Mia, age 30, was referred to Aberlour Family Support Centre – Langlees, which helps families by building confidence in parents and offering lots of fun for little ones, by her health visitor when she was pregnant with her first child. The centre offers Early Learning and Child Care sessions for children aged 18 months to 3 years to support very young children’s overall development and help parents with their own mental health and attachment issues.
The centre offers parenting sessions which help boost mum and dad’s self-esteem, offering advice on subjects such as child development and classes including infant massage. This boosts confidence in new parents and has health benefits for babies. Mia took part in infant massage and child care sessions with all three of her children.
“Me and my partner have three kids, aged two, three and nine. Neither of us work due to mental ill health. I found out about Aberlour 9 years ago when I had my first child. I was introduced to the service by my health professional and I’ve used the family centre for 9 years now. Aberlour has been the biggest help because I haven’t had any family support. They have taken the children from me for a few hours a couple of times a week which has been a great help.
“My children absolutely love it at the Family Centre. My two-year-old had separation anxiety, she was only 1 when she started and the staff brought her on really well. Now when she gets here she has a wee petted lip but then just goes away and plays. She loves it here. Me and my partner thought the nine-year-old wasn’t getting the attention she deserved because we had our hands full with the two younger ones. The centre worked with my daughter at her school. That brought her on leaps and bounds. Now she gets pupil of the year awards which I’m very proud of.
“My partner is a recovering addict. He’s been clean for 10 years, but my family didn’t approve of him when we met, and they still don’t give me any support right now. It’s hard. I don’t work because I have depression and my partner is the same. We have three kids so we’ve had to make sacrifices to make ends meet. It’s hard to pay for food and electricity, our electricity is £80 per fortnight. When you’ve got three kids to clothe and feed it is expensive. We’ve used foodbanks. It’s quite degrading having to go to them, it affects you a lot. You feel a failure as a parent using these services but needs must.
“I’ve felt that people look down their nose at me for asking for help. People making digs on social media saying people shouldn’t have kids if they can’t look after them. That’s not the case at all: some people sail through life but some people hit poverty and don’t get a break. My kids are my world.
What worries me about the stigma is if it affects the kids when they get older. The media puts it into their head that life is like a fairy-tale and the reality is that it really isn’t. They are set up for disappointment from day one when they grow up and it isn’t fair.
“I’ve struggled to pay for things day to day. When the kids were younger they didn’t ask for much, I could get away with getting them cheap clothes from ASDA. But now they are older they want more and more expensive stuff, £35 trainers and hoodies. That’s when the pressure really comes on, as you feel like a failure as a parent not getting them this stuff. But you have to make sacrifices so they get food and that. I received donated clothes from the service for my younger children. When mine are finished with them I had them back in for other people to benefit. I’ve also had support from Aberlour through the ‘Cash for Beds’ appeal. I found out late on that I was expecting my 3rd child and wasn’t prepared. My youngest was still in a cot bed and the cot was needed for my new baby. The service got me a brand new bed for my son. It was amazing.
“For me, a good day is when my partner helps and he’s not moping about the house with his anxiety and depression. A bad day is when he doesn’t help and I have everything to do, get breakfast, kids ready for school, take them to clubs then bathe them and get them ready for bed. I hate Tuesdays, I don’t get in the house till 8pm. I’ve got so much to do. The kids are all screaming at me shouting “Mum, Mum, Mum”! This service has helped so much, I get a breather from the kids as they are here for a few hours and I can get things done like cleaning and tidying and going to pay bills.
“It’s not bothered me using the service, because I’ve enjoyed meeting people, there are a lot of nice people and it’s been great for the kids, they are happy and settled. The worst thing for me was not having family support. I’ve suffered anxiety and depression because of that. But Aberlour have taken the pressure off, taking the kids for a couple of hours. You always end up with one in the house but it still gives you a bit of you time.
“The cuts have really affected me and my family. For example, nine years ago there was a scheme called ‘trust fund’. Now you don’t get it. It was money there to set them up for the future, but that’s been cut so now you don’t get that. So one of my kids has that, but the others don’t. Education is really important to parents. Every parent wants the best for the children, my children are my world. But now I feel bad because one has that but the other two haven’t. I don’t think that scheme should have been cut.”
Mia’s Future Plans
“I’ve got one year left with the service with my youngest, and I want to give back. I don’t have money, but I help them any way I can. I was involved in choosing a new member of staff, and I felt really important, it was nice to have that opportunity because you get to pick who works with your children, it was fantastic. The staff in here are amazing, so friendly, easy to get on with. I think everyone should give back, it would make the services even better. Some people just dump their kids in but I’m not like that.
“If it wasn’t for the service I don’t know what I’d do. I couldn’t survive without it.”