Yes, there’s more. A slightly more in depth, considered post than my initial emotional outpouring. I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the last few days and want to elaborate on three little understood elements of NCT’s activity.

1. Volunteers play a massive part in getting NCT support to parents

NCT volunteers stuck up the little card in my GP’s surgery which alerted me to the existence of the charity. It was a volunteer who opened up her house for the first coffee morning I ever attended, 24 years ago. More events are now held in public venues, but there’s still a place for peer support in homes – comfortable and free! It’s volunteers who run the branches – branch co-ordinators, treasurers, secretaries, nearly new sale organisers, first aid course co-ordinators, bumps and babies co-ordinators, newsletter editors – the list goes on. They are the ones who held my hand as I cried, pointed me in the direction of good information in the branch library, and fundraised tirelessly to pay for my practitioner training. I did my stint on the branch committee and I developed the utmost respect for good secretaries (I’m good at taking and typing up minutes from branch meetings, but not much else) and fundraisers (I organised some excellent social events but didn’t manage to make a significant profit for branch funds).

The branches are supported by more volunteers, in the form of the regional teams. One of those volunteers is Elaine who has also written her #mynctstory.  In addition, NCT members have been involved with Maternity Service Liaison Committees since they were first set up in 1984. It’s generally exciting and fulfilling work, helping to improve maternity services, but also largely unpaid. And, although NCT practitioners are paid for delivering courses, there’s lots they do to support parents which is unpaid. Much of the work done by breastfeeding counsellors in particular is undertaken with no prospect of payment, simply because they see it as their mission to support women in need.

2. NCT practitioner training, via NCT College, is family friendly and life changing

Becoming an NCT practitioner is one relatively flexible way to mix motherhood and work – you are self employed and have a large degree of control in how many courses or sessions you facilitate and when. I joined an NCT tutorial group in 1995, when I was pregnant with Third-and-Final Son and fed up with my career in local newspaper journalism. I’d been demoted when I switched to working part-time (whilst pregnant with Son-in-the-Middle), I was incredibly bored with the work I was being given and I couldn’t think of anywhere else I wanted to work as I thought it would be more of the same. Having said all that, I had no plans to leave that job as I was terrified of not having the money – I thought that the antenatal teaching would be an interesting hobby with the added benefit of a bit of pay.

I loved my monthly tutorials from the start. I would throw books and food into the car and battle through  rush hour traffic, thrilled to be heading for an evening of stimulating conversation and learning, plus rock solid emotional support from my tutor and fellow students. Life got quite challenging over the next few years –  I decided to leave journalism to be a stay-at-home mum; there were some traumatic events in Third-and-Final Son’s birth; I got what I now realise was postnatal depression; my husband was made redundant; we had to claim benefits to get by plus I took on various part time jobs to make ends meet. But through it all my commitment to becoming an antenatal teacher with NCT stayed strong.

The training wasn’t easy. I get high scores on intelligence tests but my academic skills were weak. I love to read fiction but struggle to concentrate on textbooks, and I had little idea how to write an academic essay or do referencing. I had left education at 18 after a lousy set of A-level results, primarily due to my total lack of revision, meant no chance of taking up a place to read history at the University of Warwick, and that always bothered me. But my tutor introduced me to original research, was unflinching as I worked through various emotional issues and never lost faith in me. I eventually gained my NCT Licence to Practice and, as there was a scarcity of antenatal teachers in my area, I was soon teaching up to three evenings a week plus having a weekend job working at Sainsburys.

Part way through my NCT training I decided it was time to get the degree I’d always wanted. I briefly toyed with going back to history but decided that my real interest was in psychology, particularly reproductive psychology. Back then being an NCT practitioner was an internal qualification only (students can now gain certificates, diplomas and degree awarded by NCT College and the University of Worcester) but the portfolio of work which made up my Final Submission to NCT’s Teachers’ Panel was enough to earn me a place to study psychology at the University of Leeds. Third-and-Final Son started school in September 2000 and a couple of weeks later I embarked on full-time study (plus marriage, motherhood, antenatal teaching and working weekends at Sainsburys – but that’s another story). I graduated in 2003,  took a couple of years off studying then went back for my MSc in Psychological Approaches to Health. I am proud of my academic achievement and it is unlikely to have happened without the support of NCT.

3. NCT’s commitment to family-friendly working practices for staff

My final point about NCT is how it supports mothers, fathers and families in its commitment to home-based, flexible working for many staff members, particularly in NCT College and Operations. I now have a staff role as NCT’s Research Engagement Officer and I really appreciate having that element of accommodation of family needs in my working life. There are some awesome people on the team, many of whom have left high powered jobs to work for less money for a charity, because the work is emotionally fulfilling and allows them to spend more time with their families.

 

On reflection, I’ve come to the conclusion that my longtime devotion to NCT is in large part down to the role this organisation has played, for 60 years, in helping women to make sense of their lives when they become mothers. I’ve blogged before about my devotion to the book The Compleat Woman, by Valerie Grove, with its focus on how women have maintained their career and partner relationship when they are also busy mums of three or more children. The book illustrates how mothers have been working to find that balance throughout the 20th century, with their ages ranging from 40s to much older.  I firmly believe that the growth of NCT is in large part due to those tensions faced by mothers; that many members left (or were forced to leave) conventional employment on becoming mothers and consequently threw their considerable energies and intelligence behind a charity they felt passionate about.

NCT is one of the organisations which has both been shaped by, and has helped to shape, the changes in women’s lives through the 20th century. NCT’s values and the support and opportunities it offers to mothers AND fathers will continue to make family life more fulfilling in the 21st century.

 

What’s YOUR #mynctstory ? Parents want to know.

 

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