"Just knowing you're not alone is so helpful": Preston's new casual support group giving parents the chance to Chit and Chatter

As a mother-of-two and business owner, Rachel Bradshaw understands the pressures which have been felt by us all over the last two years keenly. The Covid-19 pandemic brought with it a torrid storm of lockdowns, additional childcare concerns, remits to work from home, responsibility for home-schooling, and economic strains for countless families.

By Jack Marshall, Reporter
Thursday, 3rd February 2022, 4:55 am
Parents at Rachel Bradshaw's Baby Cherubs
Parents at Rachel Bradshaw's Baby Cherubs

And that's before we even mention the ominous threat of catching a potentially-deadly virus which continues to hang over us all like a dark cloud. All-in-all, the last two years have been about coping.

Statistics show that, before the first lockdown in 2020, some 62% of adults in the UK felt anxious or worried, citing issues such as getting ill, being isolated from friends and family, and general uncertainty as the main culprits behind their concern. After a slightly more positive summer, matters took a turn for the worse in winter: by December, 22% said they felt 'hopeless'.

As the owner of Baby Cherubs, a developmental babies' group based in Preston, Rachel noticed countless parents were voicing the same concerns over and over and so resolved to do something about it by setting up an informal group in which people could share and talk openly about things on their mind. Not strictly therapy, the group is all about communal support.

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Rachel Bradshaw, founder of Chit and Chatter

"After being in lockdown for so long with kids, lots of parents were asking about lacking confidence, not feeling up to going back to work, and things like that," explains Rachel, 43, from Buckshaw Village. "I thought we needed to set up something informal where they can come, have a chat, and focus on themselves. That's how Chit and Chatter started.

"I knew that community support where people don't feel judged so that they feel free to ask questions would be crucial and really helpful," she adds, with the free group having started in late January. "We've had a really positive response so far which I think goes to show that something like this was needed.

"Some people who come are single parents who don't have friends with babies, so they don't have anyone to ask about certain things," Rachel continues. "People can feel like they've got no one to turn to and Chit and Chatter gives them an opportunity to air those things which are really bugging them and get advice."

Given the sudden impact of concerns such as financial and food insecurity, loneliness, and childcare responsibilities on top of work, government data shows that deteriorations in mental health have roughly followed lockdown patterns. What's more, adults living with children reported a rise in symptoms of anxiety, psychological distress, and stress in lockdown, too.

Parents with their kids at Baby Cherubs

Free and open to any parent or care-giver, Chit and Chatter takes place at the Baby Cherubs studio on Grange Drive in Hoghton and offers like-minded people the chance to get together and talk openly about things. It also enables them to take advantage of the social side of the meetings, providing a welcoming environment for people to build back confidence as part of a group over coffee and cake.

"Just knowing you're not alone is so helpful for your own positive mentality," says Rachel. "That's what it's about - making sure everyone's alright and making friends. Because the pandemic has been hard on parents what with home-schooling and childcare on top of working from home, letting off steam alongside like-minded people is vital. We can help on that front.

"It's helped me too," adds Rachel, who says that parenting can be tough at the best of times, let alone during a pandemic. "We all need that chance to sound off every now and again! And sometimes we might be the only other adult some people get to talk to during the week, so we're a listening ear and a friendly face.

"That's what parents need: a sounding board."