A Story from one of our Families
My journey with Home Start began nearly 5 years ago after I'd given birth to my second child Gracie. My son, Alfie was 3 at the time, and I had separated from my husband when I was 3 months pregnant with Gracie. After a difficult pregnancy, and health problems from having her which prevented me from being too active, I knew I needed help in some form. My family had been taking it in turns to visit and help me out for a few days at a time, but of course, life like this can only go on so long. They all live in London, and I'm in Yorkshire... it wasn't viable long term. After a health visitor appointment, I was asked to see the doctor as they considered me borderline with possible post-natal depression. I wasn't, and am still not convinced that's what it was - I was just a sleep-deprived, exhausted Mum, dealing with a child, a baby, and a mentally unstable soon to be ex-husband. Post or Pre Natal - it was just life in general!! During my visit to the doctor, and adamant I did not want to dose myself up with supposed helpful drugs, she mentioned Home Start, and actually... this was some help I could actually use.
And so it began.
I met with Sam, who was and is a great ambassador for Home Start. She was normal. Intelligent. Friendly. And totally approachable. I cannot explain how much this makes a difference, but when you feel like you're taking 'handouts?' the fact that she was just like me, made this idea all the more acceptable. I was given Jenny as my volunteer, and we started our Home Start relationship. Now this is a weird one. You have someone in your home who you don't know, who is there to help in any way that IS helpful to you, she's doing it for free, and you know nothing about her. This was something I found hard to work with at first. It was a very one-sided relationship, which was unusual - but necessary. I get that. Without being egotistical, it was all about me. And I guess that's the point. But, this is something I think most people will find hard with Home Start... it's just not very natural. The kids took a while to accept her, in that I know Alfie would constantly remind her that Mummy doesn't do it like that. He likes his routines, and I guess at the time this was his security. So Jenny was great and she worked within his comfort zone, but eventually we taught him to accept that actually, it's alright to be different, to do things differently. He now sees this as a positive. Gracie, of course, was just still a baby and a very clingy one at that so her relationship with Jenny was a gradual process.
Jenny has helped over the years with cleaning my house as I've needed her too. I personally know she is a whizz with a hoover! As well as folding mountains of clothes, bathing my children, getting them ready for bed, and reading them their night time stories once a week. My children have grown to the point that they know Monday is a Jenny day. They talk about what story they'll read with her each week. They bake and save her cakes. And when we talk about our 'bigger' family, she is always mentioned, almost as another Grandma figure. I know it's still not a 'natural' friendship but it's one I've grown accustomed to. Jenny has been through many highs and lows with me. She's been there when I've needed to let off steam, to say my children are driving me nuts, to say I think I'm failing, and to keep me going. On the flipside, she's also seen me get to the place I am today. settled (fairly!?), divorced, in love, a more patient Mummy and one who feels a lot more in control than I was when we first met. It must be funny for her to see that growth, and I am guessing she may feel a little proud as she had a hand in getting me there.
Alongside Jenny's regular visits were Sam's update visits. I cannot rate these highly enough. Whilst Jenny was there to listen and not judge and support me whatever, Sam was very personable, with lots of inspirational stories about her own parenting issues, theories and history. The stories she shared made me feel normal. Made me feel like I was doing an ok job. And gave me a totally different perspective. These all had a profound impact on me and I cannot thank her enough for sharing them. They all seemed to come at the right time, and above all, Sam made me feel important. Not just a case, but a person. She knew my history, she always asked about the things we'd discussed during our last visit, and she talked over every area of my life. I never felt rushed during visits. I always felt she had time for me to talk about anything I needed to, and she either takes amazing notes, or has a fabulous memory! Both I think!!
I was able to have Home Start in my life till Gracie turned 5 which was this week. At the start, that seemed a life time away... although the closer we got to it, I realised time was flying. I initially worried that I wouldn't be ready to not have that back up support, but as we know, life always has a way of working out and with my partner moving in with us over Christmas we are a more settled, stable family. So it was decided to phase Jenny's visits to a minimum so it wasn't such a shock for the children, and whilst I am no longer with Home Start, we still see Jenny. We all miss her... especially the children, and it's nice to catch up. I think it's nice for Jenny to keep seeing how're they're growing up too.
So, I am proof that Home Start's help is invaluable. You've kept me going when I needed it. Made me tidy the house for Jenny's arrival so I didn't lose myself in the pig sty that kept rearing its ugly head! This is a good thing by the way!! And, probably more importantly for a single mum, someone was there to take joy in all the wonderful things my children said, did, and accomplished. So thank you... and keep doing what you do. It's worth it