I have a happily busy life, which I love. I am a mum of two (F is five, M is just three). I am also a part-time GP working for about three practices in the city, and in between all of that, I run the Sheffield Sling Surgery, which opened its doors at the end of April this year, once I had completed my intensive training on the BABI-registered and highly-respected Slingababy course. (I’m also training with Trageschule UK, as I love learning and am a perpetual student!) Since then I have supported over 120 parents in one-to-one consults, many more in workshops and hundreds of others with hires and demos. I have six weighted demo dolls (Jack, Atticus, Fintan, Stella, Pierre and Jess), over 100 slings in the library and seem to be perpetually short of carriers!
Here is a snapshot of a typical week 🙂
Saturday – Today is Saturday Slings library drop in morning session. A mama comes a little early to have a practice with a front carry and leaves with a lovely wooly wrap. By about 10.30 the house is full of parents and children, dropping off slings, browsing, trying things on, encouraging each other. I flit from parent to parent trying to ensure everyone feels very welcome and everyone gets the help and support they need. Last time it was all about the toddler buckles, this week it is all about baby buckles and mei tais. One couple linger later to take advantage of the quieter atmosphere to try out more things and it is nice to have the space to help them a little more in-depth. I am severely depleted of slings three hours later. There is a lot of paperwork to do – all the hire forms to file and log in the spreadsheet, all the income to be documented, waiting lists updated, new forms to print out to replace those used today…. and then all the tidying up of slings and toys! phew. I try not to spend too much time online at the weekends, but there are always notifications, emails, tags, requests for information.
Sunday – a quietish day, with one consult in the afternoon for a couple expecting their first baby in a few weeks. They want to know a bit more about all the options out there before they buy anything. Jess and Pierre the demo dolls get a good workout, and a few clear preferences emerge.
Monday – starts with a consult for a mama not getting on too well with buckles and wanting to try mei tais or half buckles. Luckily I have a couple in stock and she can try them on with the demo dolls. Later I hear she has had a grand day out with the one she took away with her. Clear up the slings that have covered the floor during her session and put away the toys! Deal with a mama wanting a hire of a ring sling and deal with another returning a wrap. Do all the paperwork – file the forms, tick off return, update hire spreadsheet, fill out the income spreadsheet. Start reading all the emails/messages asking for advice or wanting to book. Pack up all the slings and dolls and load into the car and go to the fortnightly Sheffield Slings sling meet at Playtime. This is so popular it is ticketed for entry – numerous families have found this meet their starting point into the wonderful world of slings. Unpack and lay out all the slings onto the tables while M disappears into the ball pool, flinging shoes and socks as she goes. The tables of slings (my library for hire) and the demo library owned by the group are constantly surrounded by parents. Do several demos of front carries, help people work their way through buckles, quickly show a papa how to do a back carry with a size 4, hunt for chest belts and particular ring slings in the dishevelled pile, suggest a different carrier to a mama struggling with one, help a pair of mamas get their mei tais comfortable, watch someone do a wrap carry and offer pointers. Gulp a little tea. Ensure the tester wrap gets tried out (lots of admiration and a few new fans are born!) Start filling out the paperwork for the hires that are coming back and arrange the next ones to go out. Ensure buckle carriers have suck pads from Tuesday’s Child attached and that everyone hiring has had a chance to read the T+C before signing. Show someone how to improve the carry they are getting in a Close, and someone else how to get a higher back carry with a buckle. Do some more hires as things begin to wind down. Start packing up the slings into their bags again, fish dishevelled and happy M out of the ball pool, go home, fill out the spreadsheets again. Some of the evening is spent dealing with requests for advice and booking consults and workshops.
Tuesday – Back Carries with a Woven workshop. I love workshops. This one is about advanced back carries – so the babies are all used to being wrapped and it is calm, and great fun. We cover several different ways to get baby on your back and how to perfect the basic ruck. We practise the double hammock and some of its variants. We practise the Ellevill Jordan’s back carry and the BWCC…. everyone tries different lengths and blends. Everyone seems to leave content and later that day I am treated to several pictures of the mamas rocking the new carries they have learned. There is a wonderful bombsite of colourful wraps to clear up!! Just as this finishes a mama with twins arrives to exchange a buckle and a wrap for another buckle and a different stretchy wrap. Later that day she is convinced she has found the stretchy for her and is thrilled – we have met about four times in this family’s journey and I am pleased to have found the solution for her for now. I am likely to see her again in a few months, I am sure.. In the afternoon I have a one to one consult introduction to wraps – by the end of the session, the mama has learned a front carry, a hip carry and has done a pretty good ruck – she and her boy are delighted with their new-found skill. There is more paperwork to do and the post to sort out (some to go out, some coming in). Someone picks up a ruck-bu carrier.. and in the evening there is the usual round of messages/advice.
Wednesday – today I am working all day, so no consults or hires, but I still maintain an online presence and nab another sling for the library (a Marsupi). I usually take a wrap to work with me to cover my chair and get some softening up done.
Thursday – an introduction to woven wraps workshop – several mamas and their babies learn about how wraps are made, their lengths, the materials involved, and how to use them. By the end of the session they are smiling, as am I, and one bright rainbow wrap is off to carry on practising at home. A mama arrives to hire a buckle carrier, having been to a demo by the sling group the day before, and is keen to book a one to one later in the month as its clear she and her baby are going to enjoy slings! Another mama arrives to hire an all-black carrier for her partner to use at a wedding (she has earlier already hired a beautiful ring sling to practise with). In the afternoon I travel across town to see a family with a teeny premature baby, mama has noticed her stretchy is only for use with 8lb babies and her daughter is smaller than that. I have already arranged for a kind friend to long-term loan her a thinner and lighter stretchy wrap that will work better with premature babies, and this has safely arrived. We spend a couple of hours working on the light wrap and learning how to use it safely with tiny legs not spread too far and tiny toes not squashed, and how to ensure proper head support and adequate airway protection. Then we work on the older-style stretchy and they learn a way of using it that they feels provides much more support. I show them how they can use it when baby is bigger, because babies grow! I spend some time entertaining their toddler while they practise with Jess and then with their tiny girl. Mama manages to feed baby in the sling, and can see how she will be able to get on with her life while still having her newborn very close to her: she is thrilled, as am I. The toddler gets a go in one of the buckle carriers I have brought and falls asleep. I am tired now.
Friday – I am working all day again. I meet a friend in a shopping centre for a brief lunch and have a chance to show her quickly how to use another carrier. In the early evening I plan and create all the upcoming workshops for the next three weeks and deal with all the queries about sling returns over the weekend. Someone needs to cancel a workshop, someone else takes her place, there are the usual online support needs… Some people need reminding about sling returns (I operate a flexible doorstep service) and there are the new carrier arrivals that need to be tried out and then loaded up to the catalogue for people to see.
I write articles for various magazines including my own website, edit others’ writings, participate in continuing professional development. The life of a busy sling consultant and librarian is a full and enjoyable one – over the week I have probably seen thirty or forty people, held a lot of babies, worked with a very large range of slings, seen a lot of parents smile, watched a lot of children, big and small, snuggle down and sleep. And of course, with all this, is normal family life with my own children. My little girl has had a few cuddles and carries in some of her favourite wraps and ring slings and used one as a hammock and a swing (“My Margo!”).. Both children have used a few as blankets and helped bring them out for the visitors! Perhaps one day they will carry their own children.. I hope so.