What is The Parent Project?
The Parent Project will work with 1,000 parents across Northamptonshire through workshops and events. It’s about sharing the highs and lows of parenthood and helping us to shape a brand new piece of theatre written by Helen Coope, developed in collaboration with Helen Clifford and produced by Warts and All Theatre. This year long project gives parents an opportunity to share their honest experiences with other totally exhausted humans… Join us and help us create a fresh, honest, comedic take on what being a parent really means!
Who is it for?
For all mums, all dads and all kinds of parents from any and all kinds of families. Mothers who work, mothers who don’t, fathers with formula one travel systems and tiny new babies to race, people who love it, people who hate it, people who are waaaay too tired to formulate a flipping sentence about it. Parents of any number of children of any age are invited to come along and talk about their experiences of their parenting role. If you’ve experienced the absolute highs as well as the brain crushing lows of parenthood, this is for you.
What happens in a workshop?
First things first, there will be free caffeine and cake at all the workshops; basic parent-fuel.
There are two types of workshops you can choose to take part in, Structured and Free-Flow. Either way, although we’re researching for a new play, this is about us gathering stories and you can contribute as much or as little as you want.
Structured workshops will have a series of introductory activities, designed to make the participants feel at ease, in a supportive environment. The sessions will be very much led by the people who attend, what their stories are and what they want to share. Just like having a chat with your mum friends over a cup of tea and, in my experience, once you start talking to mums about the expectation of motherhood… and the realities… and mum-guilt… and the endless cycle of washing, folding and putting away… and since when did going for a smear test become me time?! Once you get them going on that, it's hard to get them to stop.
Why should I get involved?
We want to chat to you about your family and your experiences so that the final script will have honest, local, voices at the heart of it it, but what's in it for you? If you've ever felt alone, ever thought you were getting it all wrong, ever wondered how everyone else seems to be managing so much better than you - come to a workshop and meet a stranger who is finding it hard too! We want you to feel listened to, understood, have a laugh about it all and leave with a renewed sense of confidence and community spirit! And you read the bit about there being cake available, right?!
Meet Helen, who is leading the project...
“I've found myself, in groups of Mum friends or with colleagues at work, making a joke out of it all – almost making my own stand-up routine around how funny all these crazy parent moments are, when at the time, when I'm in them, they are so far removed from that. I've got two children who don’t sleep, so I'm basically a danger to myself and others – them included! I should not be allowed to drive a car or operate heavy machinery and yet I do drive a car and get to work, and I look after my girls. I prioritise my family and my work and not really anything else. I have felt desperate, depressed, alone and so lost, really. But that's not the story I'm telling in the staff room, no-one wants to hear that on their lunch break. But that's my reality, not all the time, not so much now, but sometimes it is. And I have a very supportive husband and I love my children, and all the other things you have to say for fear that the world will think you're a terrible wife/mother/person. Beyond being Mummy I'm not sure who I am or where I fit.
“This project is about turning the tables, kicking that self-doubt away and making real connections with people who can relate to you. I had post-natal depression after my first born and told pretty much no-one. None of my NCT class, none of my family, not even my Mum. We need an open dialogue about motherhood and how it changes you, and how you cope with those changes and not just the physical ones. And we shouldn’t feel afraid by that discussion.”
Meet another wonderful Helen, actor and Workshop Leader for the Parent Project...
"I felt sick through most of my pregnancy. That, coupled with the pelvic girdle pain which was so severe I spent the last trimester hopping along on crutches, made me question if my body was even built to grow another human. So, I made special effort to make things more positive by ‘bonding’ with my baby girl, my ‘baba-bump’. Yes, I named her that. I did all the things suggested, singing to her, massaging the bump, talking to her, I convinced myself that I would have this instant connection as soon as she was put into my arms. I would feel love like I’ve never felt before, cry tears of pure joy for this wonderful miracle we’d created! 18 long days overdue, 3 days of no sleep and an exhausting labour later - the reality was very different. There she was, my beautiful Lila. Did I cry? No. Did I feel joy? No. Did I feel the true meaning of unconditional love had just smacked me in the face? Unfortunately, not. I was exhausted, I was numb and I was in some sort of shock. I looked down to this little floppy alien creature clinging to me and thought, that’s an actual baby... ok… what do I do with that?!
"At first I thought this can’t be normal: I’m weird and I’m not built for this. Where was this allusive mother’s instinct I’d read so much about? I felt like I’d failed somehow, I was letting this innocent little human down. From the birth I struggled. I struggled to love Lila. I loved her, of course, but not the high expectation of love that I had created in my head.
"When I started to be honest and share my story with other parents I was surprised to hear so many stories similar to mine but also unique struggles that they were facing. Suddenly I felt a sense of relief, a feeling that I’m not alone in this wonderful yet challenging world of parenthood. Lila is 18 months old and I’ve got to know the cheeky, funny, intelligent and head strong little madam that she is and I feel an overwhelming sense of love for her, a love which continues to grow. There are still challenges and, at times I want to ditch parenthood altogether, but what helps me is opening up about it."
With/By/For is Warts and All Theatre's partnership project programme. Each year we work intensively with 1-2 artists who have a connection to Northamptonshire or the East Midlands. We work with them to support, develop and nurture their craft. Each project is bespoke and tailored to the artists needs.
The partnership might involve us producing a project with the artist, supporting them to access funding to realise their idea (and pay themselves properly!) or even help to workshop and develop an idea at the early stages of its creation.
If you live in Northamptonshire, and would like to work with Warts and All Theatre to support and develop your idea -Please get in touch! You can drop us an email to tell us a bit more about your idea and what support you are looking for. We are currently looking for artists to join the programme from Spring 2019.