They say it takes a village to raise a child. For single mum Annabelle Wilson this is truer than for most. In 2017, Annabelle’s soul mate and husband, Josh Chalmers, passed away from a brain tumour – a mere two months before the birth of their beautiful daughter, Primrose.
“Although we both knew it was coming, and we had the opportunity to talk about his life, our life together, and what he wanted my life to be like in the future, I was still grief-stricken,” Annabelle said.
“It was incredibly overwhelming thinking I was going to raise my daughter alone in circumstances I never could have imagined, nor wished upon anyone else.”
Thankfully, Annabelle had the support of her family and best friend, Dann, who moved in to support her through those early days, weeks and months. Dann brought colour, company and hope into Annabelle’s life at a time when she saw very little.
“Dann was there for me, adding some semblance of normality to a situation that was anything but, and that truly was a game-changer. So too was my local childcare centre. Primrose was just six months old when she started going two days a week, because I needed to work.”
Now working four days a week as an ambassador for Cure Brain Cancer, Annabelle explains that, alongside friends and family, that local childcare centre has played a crucial role, becoming her extended family.
“As a parent you hear people say that it takes a village to raise a child, and as a single mum that’s magnified. My village is my incredible family, friends and Guardian Lemon Tree, all of whom have been with me throughout my parenting journey with Primrose, and are still by my side.”
Guardian Lemon Tree Centre Manager Lily Donaldson still remembers the first day she met both Annabelle and Primrose. And while they’re a very special duo at the centre, their experience is no different to that of any other family who walks through the door each morning.
“It’s important to remember what we do here – we aren’t just educating and caring for children, we’re also educating and caring for families,” Lily said.
“We build partnerships with families to help raise these children and create a strong learning community that all of us can benefit from. Childcare really is an extension of the family, and it’s not lost on me or my team what an important role we have to play in both the lives of the children and the families who choose our centre.”
“Primrose and Annabelle have always embodied the true meaning of community with their warmth and inclusivity in everything they do. For example, ‘Prim’ always makes sure everyone in the classroom is fed and happy, and will readily share her snacks with a friend!”
Annabelle says Lily, alongside the educators and staff at the local childcare centre, have played a key role in helping her raise her daughter.
“She loves her educators and comes home each day brimming with stories of what she’s learned and activities she’s enjoyed. Some of the activities they do I just wouldn’t have the time to do, as life gets in the way.”
For those parents – single and coupled alike – Annabelle shares the top five ways childcare at Guardian has helped Primrose grow into a secure, happy two-year-old.
- Socialisation: “Many people think starting a child at childcare at six months is too early, but for Primrose that just wasn’t the case. It’s really improved her social skills; she’s not just learning cues from me, but she’s interacting with other children.“Not having siblings, childcare presents an important opportunity to learn from and with other children. I already see her forming her own friendships and she’s developing an understanding of her own space and independence, which is incredibly important for her and rewarding for me to see.”
- Opens up the world: “When you’re a single parent, you and your child can very easily end up in your own bubble. Attending Lemon Tree has ensured we stay connected to the world. Her world isn’t just me and her, it’s the whole community at the centre.“She loves her educators and comes home each day brimming with stories of what she’s learned and activities she’s enjoyed. As a working single mum some of the activities they do I just wouldn’t have the time to do, as life gets in the way. At Guardian she can do the messy craft activities, she has time to explore and I can see she benefits enormously from those experiences.”
- Learning how society works: “Prim is learning how the world works, but on her scale. By interacting with her peers and educators she’s learning about the real world but in a way that has real meaning for a two-year-old. For example, she’s learning to sit at the table and use utensils when she eats, she’s saying, ‘thank you’ and ‘please’, and learning to wait for others to finish speaking. Primrose has learnt this from interactions with her peers and educators.”
- It’s not babysitting, it’s learning: “The benefit of going to Guardian has been the breadth of experiences Primrose has had, from playing with other children to everyday learning and growth.“One day she came home saying she wanted to start toilet training because she’d seen other children doing it. I can already see her having an interest in numbers and letters and I try to support that at home by reading before bed, and counting things with her such as pegs or steps as we do things together.”
- Helps parents to parent: “Well, this is the case for me anyway! The team have helped me through many of Primrose’s developmental stages, such as the transition from breastfeeding to toilet training, to forging good eating habits through trying different meals. I have taken cues from the activities they do with the children, including replicating the songs they are singing, the crafts they are doing – the list really is endless. The educators observe what sparks her curiosityand interest, and that’s something I explore during my time with her, too, to encourage her in her learning and development.”
“I see how much she enjoys her days at Lemon Tree, and how much she is learning and growing. As a single mother this is so important, because her educators are showing her it’s OK to learn from other people. That mum is not the sole source of truth.
“As a parent you hear people say that it takes a village to raise a child, and as a single mum that’s magnified. My village is my incredible family, friends and Guardian Lemon Tree, all of whom have been with me throughout my parenting journey with Primrose.
“And, of course, Josh, who gave me a pathway out of grief. He wanted me to be happy, for Primrose to be happy, and for me to meet someone, which I now have. Honestly, without all this support I really couldn’t have made it to where I am today. Despite it all, I feel very lucky.”
For more information on Guardian Childcare & Educations visit: www.guardian.edu.au
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