My partner and I have two girls, Caitlyn (aged 3) and Sophie (aged 2). I love being a mum but I have found it difficult at times, especially living in temporary accommodation, and Sophie also has additional medical needs. In the past I have suffered with depression and when I first had the children I felt isolated and unsupported, being new to the area and living far away from my family and friends. I wasn’t sure what I needed to do and thought I was the only one struggling with parenting, meaning my confidence and self-esteem were low. My health visitor referred me to the local children’s centre for some additional support and to reduce my feelings of isolation.
Diane, from The Orchard Children’s Centre, Camberley, visited me at home regularly, as I initially did not feel confident enough to attend a group. From the first visit I knew she was genuinely interested in me and my family. She didn’t tell me what I “should” be doing, but asked me about changes that I wanted to make.
I was struggling with setting limits for the girls especially around bedtimes. The television always seemed to be on and I knew our diet could be healthier, as we often ate frozen dinners in front of the TV, and the children ate a lot of unhealthy snacks. I did try to make sure we ate our evening meal together but I didn’t feel confident in cooking.
Diane began to work through the HENRY programme with me at home. She gave me confidence by showing me that lots of the things I was already doing were healthy – for example I always made sure the girls had plenty of opportunities to be active, going to the park and swimming. Diane also made me realise that asking for and accepting support is a great strength to have. When Diane first gave me my own HENRY book I felt worried because I struggle with reading but we worked through the book together, talking through each topic so I could easily make sense of it. I really liked looking at the colourful balance plate at the back as a reminder for balancing our meals.
One of the great things about working with Diane was that we worked on what was really important to me. The idea of cooking and shopping for healthy foods really scared me so Diane arranged to accompany me to the supermarket. Diane helped me to compare labels on the yoghurts I buy the girls, as well as buy fish from the fresh fish counter, which I had never gone near before! We prepared a meal together, using a recipe from the HENRY book. The cooking went really well and I felt so proud to see my partner and our girls tucking into the fish pie I’d made. I decided to try another recipe by myself, and I made pasta with chicken, broccoli and cheese sauce. It went really well and everyone in the family loved it! I cook it quite often for the girls now.
Completing the HENRY programme has helped me to put boundaries in place for the girls. We now have a bedtime routine and Caitlyn listens to me much better. I feel much more confident shopping and have replaced the sugary snacks with more fruit and vegetables. We sit and eat breakfast and dinner together that I often cook from scratch, which my partner loves! The girls are sometimes unsure of trying new things but it’s improving all the time.
One of the biggest changes is that I am now more confident. I have been attending play sessions at the Children’s Centre and have made some new friends. My self-esteem has been boosted so much that I have expressed my feelings and wishes about moving closer to my family and friends, which my partner has been supportive of. We now live in a three bedroom house with a garden for the girls and I have support from friends and family just around the corner. I feel without support from the HENRY programme I would have remained ‘stuck’ with what food to buy, not preparing meals myself and I would still be feeling lonely. I probably would have ended up taking anti-depressants again too.
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Family life can be stressful - taking time for ourselves can help us juggle things more easily