Author and mum Amy Beeson shares her experiences of looking after a child over the summer holidays whilst launching a new book with workingmums.
After publishing three books with HarperCollins, running my own business and doing the school run I’ve learnt that women maybe multitaskers but focusing on what you want to achieve most of all each day and feeling fulfilled by small achievements is what success looks like for me. Book sales and client wins are fantastic but they’re intangible and can sometimes leave you feeling a bit flat. Focusing on putting on a great book event one day and then making pancakes with my daughter the next morning feels more real than striving for an end goal since I left the corporate world.
The corporate world is playing catch up; they talk about flexible working but we’re actually doing it.
I did find pregnancy and the return to work challenging because becoming a mum changed me. It changed my relationship with work. I love my job but I’ve got at least three full time jobs (I’m a mum, an author and business owner) but I can’t be all three at the same time, not in the way I want to. I ask myself who am I right now? Over the holidays I was a mum all of the time and an author most of the time, because our new book Our Country Nurse was published and my daughter was off school. There wasn’t much space for client work but that’s OK because most of my clients were away.
For me the biggest challenge is still trying to be present in what I’m doing. Not letting mummy guilt creep in whilst I’m writing and not thinking about emails when I’m with my daughter. And it never gets any easier, it’s never going to not be busy. What I’ve discovered over the last few years is that I need to take responsibility for feeling in control.
I’ve learnt so much by connecting with other mums about what works for them and I’ve discovered that being great at your job doesn’t mean you have to work all the time. I work best in bursts of about two hours – I can get a lot done in those two hours! Then it makes complete sense to go for quick walk, eat something nice, or do some yoga – that’s not slacking; it’s giving my mind and body some sustenance so when I come back to do another two hour burst of writing or client consultations I’m at my optimum.
When you’re in an corporate environment most of the time you have to follow someone else’s rules whether they work for you or not. I get to take a fresh look at each day and ask myself what I need to achieve and how best to set myself up to succeed. Flexible working enables you to pick the time and place that means you always do your best work.
My mum is probably the kindest colleague I’ll ever have. Whoever you work with be a kind boss to yourself.
Once my daughter’s in bed if I’m working towards something big I’ll do another few hours on the laptop but I don’t do that all the time because it’s not healthy. During the run up to Our Country Nurse coming out I was working till midnight and we’ve had lots of book events and PR to do.
My mum said to me, ‘Let’s enjoy this. Let’s not miss out the pleasure of seeing our book come out by letting all the thoughts of what we need to do spoilt it.’ Sarah is always the first person to tell me to not do too much. Sometimes that’s hard to hear because nothing just falls into your lap; it takes hard work, but you have to ask yourself would you expect the same of someone else? I might expect a colleague to do long hours when it was necessary but not very often, so I try not to expect more of myself than I would of others.
When I do have to work long hours I make a deal with myself that I can do this for a week but next week I’ll need to change things because otherwise I’ll burn out. Part of the joy of working for yourself is doing what fulfils you and that changes day by day. Most of all I want to feel happy, to me nowadays that is what success feels like.
Amy Beeson runs Wordsby Communications and has a successful writing partnership with her mum Sarah Beeson MBE. Their new book Our Country Nurse is set in a country village in 1975 and is bursting with stories of mums journeys during pregnancy and motherhood.
Sarah shares some of the myths parents were told in the 1970s that they’re still being told today with Female First.
Have you been told any of these Myths?
Myth One: You can’t get pregnant when breastfeeding
Myth Two: There’s no harm in leaving babies to cry themselves to sleep
Myth Three: All babies wean at six months
Myth Four: All women can have sex just six weeks after giving birth
Myth Five: You only get postnatal depression with a newborn baby
Myth Six: Babies can’t choke
Myth Seven: If your child bites it’s best if you bite them back
Myth Eight: We don’t need vitamin supplements
Myth Nine: When your child misbehaves putting them in the naughty corner will put a stop to it
Myth Ten: You can spoil babies
Parenting expert and author Sarah Beeson MBE has worked with families for over four decades. Her latest book Our Country Nurse written with her daughter Amy Beeson, is set in a country village in 1975 and is bursting with stories of mums’ journeys during pregnancy and motherhood. Sarah shares some of the myths mums were told in the 1970s that they’re still being told today with Female First.
free event at newcastle library on 29 September at 2pm
Author and former Staffordshire Health Visitor Sarah Beeson MBE will be giving a reading, taking questions and signing copies of her latest memoir Our Country Nurse at Newcastle Under Lyme Library at 2pm on Thur 29 September as part of their History Month.
Gill Heath, Staffordshire County Council’s Libraries Chief said:
“It’s great to welcome Sarah to Staffordshire’s libraries to meet some of her fans and to celebrate the launch of her new book.”
“It’s interesting to think that some of Sarah’s memoirs might well draw from some of her time as a nurse in Staffordshire. I’m sure we will see a good turn-out and I hope the county’s budding writers are inspired by her success and the talks.”
Newcastle Under Lyme Library, 30 Ironmarket Newcastle-under-Lyme Staffordshire ST5 1AT
Come to Book Club with Sarah Beeson MBE and Amy Beeson 8-9pm Thursday 22 September on Facebook Live.
Join us with a glass of wine or a mug of tea from the comfort of your own home for a little bit of book chat. We’ll be finding out what readers think of our new book Our Country Nurse and talking about what we’re reading in the Beeson Household this September.
All you have to do is scoot on over to Facebook between 8-9pm to see what we’re up to. It’s a complete free-for-all and you don’t even have to leave your own sofa.
Tell us what you’re reading, give us some hot tips for books to read this autumn and share with us your thoughts on Our Country Nurse.
The new iPhone 7 has landed and thank heavens I had my (not new) iPhone on Sunday night because without it I wouldn’t have been able to video, photograph, tweet and navigate my way around Broadcasting House in an evening where I was listening live to The Archers down the pub with Dame Jenni Murray from Woman’s Hour for BBC Breakfast. Then me, Takbir and Ava went up to the studios to talk to Emma Barnett on BBC Radio 5 Live on the top news story of the week for The 5 Live Hit List. Amy x
It was surreal and fabulous in be listening to the radio in the company of other Archers Fans in a cosy pub round the corner from BBC Broadcasting House. As well as me, Takbir and Ava there was Dame Jenny Murri (Woman’s Hour), Claire Cohen (The Telegraph), Lucy Freeman (Radio 4). Polly Neate (Woman’s Aid) and other fans including Sandra Paul, Ursula Knight, Mike Jones and Tom Middlehurst and young listener Annie.
We knew all along that Helen was innocent of course but it was rather fun and at times nail-biting to be giving our verdict on The Archers jurors which included Dame Eileen Atkins, Catherine Tate, Nigel Havers, Aimee-Ffion Edwards, Cerith Flinn, Tam Williams and Graham Seed who was formerly Nigel Pargetter in the long running radio soap.
FINAL EPISODE OF tHE ARCHERS TRIAL WEEK
When we heard Rob Titchener talk to Helen at the end of the episode we all jumped. This is what an Archers fan’s face looks like when they hear his insidious tones. It was a fantastic experience, I hope I get to listen with other fans down the pub again. The hour-long special really kept us on the edge of our seats hoping that Helen would finally be set free.
DR WHO MAGIC AT BROADCASTING HOUSE
We then raced round the corner for my radio interview at the BBC. Ava skipped into the building (she’s been there before for my interview with Harriet Scott on being a working mum on BBC Radio London) but back then she slept through it in the buggy. Now she was eager to enjoy the sights of the Beeb especially the Tardis and Darlek from Dr Who (she does love that show).
INTERVIEW ON IPHONE 7 AND APPLE BRAND ON RADIO 5 LIVE
5 LIVE HIT LIST INTERVIEW
You can listen to the interview on the 5 Live Hit List on BBC iPlayer Radio with Emma Barnett, Elinor Mills (Editor The Sunday Times) and author and Wordsby Brand Consultant Amy Beeson. But here’s the highlights. (From 1 hour 46 minutes into the show).
Emma Barnett presents 5 Live’s rundown of the top 30 news, politics, sport and showbiz stories of the week that are making the biggest impact across social media and online. The No. 1 Story of the week shared online was the iPhone 7.
EMMA: It’s the iPhone 7 of course! The latest version was launched this week in San Francisco with the company’s decision to ditch the headphones and socket. Apple says the move was motivated by courage which has brought mixed reactions from many former iPhone fans…Whether you love it or hate it Apple is now arguably the biggest company in the world. The launch of a new iPhone is a major global event but what is it about the company that has given it an almost cultlike following. Elinor Mills is still with me and Amy Beeson who is a brand consultant and author who has been watching the launch for us this week and has more on the most expensive iPhone to date. So, Amy, wireless headphones was it a brave decision or a way to make more money?
AMY: It’s a really tricky question. When I heard about the socket and the headphones I immediately thought not again. I’m going to have to go out and buy all new accessories. My initial reaction was quite a negative reaction. Using a word like “courage” for this move, as a writer was maybe not the word I would have chosen. I went on watched the actual ad and I remembered the guys and gals who developed it in San Francisco really hold the development of seamless technology in their core brand values. So, on the one hand do we need it? On the other hand, as a brand having seamless technology is the next evolutionary step of the iPhone. It is at such a premium price but Apple is not known as a cheap product.
EMMA: It’s not, it’s a luxury product. Elinor Mills, when you’re looking at something like this coming out, it’s never on a Sunday these launches. It’s kinda not like any other tech launch is it?
ELINOR: I think it’s fascinating that it’s top of the list and we were all discussing in conference last week that we were going to have something on the iPhone 7 because we know everyone is interested. We know that’s because so many of us spend so much of our lives on these, it’s almost we spend more time with them than we do with our children and anything else, so I think people are very obsessive. On the headphone front I think it’s a disaster. The only way I can find my white headphones in my bag is by pulling the wires. Just two little tiny bits of plastic that sit in my ear I think I would lose them the whole time.
EMMA: You get can big headphones like we’re wearing too and they’ll be wireless.
ELINOR: I also think it’s weird in a brand way because the white headphones was so iconic it was in all their adverts. You’d have people in black with the white wire symbolising the iPod so I think that’s interesting because it maybe wireless technology but the wire they made a real fetish about.
EMMA: A big part of the Apple launches, Amy, are what Tim Cook the CEO has to say. It used to be Steve Jobs. What they seem like is important and him in a car with James Corden doing a bit of Carpool Karaoke to enter the stage. There has been criticism that since Steve Jobs passed away the brand has lost some it’s sheen. Where do you stand on that?
AMY: That’s very true. Where a brand is synonymous with a personality, like Virgin and Richard Branson, it definitely does some damage to the value of that brand. But Apple has never really strayed away from their core brand values that came with Think Different in 1997. Next year it’ll be 20 years since Steve Jobs launched that campaign and it set the bar for what brand is.
ELINOR: I think the problem is though that Apple haven’t really come up with anything new really since Steve Jobs went. He had already got in train the iPhone, iPods were a big success but you could argue that Samsung or those kind of people are doing more innovative stuff.
AMY: I think that’s because Apple have never been about new products, they’re reinventive. So, they’ve always taken someone else’s product and taken it to another level. They weren’t the first people to do MP3s but followed up with the iPod. They put the “I” into that technology, they make it their own and it’s very intuitive technology.
EMMA: There are conspiracy theories. I remember when I used to be a tech correspondent and Steve Jobs passed away there was this whole thing that he had left years of prototypes, that he had left years of what he wanted to come. So, do you think there’s a delay or do you think there’s nothing left in the tank?
ELINOR: I think they’ve run out.
EMMA: You think they have? Amy?
AMY: It’s really tricky. Are you a custodian of that brand or are you leading that brand? And which is worse and which is better? I really don’t know. Steve Jobs is an impossible person to follow, I wouldn’t want to have to do that.
EMMA: You wouldn’t want to have to do that? Now, how do you think people think about Apple apart from expensive?
AMY: Apple really has almost this rock star quality. When they release something like the iPhone 7 it made me think it almost has all the hype around it like Adele’s new album coming out. There’s all the build up towards it, it gets released and they’ll be people queuing up around the block to get one. I know for a fact from a branding point of view they look at music a lot in development. So, not only do we access music through our iPhones as a brand they really draw from music marketing.
ELINOR: I just wonder if the sheen’s coming off a bit? Because the products are really quite cool because Jobs had done them before he went but I don’t think they’ve really come up with anything new and a bit of wireless headphone isn’t really going to cut it. Where’s the new thing? Where’s the new iPad. His was all about creativity and design and giving us objects that we didn’t even know we wanted that would transform our lives in the way that we used technology. I don’t think they’ve had a game changer like that for a long time.
EMMA: The watch was meant to be a big moment wasn’t it?
ELINOR: That was a dud.
EMMA: I don’t see many people wearing them – it’s an anecdotal view. Technology is often very difficult to get right, we saw with Google Glass, somebody wearing something on their face as a glasses wearer that was never going to work out for me. Quick line on that Amy, the double lens camera does that feed into the culture of innovation at all?
AMY: It very key in how people want to use their iPhones. I don’t know how different it is, but in the way the iPhone has become integral in business and personal life it’s definitely going to make things better for them.
EMMA: Definitely going to make things better. Amy Beeson thank you very much for that. Elinor Mills as always a pleasure. That’s it from the 5 Live Hit List tonight.
Amy Beeson runs Wordsby Communications and has a successful writing partnership with her mum Sarah Beeson MBE. Their new book Our Country Nurse is set in a country village in 1975 and is bursting with stories of mums journeys during pregnancy and motherhood.
Come and see us at Babyfest Mumsnet’s one-day boutique baby event on Saturday 24 September 155 Bishopsgate, Liverpool St, London, EC2M 3YD.
Doors open at 9.30am. There’ll be goodies to giveaway, expert speakers, baby book shop, practical demonstrations, scrummy food and pampering treats. Book now or enter to win a pair of tickets with us.
EXPERT TALK 10AM BREASTFEEDING: A BRIEF OERVIEW, MAIN AUDITORIUM
Authors of Happy Baby, Happy Family Health visitor Sarah Beeson MBE and writer Amy Beeson will be talking openly and honestly about all aspects of breastfeeding, as well as other feeding options, and the importance of making the right decision for you. If you can’t make this session or would like to receive advice in a more informal, personalised setting, pop over to the Demo area after the talk for some one-to-one time with Sarah and Amy.
1-2-1 ADVICE AND BOOK SIGNING, DEMO ZONE
Sarah will be giving free 1-2-1 advice in the Demo Zone after her talk and signing copies of our books Happy Baby, Happy Family, The New Arrival and Our Country Nurse. at the Victoria Park Bookstall. Pop along for a friendly chat to ask any questions about you and your baby.
To win a pair of tickets to Babyfest head on over to our social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. (The competition will run 15-18 Sept and is open to UK Entrants only).
5 REASONS YOU’LL LOVE BABYFEST
1. Hands-on practice
Try out the best baby products – plus learn how to tie a sling, bathe a baby, and take part in a crucial baby first aid session.
2. Advice from star speakers
Hear from Britain’s foremost baby experts including Dr Pixie McKenna, Jane Clarke, Beverley Turner and Sarah Beeson MBE.
3. Pampering treats
Book in for a free manicure, reflexology or massage treatment, as well as a free pregnancy yoga session.
4. Delicious food
Enjoy a lovely free lunch from Soho House restaurants Pizza East and Chicken Shop.
Don’t forget to pick up your fabulous free Babyfest goody bag packed full of products worth over £50!
6.30pm on Wednesday 21 September, Notting Hill Gate Library, 1 Pembridge Square Notting Hill, London W2 4EW.
Sarah Beeson MBE and co-author Amy Beeson will be talking about their new book Our Country Nurse signing copies and enjoying an evening with readers to answer questions about nursing, health visiting and writing.
Liz: Let’s take you back to the 70s. It’s was a decade our next guest started caring for babies and their families. Sarah Beeson from Stafford has an MBE for services to nursing and has recently published her second memoir Our Country Nurse on her adventures. Think Call The Midwife 20 years later. Sarah, what are the big differences for you between then and now for babies?
Sarah: Babies really don’t alter. Fashions and fads come and go. The most important thing is the emotional needs of babies. Today’s parents really get that. As well as the care, the breastfeeding or bottle feeding and looking after your baby the emotional needs are very important.
Perry: You’re a health visitor; you’re going into other people’s houses aren’t you? Our Country Nurse is a rich tapestry of 1970s life.
Sarah: It is. I worked in rural Kent. I had a little mini which was given to us by the county as we’d be county council employees and had only just moved into the NHS. The weather could be tremendously harsh in Kent; snow in the winter and the book has the baking hot summer of 1976 where once I parked my Mini when I came back out the steering wheel was so hot I could barely touch it to drive onto my next visit. But knocking on doors for a living has been most enjoyable.
Liz: You didn’t have children when you started and you were very young when you became a health visitor. What made you want to do it?
Sarah: When I trained at Hackney Hospital on community practice towards the end of my training I went out with a marvellous health visitor visiting high rise blocks and there were terrible conditions in some areas. She was so welcomed by her families, she organised nursery placements, she sorted housing out and I thought I want to that. Later on when they were looking for nurses who wanted to do health visiting I applied and got in.
Liz: You’ve got some really interesting stories. It’s fictional with names changed but loosely it’s based on your life?
Sarah: Yes, it’s my memoir. All the characters names and circumstances are changed except me, Sarah Hill, I’m the only one who is herself and I’m not even completely sure about that.
Perry: So, presumably the main protagonist is you?
Sarah: It’s me narrating and it’s my story but there are some real characters. I dedicated Our Country Nurse to three Staffordshire health visitors who are no longer with us but there wonderful way of working come out in some of my characters particularly Hermione who is wonderful largely based on a dear friend.
Liz: Some of the stories people might find a little shocking. Tell us about the Filipino mum?
Sarah: They was a Filipino couple with a new baby. I went to see them and they worked very long hours for hardly any money. They got one half day a week off on a Sunday and really it modern day slavery.
Perry: How much did they earn?
Sarah: They earned £17 and ten shillings a month between them.
Perry: Good grief.
Sarah: I mean wages weren’t high but that was exploitation. And the excuse from was they got a room – which was an attic, and food – which they weren’t used to and couldn’t eat. They wanted to get away to the United States and their story was largely based on someone I did see.
Perry: What did Sarah encounter with this couple then?
Sarah: The mum was wonderful but she really couldn’t spend enough time with the baby. I used to do a number of clinics and one had bus that went round and picked everyone up and brought them to this monthly country clinic and took them all home again all for free. I more or less said it’s essential she goes to her employer she must come; dereliction of duty on your part if you let them go. She was a very pukka lady and didn’t want to go against that so allowed her to have this afternoon off once a month to come to clinic and that’s where we hatched the plot for her to escape.
Perry: So she escaped!
Liz: You helped her to get out of the situation.
Perry: It says in the book that she was advised to leave the baby under an apple tree so she could carry on working for the family?
Sarah: Yes, what her employer kept telling her was to wrap the baby up and leave her under the apple trees in the orchard and get on with your work, I used to do that on Nanny’s day off. It was January! It was real exploitation. You have to tread very carefully sometimes and that’s the thing with health visiting you have no right of access, you have no right to go in. It’s people’s good will.
Perry: For unmarried mothers back in the 70s was there still stigma there was in previous decades?
Sarah: There was. There’s a story about a young girl, another one I helped to escape from looking after two horrible elderly uncles in a tumbledown farm to a nice little flat of her own. Things were changing in the 70s, it wasn’t as Dickensian as 30s, 40s, 50s but it was still very hard and tough for women at that time generally but particularly unmarried mothers.
Liz: One of the stories from your book which are based on real events is about you going to help a mum with a three year old who’s having issues in the night?
Sarah: This is based on a quite a few incidents because quite a few parents say their child is talking to someone or seeing someone and it’s not that unusual and it’s not usually a ghost, it’s usually imagination and children have seven years before they really separate reality from fantasy.
Liz: What are they doing in the middle of the night though?
Sarah: I can’t give the story away but its not all that it seems. The whole family is really worried because they think they’ve got a poltergeist; things are falling off dressers and crashing to the floor.
Perry: Was this a real story?
Sarah: Yes, but the actual outcome isn’t quite that you might think it was.
Perry: Now that’s a teaser.
Liz: There were a lot of high profile stories in the papers in the 70s about children and ghosts.
Sarah: There is always something going on in that direction.
Liz: You must have thought why are you calling me?
Sarah: When you’re a health visitor people go to you to ask for help and very often you’re not quite the person who has the knowledge but you can be conduit; you can find the right person.
Liz: Did you have any other unusual cases like that?
Sarah: I’ve unblocked drains, I’ve called the environmental health for all sort of infestations – things that I can’t actually deal with though I’m quite good at unblocking drains. In the 70s people didn’t have the money and insurance cover for emergency situations so you did get rung up just as you were leaving the office. For instance on Christmas Eve as I was leaving someone rings with a problem and it was that story that started off the memoirs. A lady rang me and said I can’t settle the baby they’re crying, crying, crying. I went out I was there for absolutely ages talk about breastfeeding, positions and I’d left the minis lights on. I had a completely flat battery and no mobile phones in those days. I didn’t want to go back to the house I’d been there two and a half hours. I walked to the phone box and rang the local garage. Great big snowflakes started to fall and I was stuck in a drift with a flat battery on Christmas Eve and I didn’t have any money with me. This lovely mechanic came out, he started my car and I asked him how much and he said, ‘Nothing, Nurse, it’s Christmas Eve, Merry Christmas.’ I put that into the text of Happy Baby, Happy Familyas a little story and my agent said to me you should write your memoirs.
Liz: Was it because of that going above and beyond dedication that you got the MBE?
Sarah: I got the MBE as a health visitor for working with children and families in Stafford. People put me forward for it without my knowledge. And I understand the Queen often says you get your MBE on behalf of a whole team of people. I just happened to be the one who was going up to get it and representing the profession.
Perry: Here’s the killer question – there’s a lot of people listening who would have been mums in 70s and are the daughters of those mothers. In your estimation are parents better now than they were?
Sarah: This generation of parents is the best there has ever been. Parents these days they really work as a team, they put their child’s welfare, their wellbeing at the heart of what they’re doing. Working parents, working mums especially often feel so torn between work and childcare but working is a good example for your children, whether you’re a stay at home mum, work full time or part time, there has been great improvements in parenting and especially in the emotional needs; that love and security. Recognising your child as an equal, you’re the custodian of those rights.
Liz: You think we do that more now?
Sarah: A lot more now.
Perry: Is it an attitude of mind thing? In the 70s they were only one generation away from a child should be seen and not heard.
Sarah: That was not quite as bad as it had been but the parents of children then had definitely been told to be seen and not heard. It’s evolved and now parents understand that harsh words can hurt. That’s a big leap forward and I don’t think many parents now would think that smacking children would be OK because it always makes things worse.
Liz: Physically though it was harder for mums back then using terry nappies – we’ve got it easier now.
Perry: And your washing machine saves your life.
Liz: In birth we’re a lot more likely to use pain relief now, there weren’t a lot of options then.
Sarah: We do have wonderful midwifery and obstetrics service these days compared with then but there was every week an antenatal class run by myself and the midwife, there’s a wonderful midwife in the book who was an absolute treasure her mums adored her. We did a topic every week and relaxation every week – taking you through labour – because the NHS is so squeezed and lacking in resources some parents can’t get onto a course sometimes. So yes, I’m all for the new developments, I think it’s wonderful to have them but it’s your wonderful midwife who steers you through it.
Perry: Sarah, it was lovely to speak to you and the new book is Our Country Nurse. There’s quite a few stories drawn from your time in Staffordshire.
Liz: Thank you for coming in Sarah Beeson from Stafford, MBE.
Published by Harper Element.
Paperback at £8.99 available from Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles and WH Smith.
eBook and £6.49 available from Amazon Kindle, iTunes, Google Play and Kobo.
Audiobook £12.99 read by Anna Bentinck available from Amazon Audible and iTunes.
By Sarah Beeson MBE Author and former Health Visitor
I recently had an article published in the Huffington Post on why Health visiting is under threat and that terrifies me, not because health visitors will lose their jobs but because we are putting the health and wellbeing of mothers and babies at risk.
In a letter to the Times the RCN has called for the government to stop the cuts to health visiting but it is the government handing over the commissioning of the NHS to councils at the same time as cutting the funding to the NHS and the local authorities, that has caused this problem in the first place.
The government are breaking the promises made in the Health Visitor Implementation plan that pledged to train an extra 4,000 health visitors. The big government plan that promised to get leavers to return to practice, promised to increase the number of health visitors available locally across the country. If the government don’t stop these cuts all that will be left is broken promises and the end of a service that even pre-dates the NHS and has being providing community nursing to families for over 150 years.
I believe every parent has the right to have access to their health visitor. The right to ask questions; The right to be reassured; The right to be heard.
I’m hoping parents will speak now and join NHS staff to stand up for the rights of their child to comprehensive health care. Because every child matters and every family, whoever they are, will need someone to share in their achievements and offer professional advice during the early years of parenthood.
Because being a good parent isn’t easy. You never know when you’ll need your health visitor. It might be when your baby is two weeks old, or 18 months or four-years-old. When you’ve got money worries, when your marriage breaks down, or when you lose your mum – I’ve been there with families during all these times and know that being able to talk to a health visitor meant the difference between finding the right support and struggling on alone for years, and sometimes the difference between life and death.
I’ve been the health visitor that’s given the children their tea, to give a single mum a break, who’s spotted a baby needs urgent medical attention, that’s taken a mum to a women’s refuge – like many of us have. This is the best generation of parents there has ever been. Today’s mums and dads are so dedicated and work as a team – they’re giving their all and what are they getting back? Already the health service is becoming patchy. Some families haven’t got the service they deserve, but I know where there is still a good health visiting service the parents will stand with us and say we aren’t letting you take away our health visitor.
It’s not that those parents need a health visitor to tell them what to do. In my experience mums and dads are the experts on their own baby and every child is unique. But having someone who will support you, give you advice that’s right for your family – to me that is who a health visitor should be for every family on their caseload. That service shouldn’t be a nice to have – it must be a right.
Health visiting isn’t about ticking developmental boxes. If the local authority are going to be commissioning services they should be designing them around what families need, not what will save a few pence. Because if you skimp on the health of children in the early years the tax-payer and that child ends up paying for it for the rest of their lives.
In an attempt to save money the short-sighted councils are planning to cut the health visiting service. Already we are losing experienced health visitors through redundancy. In March and April this year 433 health visitors were lost from the service. There are now only 9,711 health visitors and last year 697,852 babies were born in England and Wales. If the cuts go ahead there will be even less health visitors and the service I’ve worked in for over four decades will be lost and once it’s gone there is no way to get it back.
I don’t think the government and local councils really understand what a health visitor does. If they did, they’d see that we are uniquely placed to be with parents to ensure the growth, development and health of babies and the mental and physical health of mothers. We are often the person who refers to other health professionals when there is a problem, who flags to agencies when children are at risk, who should be picking up on and supporting mother suffering from postnatal depression.
Already the numbers of health visitors have gone down from 20,000 to under 10,000. Every child matters to us, let’s tell the government and councils they need to matter to them too.
About Sarah Beeson MBE
In 1969, 17-year-old Sarah arrived in Hackney in the East End of London to begin her nursing career. Six years later she went into health visiting, practising for over 35 years in Kent and Staffordshire, and building up a lifetime’s expertise and stories through working with babies and families. In 1998 Sarah received the Queen’s Institute for Nursing Award and in 2006 was awarded an MBE for Services to Children and Families in Stafford by Queen Elizabeth II.
Now she divides her time between Staffordshire and London, writing and meeting wonderful readers and parents. She writes books with her daughter Amy Beeson. The New Arrivalis her true story of training to be a nurse in Hackney. Her second memoir Our Country Nurse is set in a country village in 1975 and is bursting with stories of mums journeys during pregnancy and motherhood.