children too. I hadn’t thought about this before.
Of course, it’s not all been plain sailing. I’ve had to make changes to my lifestyle and routine. For example, the kids now go to bed earlier to allow time for essential reading or just a quiet moment for myself to recuperate. I’ve had to be disciplined, but I’ve made it work.
4. My experience as a parent means I bring a unique perspective to other participants in my unit.
I am the only parent in my unit of participants on the programme. This means I provide a different perspective to the others. For example, when discussing a family that we are supporting, I often draw upon my values as a parent and how I would view specific situations as a mum. On the flip side, my colleagues are able to pick up on my blind spots and biases as a parent. So, it’s been really good to have a mix of people in the unit.
5. Frontline and my local authority make sure I get the additional support that I need.
I was worried about juggling responsibilities and how this would impact my role as a mum, social worker and participant. Going into the programme, I was open and honest about my concerns with my consultant social worker and practice tutor. They are amazing and, alongside my local authority, have gone to great lengths to ensure that I have the additional support that I need.
The skills that I’ve developed in parenthood have helped me on the Frontline programme, and in my social work journey to date. I have a long road ahead and many more mountains to climb. But one thing I do know is that I can have a rewarding career, as well as doing what I love the most, being a mum.
I wish the best of luck to everyone who has applied to join the 2021 Cohort, and a special shout out to the parents. You’ve got this!
Want to find out more about the support offered on the Frontline programme? Read this blog by practice tutor, Julie Henry.