Announcing Tea, Cake and Parenting!

I am so excited to share my news with you all – my wonderful friend Cat and I are launching “Tea, Cake and Parenting”, a new hub for parents, providing support, information and opportunity to meet others at the same stage and most importantly tea and cake!  We are kicking off Friday this week with our first social morning, with many more planned (full dates and times can be found here).

But before I explain all that I really wanted to share the story behind Tea, Cake and Parenting.

IMG-20190827-WA0029Cat and I have been friends for over 12 years, we met while rowing for Son’s of the Thames Rowing Club and became fast friends as we are both natural organisers!  We hate faffing around wasting time and so would organise our other rowing friends and just ensure whatever needed to get done got done.  Then over the years we’ve had children, and our friends have had children… and we’ve supported each other over and over again at different times.  When I moved to Mortlake Cat immediately sent me a list of playgroups and local activities, and introduced me to almost every local person who had a similar aged son to mine!  Through Sheen Slings I met many amazing people who support pregnant parents and new parents and I was able to pass these contacts onto Cat as and when she needed them.   And likewise Cat, made contacts and passed on to me…   And of course both of us found we are the ones our friends come to to ask if we know something or someone who can help with x because over the years we’ve both become “nexi” or “hubs” of information and contacts.

65839731_355329411843763_8089286966023028736_nBut the biggest thing Cat and I did for one another was simply to listen, to be there, to be present!  Present with a understanding listening ear, a cup of tea and a slice of cake.  Really this more than anything is the absolute key to thriving rather than just surviving parenthood!

This support – having somewhere to turn to if you have questions, somewhere you can be hear and simply be is so important as a new parent.  Over and over again through the sling library I have met parents who have felt overwhelmed and just not sure where to turn, who’ve needed more support than can be offered in during a Sling session and under the umbrella of a Sling consultant.  I’ve always wanted somewhere I can send them where they can ask ANY question, come with any problem and just be heard.  And really this is what Tea, Cake and Parenting is all about. 

This is our aim… to be a hub for new (and not so new second, third or more times around) parents.  To fulfil this aim we will be running 2 types of session – social mornings and topic mornings.  You can read more about both here, but in a nutshell the social mornings are informal fortnightly sessions we are running from our homes.  Come with your worries and concerns or just come for some company of other like minded adults and enjoy a cup of tea and a slice of cake in an environment where you don’t need to worry and apologize if your baby needs to feed, sleep, have a giant poo or just roll around throwing toys everywhere.  The topic mornings will be slightly more formal focused sessions (although babies obviously welcome to come and do all of the above and be as informal as they like), where we delve into a key parenting topic in detail as a group, looking at the evidence and different strategies.  They’ll be guest speakers as the topic demands and plenty of information on how to find out more and get more in depth support if needed.  We have literally tonnes of ideas for these and will be looking to start with one or two later this year before pushing on with a more full schedule early next year!

So do come along and find out how Tea, Cake and Parenting can support you!

Madeleine

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Summer at Sheen Slings!

Summer is definitely well and truly finally here!   And I simply can’t wait for the holidays and getting to spend more time with my big boy in particular.  School is such a huge part of our lives now and I know both of us are looking forward all the fun we have planned for the summer break!

But fear not, Sheen Slings will still be continuing over the summer!  Albeit to a different slightly reduced schedule…

Drop In sessions:

There will be 2 drop in sessions over the summer, one in Kingston and one in my home (please see here for full details on what to expect at these sessions).

  • Tuesday 16th July, 11am-12pm @Kingston Town Children’s Centre, 40 Villiers Road, Kingston Upon Thames, KT1 3AR
  • Friday 9th August, 10am-11.30 @Madeleine’s home, 79 Lower Richmond Road, Mortlake, SW14 7HU

 

Private Consults:

Private Consults in my home can be booked for any mutually agreeable time during any of the following dates during the summer break:

  • Monday 15th to Sunday 20th July
  • Wednesday 31st July to Tuesday 20th August
  • Friday 30th August onwards into September and the rest of the year.

I will also be offering consults in client’s homes too but for child care reasons these will be limited to the following weekends:

  • 20th July,
  • 3rd/4th, 10th/11th, 17th/18th August
  • 31st/1st September.

Full details of costs and how consults work can be found here.

 

Door Step Hires:

Know exactly what you’d like to hire and how to use it?  You are welcome to book a doorstep hire – simply drop me an email or social media direct message, let me know what you’d like to hire and when you would like to collect it and then I’ll pop it out in my front porch for you to come and collect anytime on the specified day.  Easy peasy!  While usually I only require 24 hours notice to arrange a doorstep hire (and sometimes possible with less notice!), I will be away 21st July through to 30th, and 21st August to 29th.  So if you require a doorstep hire between these dates, please ensure you contact me before I leave so that I can ensure the sling is ready for you (and/or husband is suitably briefed about what sling to put out and when!!!)

 

Then of course we will be back to normal with a full schedule of Sling Library sessions (both in Mortlake and Kingston), consults and workshops from September!   Additionally, Weekend Library sessions will be back from September onwards and hopefully some new venues might start popping up toward the end of the year or early next year!  As well as something new that I can’t wait to share with you all (for a clue head here!

 

-Madeleine

Kingston, Refurbing and the next few months here at Sheen Slings

It’s all change over the next few months here at Sheen Slings!

Firstly we are adding a new location – Kingston!  From May onwards the Children’s Centre are kindly giving me a monthly slot to come and run a Sling Library session.  Exact dates and times to follow, but there will be 1 session a month going forward.  And I couldn’t be more excited!  This is something I have wanted to do for a long time,… I have so many clients coming from Kingston, Surbiton, Hampton, Esher and further and I know that this is an area in need of a Sling Library, and now with Rachel almost at nursery age and with a great venue on board it has finally been possible.

Secondly, we are extending and refurbishing our home.  Well our downstairs specificly.  We’ve been planning this, thinking about it, slowly making it a reality since we bought this house 3 years ago.  I am equal parts terrified and can not wait for it all to start come April.  But it has impacts for Sheen Slings.  For the last 3 years I’ve run the majority of my Sling Library sessions from my home – and this has been fab, its allowed me to continue running the Library while pregnant, then with a very young baby through to a crazy running everywhere toddler.  For the next few months at least while the work is carried out I can’t continue to run these sessions from home.  Too much dust, noise and too little space!  So the last session at my home for a while will be Tuesday 19th March.  But fear not… Sling Library Drop In sessions will continue – I already run a monthly session at the Barnes Children’s Centre (67b Lower Richmond Road, Mortlake, SW14) on a Friday at 9.30-10.45see full dates and details here.   And as above there will be a new monthly session in Kingston going forward too!  The timing feels right to move these sessions away from my home and into the Childrens Centres, alongside other support for new parents.

Private consults will continue as normal, I can still come to clients homes and clients are still welcome to come to my home too – I will just ensure I arrange these at times when the builders aren’t making too much rackett (and/or mainly at weekends).   And likewise I am still very open to organising bespoke workshops so if you have a small group, who are all interested in learning more get in touch and I can come to you!

-Madeleine

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FAQ – How is the Sling Library Funded?

The simple answer is it isn’t, the library doesn’t received any external funding to run.  Instead the idea is that it pays for itself through the rentals and donations.

It’s taken a while, but for the most part the Sling Library sessions do now just about manage to pay for themselves in a sustainable way.  By this I mean it earns enough to cover on going insurance costs and of course for the slings and carriers themselves.  Interestingly, the library alone does not earn enough to pay for my training or my time.  In an ideal world it would, but in reality I’ve found the balance between keeping both the sessions and the hire fees at a accessable and affordable level has meant that these costs are simply not covered by the library.  And so I simply choose to donate the time these sessions and the resulting admin takes.

I think this might be a real suprise to many library users reading this.  I am often asked (particularly during busy sessions) why I don’t simply run more sessions.  Or if I could start this weeks session 20 minutes earlier because someone has x commitment, or if they can arrive as the session is finishing because they have y commitment.  And while I would love to run more sessions, and run longer sessions and would love to help everyone find the right sling and become completely confident using it….  I have to balance this with the needs of my family and what I can sustainably manage to offer while not charging for my time.  I have balance my desire to keep the sessions and hire fees affordable and how much time I can afford to donate for free without negatively impacting on my family.  For now this balance has been acheived at 3-4 sessions a month – or at least when the sessions stick to time and don’t run over!

Sessions running over is something I continually struggle with!  If I sometimes seem impatient with questions and requests when its already 20, or 30 minutes after the end of the session time please forgive me.  Please understand that my frustration is not at you but my own internal struggle to between wanting to help and wanting to answer ALL the questions and my guilt that I haven’t made lunch for my daughter yet, and I need to pick my son up in 2 hours and I promised I’d fix that thing for him before he got back and I’m now worried I won’t get time and I am starting to feel that frustration that something that I do to satisfy my need to volunteer and help is now taking more of my time and resources than I can afford to give.  I know that I need to get better at drawing these sessions to a close.  It’s hard when someone is front of you asking for help to say no, but in reality these sessions can only remain affordable and accessable if I can keep them to time and if those who do need more help (and can afford to) take the private consultation or workshop route instead.  Particularly as it is private consultations, workshops and sale of slings that pay for my training costs, for my time and plug any gaps in finance that the Library side has.  Again these don’t make huge amounts, but they do keep it all going and make it possible!

The other question I often get around funding is about the slings and carriers themselves.  Many people assume that the brands simply give me these carriers, but in reality this is extremely rare.  Most I have bought.  A small number I’ve received in exchange for working at a show or product testing and a similarly small number I’ve been very kindly gifted by the brands or distributors directly.  But the vast majorty I’ve paid for.  Fortunately, most I’ve been able to buy at discounted rate – as many brands recognise the importance of Sling Libraries in allowing potential customers to try before they buy.  With new carriers being released all the time this is of course an ongoing process!! Hire fees and donations from the Sling Library sessions are constantly used on purchasing new carriers to keep collection upto date and meet demand for more popular carriers.

So how can you help the Sling Library Survive and Thrive?  Amazingly, there are several things you can do to help the Sling Library without spending any money at all:

  1. Tell you friends!  Whether you’ve been to a sling library or not, telling your friends, a new parent or expectant parent can make a huge difference.  Personal recommendations are always more powerful than any paid adverstising and often people have never heard of a sling library or are not sure how one might help them but are delighted to discover they exist once someone tells them about it.
  2. Write us a review on Google or Facebook.  Reviews and recommendations on social media help people find us.
  3. Comment on our posts on Facebook and Instagram, maybe even consider sharing a post occasionally.  The more comments and shares a posts gets the more that people get to see that post and other similar posts.  Simply liking a post no longer helps it get a wide distribution – so the best way you can help any small business or Sling Library is to comment on their posts as this helps Facebook know to show more people this post!  Its sad but true but most of my posts are show to only half, often a lot less than half of those who like my page let alone anyone new.  But those posts that do get comments go out to far far more people and can really help get the message out to as many new parents as possible.

 

-Madeleine

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New Sling Library Dates for the New Year

Wishing you all a huge Happy New Year from Sheen Slings!  I hope 2019 brings you and your family new adventures and plenty of joy!

Sling Library will be back from January the 8th and we have four sessions this month!  The dates and times of these sessions and those for the next few months are below.  In addition to the sessions, I’ll be running consults again from the 2nd of January and I have space for a few workshops over the next few months.  I often schedule these as demand allows so if you’re at all interested in a workshop do drop me a message so I can start scheduling accordingly.  I have also been increasing the range of slings that are available to purchase from Sheen Slings directly.  Increasing this range further and making it even easier to purchase your ideal carrier is definitely on my goal list for 2019!

Upcoming Sling Library dates:

  • Tuesday 8th Jan, 11am-1pm @Madeleine’s (79 Lower Richmond Rd, SW14 7HU)
  • Friday 18th January, 9.30-10.45am @The Barnes Children’s Centre (67b Lower Richmond Road, SW14)
  • Tuesday 22nd Jan, 11am-1pm @Madeleine’s (79 Lower Richmond Rd, SW14 7HU)
  • Saturday 26th Jan, 10am-12pm @Madeleine’s (79 Lower Richmond Rd, SW14 7HU)
  • Tuesday 5th Feb, 11am-1pm @Madeleine’s (79 Lower Richmond Rd, SW14 7HU)
  • Friday 15th February, 9.30-10.45am @The Barnes Children’s Centre (67b Lower Richmond Road, SW14)
  • Tuesday 19th Feb, 11am-1pm @Madeleine’s (79 Lower Richmond Rd, SW14 7HU)
  • Saturday 23rd Feb, 10am-12pm @Madeleine’s (79 Lower Richmond Rd, SW14 7HU)
  • Tuesday 5th March, 11am-1pm @Madeleine’s (79 Lower Richmond Rd, SW14 7HU)
  • Friday 15th March, 9.30-10.45am @The Barnes Children’s Centre (67b Lower Richmond Road, SW14)
  • Tuesday 19th March, 11am-1pm @Madeleine’s (79 Lower Richmond Rd, SW14 7HU)
  • Saturday 30th March, 10am-12pm @Madeleine’s (79 Lower Richmond Rd, SW14 7HU)
  • Tuesday 2nd April, 11am-1pm @Madeleine’s (79 Lower Richmond Rd, SW14 7HU)
  • Tuesday 16th April, 11am-1pm @Madeleine’s (79 Lower Richmond Rd, SW14 7HU)
  • Saturday 27th April, 10am-12pm @Madeleine’s (79 Lower Richmond Rd, SW14 7HU)

FAQ – What can I expect at a Sling Library Session?

I always find it hard to answer this question – mainly because each and every sling library session is so different!  They vary so much… in almost 5 years of running sling library drop in sessions no two have ever been the same.

The reason they vary so much is simply because it’s a drop in session and I completely tailor what I cover, what advice I give etc depending on who comes on the day.  I’ve had some sessions where its been nearly all newborns or expectant parents and we’ve spent a lot of time on stretchy wraps and Caboo’s and I’ve had other sessions where its been all older babies and I’ve not even taken a stretchy wrap off the shelf.  More commonly I get a total mix and I cover all 5 types of slings and carriers during the course of the 2 hour session.  Usually I probably only see a toddler about once every other month, but just once I had a session where quite spontaneously 4 families came looking for toddler carriers in the same session!

So what can you expect at a Sling Library session?

  • They take place in my home, in my front room.  The setting and session as a whole is really relaxed.  Come in take a seat, make yourself at home – you are welcome to feed, change your baby, comfort them in any way that works, you’re welcome to walk around or use my loo, grab a glass of water from the kitchen etc.
  • You can bring your buggy in, no need to leave it outside.  I simply ask they go in the next room so we have plenty of space for trying on slings in the front room.  Unless baby is sleeping and then I’ll make a bit of space.
  • People are seen on an approximate first come first served basis.  I say approximate because really it’s the babies who are in charge here so its first come first served allowing for babies to eat, sleep and be changed when they want to be!
  • Generally everyone gets about 10-15 minutes of one to one time in the first instance.  That’s to say dedicated time with me where you tell me what you’d like help with and I then go through this with you.  Whether that’s help with a preexisting carrier or finding something new.  Normally,10-15 minutes is enough time for me to demo one option, help you try on this option and then leave you with a small pile of similar things to try on by yourself, while I help the next family.  If there is time once I’ve seen everyone I will start coming back round – this might be to answer any questions you have following trying on the others I left you with or practising with that one, to fit check your favourite of these and/or sort out with you if you’d like to hire or buy.  Or if it is a quieter session there might be time to show another option/demo a different type of sling.

43485866_1735423853253301_7060858962551242752_nIt is worth noting that the Sling Library sessions can get busy.  In fact they can vary a lot in terms of how busy they are.  The average is about 6-7 families in a 2 hour session, but some sessions are quieter and many are busier.  Our busiest ever saw 16 families which equated to 24 adults!  So if you have a lot of questions or feel like you need a bit more help it can be worth considering a private consult instead.  From experience I’ve found the drop in sessions work best for those who already have some idea of what they want and/or feel confident to try things themselves following being demoed once.  While others who are maybe less confident and/or newer to slings sometimes struggle in this format and feel they get a lot more out of a private session where they are able to have more one to one support while trying on as many options as needed.  This is also a good option for anyone who doesn’t cope well in busy situations or feel they’d benefit from a quieter learning environment, or a time that works better for them and their little one.   That said if you do find you need more support but don’t feel a private consultation is doable for you, I’ve known families simply come to multiple sessions and receive the same amount of help just spread over a few weeks.  You are extremely welcome to do this!  Everyone learns in different ways so whatever works best for you.

Other questions I am often asked about these sessions;

  • Can I bring a carrier I already own?  Yes of course!  Please do!  Very happy to help check fit and help you gain confidence using your carrier.
  • I have been given several carriers can I bring them all?  You absolutely can, but if it is a busy session its unlikely I’ll manage to cover them all.  10-15 minutes is usually enough for me to give you a quick verbal run through of the pros and cons of each of your carriers and then demo and help you gain confidence with the one that seems most promising for the age and stage you are at.  You are welcome to come back to another session in the future for more help with one of the others, you might find a private session (where we can really explore each in detail, compare them and gain confidence using each) more helpful.
  • Do you only have slings? Or do you do carriers too?  I tend to use the terms slings and carriers interchangeably, but I have a huge range of slings and carriers of all types.  Currently over 90 in total!  There is more info on the different types here, and full list of what carriers we have here.
  • Can I hire a carrier?  Yes, if you’d find it helpful to hire to try that sling or carrier out properly at home before investing, or if you’d like to borrow something for a holiday or specific event you are very very welcome to.  Full list of our carriers and hire costs are here.
  • Do I have to hire? No, only if you’d find it helpful.  You are very welcome to come to the session for advice only.
  • Can I come while I am pregnant? Of course! It can be really helpful to come before baby arrives to get an idea of what is out there and what might suit you.  And there is no limit to how many times you can come, many people come first while pregnant to get an idea or to get a newborn option lined up, then again once baby is ready to move onto a next step option and then again to learn new carrying positions with their sling (i.e. forward facing, hip or back carrying positions once baby is older).  Some even come back much later with toddlers ready to move up into a bigger toddler carrier.
  • Can we buy from you? Yes!  I sell a number of slings and carriers, and I usually have a good selection available in stock so you can simply purchase at the library (or organise a door step collection).  If you’d like a specific design that I don’t currently have in stock I can usually arrange for this to be delivered directly to your home within a few days. I don’t sell everything, but those I don’t sell I have discount codes for to purchase directly from the manufacturer or from a good independent stockist.

 

-Madeleine

 

 

 

Day in the life of a Sling Librarian

As part of sling library appreciation month, Sling Librarians are sharing their “day in the life of a Sling Librarian” stories, so here is mine!  This was my Tuesday sling library day yesterday…

20180904_091719My day started getting my two children up, dressed and fed, before moving onto playtime – today building epic duplo and stacking cup towers.  Normally, I’d also need to take Tom to school but as it’s the last day of summer holidays, instead I waved him off to a playdate with a friend so that he didn’t have to be bored hanging around sling library.

20180904_083506Then it was time for me and Rachel to set up for sling library – getting the dolls out, sign in sheet ready, room tidy, online hire form loaded up etc.

First parent arrived at 11.05 and last left at 1.30.  Today’s session was actually unusually quiet with just 7 families (4 new, 3 returning).  Recently its been more like 9-12 families, but as I only got back from holiday at 6 pm the night before I was quite relieved not to be run off my feet for a change.  We covered stretchy wraps, Caboos, ring slings, Woven Wraps and Buckle carriers – so a bit of everything really!  Common themes were babies who didn’t like to be put down and parents with understandably aching arms, and babies who fussed going into slings understandably worrying their parents and knocking their confidence.  All things that the session could address!!

20180904_151635While the session is advertised 11 till 1 it is not at all uncommon for it to over run, as it did today – especially on a day like today when the 5 of the 7 arrived within the last hour.

As soon as the session finishes Rachel and I have lunch then we go for a sleepy walk, usually before I tidy up.  She normally naps around 1pm but Sling Library days nearly always push this a lot later for her – more like 2pm.  I try to console myself that it’s just 2 days a month!!  Fortunately for me she is very tolerant!

 

 

20180904_145900Then it’s onto tidying up for me – the quieter session ment it was a much smaller pile than normal and today it only took me about 10 minutes… after a busier session this can be more like 20! Maybe even more.

Then the rest of the day until bedtime is spent with Tom and Rachel and focusing on their needs.  Last day of summer holidays and tiredness got the better of Tom today and he became really over wrought, he asked for a special mummy back hug and I was only too happy to give him that closeness as I got dinner ready.

 

20180904_210216Then bedtime and finally at 9pm I can sneak out their room and start my post sling library admin.  This includes following up with people I spoke to today, maybe sending an article I mentioned, or maybe info on where to buy (and discount codes etc!).  As well as chasing slings that haven’t come back.  This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to nearly 2 hours depending!  This evening it took about 1 hour. The biggest factor is how many overdue slings there are, following up outstanding slings are always the emails that take me the longest to write.  Fortunately their weren’t too many of those this evening.

Then off to bed with me!

-Madeleine