Claire Hawtree and Heather Collins
A free support programme for mums who suffer with low levels of emotional well-being and are feeling overwhelmed with the challenges that being a parent can bring. The idea will enable mums to share their feelings and develop friendships with others who have similar experiences.
Our story so far...
There has been a lot in the press this week about postnatal depression and how suicide is now the leading cause of death for women in the first year postnatally – this is a statistic that is too hard and sad for me to comprehend but one I can relate to only too easily as I was nearly one of those women.
I’m Claire and as you probably all know by now, I am the founder of Mums and Families (M&F). I know blog entries are meant to be light hearted but because this statistic is one of the main reasons M&F and its programme was born, I felt compelled to talk about it. From what was (at the time) a sad, traumatic and lonely experience, to making a full recovery, something truly positive has been established.
Here at M&F, we provide a free programme to mums and families of children aged 0-5 with a focus on perinatal emotional health and wellbeing. Our course has developed and is helping and empowering women and their families to adjust to being a parent and to deal with the multitude of issues family life can bring. We have been making good steady progress, with our fair share of challenges along the way but with Heather (and my husband Pete!) keeping me grounded and working together as an amazing team we are overcoming the obstacles that have come our way. (There are few things that can’t be solved with tea, cake and a chat - or in our case the odd glass or two of wine!).
We have had our first M&F Christmas gathering and it was a roaring success; I had the most overwhelming ‘proud mama’ moment seeing how far the M&F mums had come since completing our programme. The main highlight though for me was when Peter and my little Isla who is 2 ½ years old (going on 15) came in to meet everyone and it made me realise in that single moment how far I had come since being so very unwell after having Isla.
Smiling family, Claire, Peter and Isla
Being part of this competition has been the most amazing experience and has played a significant part in giving me the ability to accelerate the plans I had for M&F and what I thought would only ever be a dream. I have a fantastic team behind me now, our website is due to go live any day and the feedback I have been getting from our mums has kept me going in the moments I have started to doubt myself (that and the metaphorical kick up the backside I get from Heather!).
All of us at M&F feel genuinely privileged to be a part of the mum’s journeys, from when they first walk in to their first session, to when they ‘graduate’ and we are excited, that this is only really the beginning for what awaits us in the future.
Finally, in the words of my favourite author, Mitch Albom:
“There’s a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heart breaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begins.”
Our story begins...
My name is Claire Hawtree and I am the founder of Mums & Families (M&F), together with Heather Collins we are one of ten finalists in the Families Included Challenge Prize.
Four months after the birth of my daughter Isla, I suffered with postnatal depression and anxiety; I was in a bad place and was in need of peer support. I was horrified that I couldn’t find anywhere to go to speak to other people feeling how I was. Once fully recovered, I set out to provide a solution to that need: M&F was born!
It is easy to feel and become isolated especially if you feel judged by your immediate peers so we provide a safe and supportive environment where women are empowered and given a chance to be open about their feelings, develop friendships with others who feel the same and be able to develop their self-confidence and self-esteem thus enabling them to be the best parent they can be.
M&F offers a 5 week, judgement free support programme for mums who are experiencing feelings of low mood, tiredness and who may be feeling overwhelmed with the challenges that being a parent can bring, who would have thought there would be so many!
Whilst there is a structure to the programme, we give women some ‘time out’ to enjoy a good chat, cuppa and sometimes a slice of cake – something that seems so simple, but when you are a mum, a hot cup of tea or coffee is usually a luxury, and one we are delighted to provide.
We forget we are all human, we all make mistakes and being a parent is one of the hardest jobs for a lot of people. We help mums to focus on themselves, it’s not easy reaching out for help, and we give women the ability to do it in their own time, working on the basis that prevention can sometimes be the cure.
Not everyone that comes to us is suffering with perinatal emotional issues, for those that do, we are able to provide additional support if required by signposting and introducing mums to other services in an unobtrusive and gentle way. Some mums that come just need an honest arena to be able to share their thoughts, feelings and fears surrounding being a parent.
The M&F programme continues to help mums and families in Essex, and we are ‘beyond excited’ to be a Families Included finalist as this will give M&F the platform to expand to other areas and become a charity thus enabling us to help more and more families not just across Essex but across the UK (my mum always told me to dream big!).
There is a traditional African proverb that says “it takes a village to raise a child”, no-one should live in isolation; we are proud that our programme gives mums and families their own little village and we can’t wait to see where our journey will take us next!