She grew up in Italy but is originally from Eritrea. The language, the culture and the system all took some getting used to when she arrived in the UK. That was on top of becoming a new mum. Another big shock was the reality of being a mother compared to what society makes you believe.
“It's completely different from the movies. Reality versus the movie version of being a parent are totally different.”
Some people don't feel confident and feel judged, explains Selamawit.
She certainly felt that way when she had her first child:
“You don't know why the child doesn't sleep at night when other people tell you that they sleep all night long. You don't know why they spend hours attached to you breastfeeding when other people tell you they stay for a couple of minutes and then they're done.”
She realises how feelings like these can put parents off asking for help. She also acknowledges how difficult it can be to even get out of the house to seek help – let alone get to appointments or classes on time.
Something else about motherhood surprised Selamawit too. Her second child was completely different to her first, even though she was the same mum doing all the same things.
Going through these experiences has made her want to help other parents with very young children. She’s volunteered to be a Parent Rep to make sure that these families don’t miss out on fun, learning and support that can make their lives so much easier and better.
Selamawit admits to feeling completely lost at first. The main obstacle was not knowing how anything worked in her new surroundings. The language was also an issue – it can be a big barrier. She even adopted a shortened version of her name, ‘Selam’, for people who couldn’t pronounce it in full.
“There are mums who don't know that you have midwives to support you, or health visitors that come and check your child when they are 2 years old. I can help explain that there is a lot of support out there that they would otherwise miss out on.”
Selamawit was living in Stockwell when she first came across LEAP. She’d met a couple of mums at a local library and seen some leaflets about services and support. She was feeling isolated at the time and actively started searching out local opportunities online too.
Going to the LEAP events and meeting the other mums and dads was one of the best decisions she made. She found all kinds of help and support, as well as opportunities for her little ones to play and learn.
“I love the LEAP summer festivals in the park. There are so many different activities for children to try. And also stuff for mums, like massage.”
LEAP creates and brings together a network of early years services – providing the type of support that traditional services are too overwhelmed to give. Working part-time at a GP surgery, Selamawit knows just how vital that support can be. Her eldest daughter had an undiagnosed dental issue, which a LEAP service helped to identify and get treatment for.
Selamawit likes to laugh herself to sleep, watching episodes of Modern Family before going to bed. It helps her unwind after a long day. She confesses to often finding herself in the same funny situations.
She also enjoys cooking with her children who are now 5 and 3 years’ old. They love pizza. With a cheeky smile, Selamawit admits that she even eats frozen ones (belying her Italian roots).
If you live in a LEAP postcode (check now) and have a child age 0-3, sign up to hear about LEAP events.
“Ask questions, even ones you think are the silliest questions. Because we're here for you, your health and your child.
“It's really important to take care of new mums and dads because if you make sure their needs are met, their children will benefit too.”
Selamawit is supporting and representing families living in Tulse Hill postcodes. We also have Parent Reps in Stockwell, Coldharbour and Vassall.
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