A new member of the gang
Hermione Drew, producer of St Albans Scout and Guide Gang Show, talks about volunteering when pregnant and as a first time parent
My volunteer role in Scouting is quite an active one - both physically and in terms of time commitment. Twice a week and on most weekends from September to February, I am teaching dance and songs, and running around a theatre or rehearsal space after 120 young people. When I found out I was expecting my first child, I was thrilled. But it also made me pause and consider how it would impact my volunteering. To me, gang show was already ‘my baby’ and so it was never a question of giving up my role, but just how I could make the two work together.
Telling the rest of the volunteer team was one of the first things I did. Their support and understanding has been so important. Working as a team to plan how we would manage things if I was less able to do my role as my pregnancy progressed was very reassuring for me. It was also helpful for the team to be clear on how elements of the show would progress if I needed to be absent unexpectedly.
Luckily, I had a fairly easy pregnancy and so even the week before my due date, I ran a weekend residential for the volunteer team at Gilwell Park - just with my hospital bag packed in the car and my husband nearby in case we had to disappear suddenly!
Then my daughter was born! I found people often expected that I’d stop or do less, but my volunteer role is such an important part of who I am that it’s not something I can give up. I was back at meetings a few weeks after my baby was born and being up most of the night meant I was on email responding to things at 4am just a few days after she was born (oh the joys of newborns!). For me, this was a way of not losing my previous identity, the moment my baby arrived.
Having a supportive husband was crucial. He does everything he can to help me keep my Scouting commitments. We have worked together to divide up our parenting duties so we can both keep up our other passions in life and where possible involve our family in them too.
But it wasn’t all easy. While my husband could cover most things when I needed to be out, breastfeeding was not one of them and sometimes trying to feed using a bottle proved challenging. So he started bringing our daughter up to rehearsals for feeds at certain times or I’d pop home.
The other area of strain was keeping up when I was never getting more than two hours sleep at a time! The sheer exhaustion can at times make you feel like you can’t do it anymore! I found I was especially tired in the evenings when I would normally have done lots of emailing and admin for my role. So when I was on maternity leave, I learnt to get better at using the time during the day when my daughter was napping. It’s surprising how much you can do in 30 minutes if you really put your mind to it! That way, in the evenings when I was exhausted, I could let myself crash out.
Sadly, the after rehearsal pub drinks with the adult team each week which had been a longstanding tradition had to change. As a team we chatted and looked at a compromise. We didn’t want to lose that important team bonding time, nor did we want those volunteers without children to feel their experience had changed. We agreed we would all make an effort once a month to go to the pub after rehearsals.
Many of the team have had children and juggled both, and their support and experiences helped me feel encouraged that I could do both too. For me, one of the wonderful things about volunteering in Scouting is the emphasis and inclusion of family.