Vera Eva Boessenrodt understands all too well the challenges that come with parenthood, and how important sleep is for your mental wellbeing. It can be hard to be the nurturing parent you want to be when you are feeling tired and exhausted. This is why it is so important to have the support of your family and friends to help out when you need it most. With over 20 years of experience as a social worker and a fully certified Baby & Child Sleep Consultant, Vera is here to support you and your village in a way that respects your individual parenting style, leaving you feeling well rested and energised to tackle the daily demands of parenthood. Here she talks to The Natural Parent Magazine about the inspiration behind Your Village, the pros and cons of running her own business, and her hopes and dreams for the future.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
After my first child was born, I struggled more than expected to transition into motherhood. I felt like other new mothers had life much better under control. By the time my son was 6 months old, I was often an emotional wreck and worried how this might be impacting our bonding. He was extremely unsettled and just cried a lot. I had a strong feeling this was linked to lack of quality sleep, so I spent hours at night researching sleep and sleep support, but encountered conflicting information and opinions. I was scared that sleep training would emotionally damage my child, so I continued struggling for months until I could no longer deal with it, mentally and physically. I desperately wanted some sleep, for me and my son and I was ready to take the step towards finding a sleep consultant who could help us.
I really struggled to accept that I needed professional support though. I told my mother in law I felt doing so would be an admission that I was failing as a mother. I vividly remember her response: “Vera, having a baby is hard work for everyone – we all need help doing it! Have you ever heard the saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’? This sleep consultant will be simply part of your village”.
Hearing these simple, but meaningful words were so comforting & reassuring to me, I remember that I cried; because I felt understood, rather than judged! My partner and I found a qualified consultant who was willing to respect our parenting approach, and within a couple of weeks, life had changed drastically. My son’s sleep, my mental health and his happiness improved, as well as our bonding. I was so much less anxious, especially when it came to sleep and whenever he woke up for a feed, I could finally enjoy those quiet night time moments. We were so thankful for the help we received, as it allowed us to have a better understanding of our son’s needs and finally had the energy to be the parents we wanted to be.
I have been a qualified Social Worker for over 20 years with a passion to support families throughout challenging times in their lives. I help parents feel confident about their individual parenting choices and I believe the best way to support someone is to listen to their needs and to walk beside them to implement positive change. So when I decided not to go back to my previous job after our daughter was born in 2020, the idea of Your Village was already starting to form in my mind.
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
When we moved to West Auckland with our then 4-month-old daughter and 3-year-old son, things were hectic as you might expect. With moving house and settling into a new community, I was having difficulty supporting our daughter’s sleep – what worked for our son didn’t always work for her – they are individual little souls after all!
Given our positive experience last time, it was a no brainer to reach out for some support. Not out of desperation, rather for the positive impact I knew it would have on my daughter and us as a family. We used the same consultant and during our chats, I learned of the impact she was making for so many families and I realised that this was me; I had found my calling. I found a training provider where I could get properly qualified and within 6 months I started my training and simply loved it!
Once qualified, I started off working mainly with some of the volunteer clients I had met during my training, as well as supporting family and friends with their children’s sleep challenges. I set up social media profiles on Facebook and Instagram and looked into what was involved in designing a professional website.
Through recommendations and referrals (within New Zealand and internationally), as well as by reaching out to the community I live in, slowly Your Village started to grow.
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
The biggest step towards turning this “idea” into a business, was finding the confidence that this work matters and that I am good at what I do! I knew that my values and approach would resonate with many parents, but would I be able to get my message out there?
I knew that I wanted to educate people as well as provide support and that my message would be based on real science, being non-judgemental and by taking a holistic approach, considering factors like the sleep environment, nutrition, general health, as well as the child’s temperament. I wanted to listen to the parents to develop a plan that would embrace their individual parenting style.
I started reaching out to community providers which are part of the support network for families here in New Zealand. At times, I sensed hesitation to listen to what I had to say: when it comes to babies and sleep, there are a lot of opinions out there and the judgement is ripe! But whenever people gave me the chance to talk to them, I received a lot of professional acknowledgement and respect. Once I started to be invited to talk at SPACE groups and present regularly at antenatal classes, I felt that I was really on my way to make a difference for families and to establish myself and my approach around sleep support.