by Sally Ross

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” is a proverbial phrase used to encourage optimism and a positive can-do attitude in the face of adversity or misfortune.  I stole that from Wikipedia but it certainly summarises for me how 2020 felt, what a rollercoaster year! From being self employed as a consumer insight specialist and supporting with a family events business, I found myself suddenly home-schooling and without any paid work as lots of us did in Spring 2020.   

Luckily for us my husband has excellent job security and this allowed me to focus on our family and what the months ahead might look like.  The beginning of the pandemic gave me lots of time to reflect, I naturally felt as if I wanted to run towards those who needed help but I didn’t know how to do it whilst keeping my own family safe, I was not a key worker but I wanted to be one.  I didn’t have three years to train as a nurse, I also don’t deal well with bodily fluids, so when talking with my best friend who works in A&E, we decided that was not the best route for me to take! 

My breathing space, away from managing a full work diary, several after school clubs and a hectic social life gave me time to really look at what I want to give back to the world around me.  Through lots discussions with friends whose opinions I trusted, I knew volunteering in some capacity was for me but not just an afternoon at the local charity shop or another sport related fundraising event. I really wanted something where I could make a difference.   

Through a mutual friend, I was introduced to Sarah Wallis who is Head of Delivery for Fegans, and I felt immediately sure that supporting families was a role that would suit me.  As a moderator in my working life, I conduct market research where I am very happy to listen to people’s thoughts and then question why something works or doesn’t work.  I am also used to pulling together all the information I hear and suggesting a way forward to get the best result.  Whilst this is for a commercial reason, I felt there were so many similarities with how this could be adapted to support families and luckily Sarah and Fegans did too, so I had myself a new “job”, one I could really feel would make a difference and give some support to someone who really needed it.

I have been very lucky, since having my own children to manage paid work around bringing up my boys, I have a wonderful support network to allow me to succeed and grasp opportunities as they arise. I appreciate not all families are in the same situation.  Giving just a little bit back feels amazing and if I can give a fellow mother support with her children through the parenting support course and see her confidence grow even just a little, then that means more to me than any pay cheque I have received, although they are still important too!

I started with Fegans in September 2020 and the initial training was great, each week we talked about a different area of the parenting support course and we had to “practise” what we were learning with our own families.  Sitting in bed quite late one night questioning my husband about the differences and similarities in our temperaments was maybe not the best idea, but really locking in one to one time with my boys and taking some time out to really listen to them was invaluable, and still is, although I do have to remind myself to do it as any normal mum does!  I could see a difference in my own family life as I went through the training course and I feel we are in a stronger place than we were prior to me starting the training! Not perfect I hasten to add, but we are doing well…

I have supported a couple of families so far, and I have been shadowing another experienced support work who is amazing at what she does, but I can honestly say it is a privilege to be accepted so openly into families who want support and to be able to help them to make lemonade from their lemons.  I would wholeheartedly recommended finding your secret recipe and sharing it with whatever local charity needs you as much as you need them, it is definitely a two-way street.  

Whilst paid work has started to feature in my diary again as we creep towards the potential end of the Covid pandemic, I will ensure that I always leave a place for Fegans as I can see the value it adds to the families who join the parenting course.   Who knows what the future holds for me with Fegans but I certainly do not see a future without Fegans in my life, I have more to give and I am looking forward to what this part of my journey holds.