Just When You Need a Bit of Support

The NCT come along. I can’t speak highly enough of our NCT antenatal classes, they were superb in letting you have some small idea of what was coming. However, we had no choice, I would not have joined and gone along if it hadn’t been for local NHS cuts which meant that there were no NHS classes on offer. I thought it might be useful and indeed it was. Except for the breastfeeding class where I innocently asked how I was meant to be constantly feeding my baby via the breast and sleep and was told ‘you should have thought of that before you had a baby’. I think that put me off breast-feeding before I even had the child!

The one thing though, that was drilled into us was how much support and friendship we would gain from the other mothers on our course. *ollocks the hubby had said to that and described to me what he thought of a lot (not all) of them. I decided to counter his intuition and give it a try.

Each week we would meet with about half the class, a few people had met in the past and decided not to join in. This was fine by me. However, for me it soon became a bit of a comparison session, each week we could discuss what our kids did and didn’t do. I felt a bit uncomfortable about this, partly as I have other interests, partly as I was having such a bad time with the boy anyhow I wanted a bit of escape and not to be reminded.

I ticked along for a while, then work started again and so forth. I tried to join in, but they began leaving me out etc. I heard that they felt a bit upset about something I had written here. I didn’t ever write about them, but I did write about the local NCT, so perhaps they got confused. To be honest, I was a bit peeved about the incessant morning tea/ lunch dates around our houses and the necessity to explore my house each time. I felt that my life was on open display and I just didn’t want people changing their nappies in the boys bedroom rather than on their own change mat downstairs. Call me old fashioned.

I decided to cut myself off when I visited the Zoo with the kids and found them all having a meeting there. How embarrassing was that! I felt so incredibly awkward and although I knew they did that sort of thing all the time and I knew about it, I hadn’t actually chanced upon them before. It wasn’t somewhere that I thought they would particularly be. This chance meeting sealed the end of an era. I realised that although I cared for about 5 minutes, I didn’t really care.

I wish I hadn’t got sucked into the whole rubbish that you get told about the people you meet at baby classes being those who will be your friends for life. My friends are still those I had before I had babies, and luckily for me they have babies of their own now, so we just have an additional thing in common.

There are 2 people who I met through baby classes whom I would regard as friends, they both live around the corner from me (one is currently in the USA but we stay in touch) and I hope our kids will play together when they are older. Let this be a lesson, just because you have kids in common, if there is nothing else, there never will be!

Anyway, the local NCT has an email discussion list, which I sometimes contribute to. In the past it used to be all about breastfeeding support, what the best pram is and the like. It was great, and through it I actually met a few people, one of whom I would go to if I had any problems with anything even now. I’m still a member of this list, although I have tried to leave a few times (I’m just not very good at computing). Recently, I have become more and more shocked by it all.

You see, I live in an affluent commuter town. It’s quite unusual for mums to work, as far as I can see. Everyone has a six hundred pound pram except for me and a few plebs. Everyone has a designer change bag. That’s a different issue though isn’t it?

Well, you wouldn’t think so if you were reading the local NCT email discussion list. In the last few weeks we have had requests for thoughts on hotel Nanny’s in the Caribbean and cleaners and so forth. This is not unusual. Now, is it just me or does anyone else think that perhaps this is sending out the wrong message? Picture yourself, struggling with cash, looking for a bit of support over the baby not feeding properly/sleeping properly etc and you read this sort of thing.

I thought the NCT was about supporting parents, but surely this sort of support can be dealt with elsewhere? I for one find this sort of level of passive aggressive competition and showing off oppressive and I don’t like it one bit. I am sure that it could make someone feeling vulnerable a little bit more worthless, just when they need the support.

I wonder if this is indicative of NCT across the UK, has it become high-jacked by the middle classes? Does everyone else just use MumsNet or NetMums (whatever). We have a local nearly new sale, it is phenomenally well supported, I wonder if this is because local parents realise that there are bargains to be had as the well to do parents clear out their lofts etc.

I think its a real shame, as I know some really great people have come unstuck with NCT, people with a lot to offer. At one point, I was considering training to be an antenatal teacher and then I came to my senses. However I could write for the magazine, I could do stuff. I don’t, because I didn’t (and still don’t) agree with a couple of the NCT campaigns a few years ago and decided not to renew my membership. This meant that if I wrote something locally, I would not even get a copy of the magazine! I couldn’t just be a local member. Either you are in it all, or you are not in it. So much for supporting parents. I’m glad I am not in it locally now as I frequently hear tales of disenfranchised members. I know other local bloggers that have done things and become disheartened by it all.

It seems that just when you need a bit of support in your early days of parenting, it’s becoming increasingly hard to get. I feel concerned about this, as I think that there are probably many people out there with no-where to go, charities like the NCT filled this gap but I don’t think (at least locally) they do this anymore. With all the cuts this year which will undoubtedly have an impact on NHS services there be more and more people feeling isolated, doubting their value, suffering from the impact of competitive parenting and so on and so forth.

In part this is a plea to the NCT to get their act together, in part a plea to any new mums out there to retain their pre-baby circle of friends, not to feel that they have to try to belong in mum and baby groups and most of all to listen to your instincts about your baby.

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22 Responses

  1. Anonymous 9th January 2011 / 8:44 pm

    Interesting post. I am training to be an Nct teacher, egroup owner and on the st Albans committee. We have spent countless hours talking about the egroup and how we would<br />Prefer it to be more of a support group with parenting chat but when we tried to abolish recommendations, there was uproar. I think the kind of chat going on is reflective of the town we live in. Our egroup is one of the

  2. Michelle Twin Mum 9th January 2011 / 9:03 pm

    Hi, I live about 7 miles from you and yes it is the same here. Our hospital did do antenatal classes, so I was lucky there but then joint the NCT to meet other new parents and joined a coffee group and whilst the Mums were very nice. They were all super well off SAHMs and I ended up feeling really envious of everything they used to boast about! Like you I left the group and whilst I would say

  3. Claire, Plantpassion 9th January 2011 / 9:37 pm

    The NCT supported me fantastically when my son was born early 6 years ago, i&#39;ve just received emails from 5 of my group today as we&#39;re trying to arrange a night that we can get together. Our children all go to different schools now, and we have moved on to a large extent, so don&#39;t see each other much as we did. Unfortunately the NCT is a volunteer led organisation, and the only people

  4. Eleanor 9th January 2011 / 10:28 pm

    Really interesting post – I didn&#39;t do NCT classes and wish I had as I found the first few months very isolating and wished I knew a few people to see during the week. It was only really when I went back to work and started taking my son to a music group that I made some mummy friends who I still see regularly now. I would totally agree with you that to sustain a long term friendship you have

  5. FizzieLou (Fiz) 9th January 2011 / 11:34 pm

    I had NHS with my first, but had had the delivery from hell, and badly wanted support so I had to sign on for NCT classes in Hertford, as that years&#39; NHS classes were in the afternoon and no babies or toddlers were allowed. I cannot believe the lies they span about pain-free childbirth, no mention of any form of depression or feeling unable to cope afterwards. I left knowing all the other

  6. zooarchaeologist 10th January 2011 / 7:37 am

    comments so far from twitter:<br /><br />@welshmumwales Agree wholeheartedly with your post. Will leave a similar experience comment but for some reason not able to post one!<br /><br />@judeandollie totally agree we did private classes good but fed up clicky mums groups &amp; nothing for 2nd time. Nct groups not good here

  7. welsh mum 10th January 2011 / 7:45 am

    Hi there,<br /><br /> <br /><br />Apologies, it might just be me not able to post as I am new to all of this. <br /><br /> <br /><br />I was completely put off the NCT in my local area due to what happened to some friends of mine.<br /><br /> <br /><br />They went to their first NCT session and being quite senior in the medical profession they felt obligated to tell the leader when she gave the

  8. Alex 10th January 2011 / 9:14 am

    The NCT lists seem to mirror my experience of NCT classes, it&#39;s purely a keeping up with the Jones&#39; thing. <br /><br />We even had someone who lived 10 miles away from our town and was actually serviced by an entirely different council pretending they still lived in our town because they thought it was posher.<br /><br />Tea mornings at other members houses became more and more elaborate

  9. Mrs C 10th January 2011 / 9:51 am

    Where to start???<br /><br />My first experience of the NCT was with antenatal classes. They got off to a bad start. The dates of the classes changed before the course even started, despite people having already planned time off work to accommodate them. The venue was also changed. Six couples in our group and one hadn&#39;t been told of either change. The time of the breastfeeding class was also

  10. Mrs C 10th January 2011 / 9:52 am

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  11. Mrs C 10th January 2011 / 9:53 am

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  12. Kat - Housewife Confidential 10th January 2011 / 1:55 pm

    In our town the NCT provides all kinds of services including ante-natal classes for young mothers, ante-natal for those from low income groups and weekly breast feeding support sessions where mothers can get free advice as well as the regular paid classes (also open to those needing funding support) classes etc. The breast feeding support saved my first child from serious problems.<br /><br />I

  13. Domestic Goddesque 10th January 2011 / 1:58 pm

    It&#39;s such a shame that such a venerable institution should be getting it so wrong….perhaps they need an to seriously revamp their practices. It&#39;s not like they have that much competition.<br /><br />I had an NCT group who quickly became quite divided and bitchy but am envious of those who found support and still meet many years on. That said, I also had a bad experience at my hospital

  14. Muddling Along Mummy 10th January 2011 / 2:40 pm

    On paper I should be a poster child for the NCT what with the homebirthing, breastfeeding thing but instead I am deeply anti their inability locally to focus on anything other than being a networking club for yummy mummies and completely failing to reach out and use their advantages to help those in less affluent areas<br /><br />I have tried to support the NCT but cannot support an organisation

  15. kateab 11th January 2011 / 11:58 am

    OK. Declaring interest up front. NCT member for 6 years, a volunteer inc regional coordinator for NW region. (unpaid). I still advise and support treasurers.<br /><br />The NCT is about more than classes but people assume that&#39;s all. Classes are run by paid teachers &amp; booked by part time work at home individuals. People go to NCT classes for many reasons but most common is to make friends

  16. Helen@Babies shoes 12th January 2011 / 12:45 pm

    I suppose that local groups discuss local issues and, if you live in a well to do area then the problems faced by parents there will reflect this and, be very different from less affluent inner city areas. I have no experience of the NCT at all, so its just a thought.

  17. Alex 12th January 2011 / 7:48 pm

    Problem is, whilst St Albans is well to do in places, it also has some of the poorest wards in Hertfordshire and areas of real deprivation. <br /><br />IMHO when you ask for advice on Nannies in Jamaica, you&#39;re not asking for advice, you&#39;re telling everyone you&#39;re wealthy enough to go on holiday to the Caribbean and pay for a Nanny.

  18. dulwich divorcee 13th January 2011 / 10:47 am

    What a fascinating post! I had mixed experiences with the NCT – joined one group who were all so smug I felt like slapping them and had to eat whole packets of biscuits to get over each meeting. Joined another and found one lifelong friend and much invaluable support. Moved to Brussels and ended up editing the NCT magazine there. I would say try several groups if possible. I found the judgemental

  19. Anonymous 19th January 2011 / 7:53 am

    I have made some amazing friends through my NCT group and whilst I don&#39;t know that we&#39;ll be friends for life, they have certainly been a vital support group for me during pregnancy and beyond. We admittedly do spend a lot of time talking babies, but I find this reassuring and in no way competitive. We give advice when it&#39;s sought, but in now way is there any judgement, and each woman

  20. DaddyNatal 7th February 2011 / 9:30 am

    There are alternatives to NCT so please always explore those alternatives.<br /><br />Unfortunately, the bad experiences are all to common. To be honest they are actually becoming more common and the amount of people that find the attitude elitist is disturbing.<br /><br />I was an NCT member I applied to train with them and didn&#39;t hear a thing. Followed up still no reply. My partner

  21. 2starsandaswirl 18th February 2011 / 6:35 pm

    I&#39;m a bit late to this, but very interesting area of discussion. I have had a back to front experience of the NCT, I didn&#39;t do classes, had no involvement until my LO was nearly 3. Where I was asked to take a role on the local committee because of my work experience of committees.<br />In a way I am so the opposite of what is thought to be NCT like, I didn&#39;t BF, I am a single parent

  22. Anonymous 11th January 2012 / 1:17 am

    Thank God I am not the only person who was out of the loop with my NCT group. I took classes 6 years ago. All the other women bonded and I was definitely the odd one out. In fact the only people who did talk to me were the dads because I think they felt sorry for me! I liked the teacher and the information but really felt sad and bitterly disappointed. I had an extremely difficult pregnancy with

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