I have been enjoying Liz Osler’s Little Groovers classes with my youngest son since he was a baby, and I was so pleased when Liz said that she would like to be one of the sponsors for this October’s Growing Families event in Manchester. The not-for-profit event is for new and expectant families and the professionals who support them, and is taking place on Thursday 6th October in Manchester city centre. You can find out more information here: https://growingfamilies.co.uk/
Liz wanted to take one of our “Seedling” sponsorship packages, which meant that she wanted to sponsor one of our six breakout sessions. I thought she might take the one on Doula Care, or perhaps Babywearing, but she surprised me by saying that she would like to sponsor our session on Parenting Under Pressure, which is all about what happens when added stressors are put upon the parenting journey, such as premature birth or disability.
Her choice reminded me that we don’t all come in neat little boxes. Just because she runs a jolly music class for babies and tots doesn’t mean that Liz has not experienced parenting under pressure. I had the privilege of interviewing Liz this week and she explains here why she chose the session that she did, and how she has been affected by her own growing family.
Liz lives in Sale, Cheshire, with her partner and three children – eight year old daughter Myla, five year old son Tom and 15 month old little girl Stella. Her mum was a music teacher and she studied piano and oboe from the age of six, and did an Arts based degree in Fashion and Textile Design. This is where she met her partner, Pete, and they then moved to London. Veering away from art and music, Liz went into publishing and Pete a career working for a stock exchange.
Then about 6 years ago they decided there was “more to life than staring at a screen” and they took the decision to both quit their steady jobs, sell their house and move their family to Manchester. Pete had qualified as a clinical hypnotherapist whilst living in London, and once in Manchester began practising both privately and within the NHS, and Liz started Little Groovers. They are now both doing what they really want to do, although the two of them being self-employed means a lot of “tag team parenting”!
Liz says that “Little Groovers is all me; I’ve arranged and recorded the music, invested in stacks of percussion instruments, made the website… everything!” She now has Nicola on board as a second session leader, and between them they do classes every weekday in the south Manchester area, as well as private parties.
Since having her youngest daughter 15 months ago Liz is taking a break from doing additional work in the evenings, but for some time she worked for two funded organisations that provide social opportunities for children with special needs. She facilitated music sessions for autistic children, and another social group for children with cerebral palsy and other complex needs. She describes “magic moments” such as watching a non-verbal young man demonstrate a sense of rhythm with the ‘boom whacker’ instruments, and children telling her that they “love making music”.
But it was the birth of her son 5 years ago that gave Liz a real insight into the additional pressures that some parents are under. Tom was born 5 weeks premature – he was born very quickly, was diagnosed with jaundice and had to stay in hospital for a week. He was then readmitted to paediatrics for another week – his jaundice was worsening and he was not putting on any weight – Liz describes him as being “so tiny”. She knew that something was wrong but found some healthcare professionals hard to convince. It was only after she stopped breastfeeding Tom at six months old, and he had worsening stomach problems, that he was finally diagnosed with a cow’s milk protein allergy (after Liz did her own initial research). Liz says it was “ages before he stopped looking like a little old man” and started to put on the weight.
When Tom was only 4 months old Liz had to go back to work, which she describes as being “very hard”, particularly because in her words he was a “rubbish sleeper”, not reliably sleeping through the night until he was 18 months old. Liz describes how she felt guilty about her daughter Myla, Tom’s older sister, because “I tried my best to be a ‘good mum’ by attempting baking sessions, crafts, trips out with Myla and her constantly crying baby brother but I was always so tired and grumpy and frustrated by the situation”. We agreed that this is a common feeling amongst mothers when they have a second child.
So I asked Liz what she feels new families need, from the perspective of someone who has been parenting now for over eight years?
“Someone to say it’s going to be alright, it’s just a phase. This too shall pass. Just after I had Stella my Mum became very ill and had to go into hospital for 3 months, and you just sort of have to crack on, and you just realise that the poor baby isn’t getting the time and attention that her siblings had but it isn’t doing her any harm. In fact she seems to be the most confident of the three! With your first you worry so much that you’re not doing it right. It’s easy to say when you look back, but it’s all just a phase! Sleepless nights, teething, ‘velcro’ babies….And we’ve got plenty of phases to come haven’t we really – including the teenage phase!”
Liz is also on the committee for Delamere Toy Library which is an independent charity working in partnership with Trafford Borough Council. It offers an inclusive play environment where parents or carers can relax while the children play with a wide selection of toys. Many of the toys are purchased specifically to meet the needs of disabled visitors. Amongst the groups that the library runs there is one for children with special educational needs, and one that is run by grandparents for grandparents. The organisation’s website states “At the Toy Library we provide toys plus a supportive listening ear to all families, carers and professionals in the area. We work closely with parents and carers of disabled children and professionals.”
Sounds like a much needed resource for parents who are facing some pressure.