I’ve recently returned to the Whitworth after spending an amazing (if not tiring!) year on maternity leave with my little boy Henry.
I timed my maternity leave pretty well, returning to work just as the gallery opened it’s doors after a £15 million transformation, doubling it in size and creating new spaces that embrace the park.
As Early Years Coordinator I am responsible for all activity related to under 5s and their parents and carers. Since returning lots of people have asked me if I think having a baby myself has helped to inform my role. The answer is a definite yes and actually I’ve realized that a lot of the time it’s the really little things that make a big difference to the success or failure of an outing with a little one.
Many many times I have been caught out having run out of wipes or forgotten to bring enough nappies.
So now at the Whitworth we have an emergency baby supplies kit packed full of everything you might need – wipes, nappies, nappy cream, cotton wool and even a few spare clothes, for all those little emergencies. Items are free to use and are available at our Welcome Desk.
Little things like toilets with space to take your pushchair in with you, otherwise how do you go to the toilet when you’re out on your own…?
The Whitworth has three baby changing areas all of which have a toilet within them and plenty of space for pushchairs, even double pushchairs. We have also put mobiles above each changing table to keep little ones happy and entertained during nappy changes.
Once Henry started walking he didn’t want to be in his pushchair for long anymore, he’d much prefer to be toddling around exploring. Juggling running after him and trying to keep control of a pushchair is a bit of a challenge so if there’s the option to leave the pushchair somewhere safe then that’s a big help.
The Whitworth has a buggy park at the bottom of the South Staircase and lockers to put away bags, coats etc.
However, I’d say the biggest thing I will bring back to work will be in the welcome I give to parents/ carers when they arrive at the gallery, knowing what a challenge it is just to get out of the house with a little one.
Providing a friendly and supportive space where you can get out of the house and meet other people and feel like you’re doing something positive and worth while with your baby is a life line. Sometimes just chatting to someone else who’s going through or gone through the same as you, whoever they are, makes you realize that you’re not on your own.
The Whitworth runs Art Baby sessions every Wednesday for non-walking babies and their parents/ carers.
Since reopening we’ve worked really hard to think of everything to make a family visit to the Whitworth as brilliant as possible. We’ve tried to add little touches that say ‘we’ve thought about you’. However, we always want to improve what we offer so if you have any suggestions please do get in touch at email@example.com
To find out more about the Early Years programme at The Whitworth visit the website.