Posted on August 8, 2019 by Iosis
Shannon had what many might call a ‘privileged upbringing’, but an early pregnancy and an abusive, drug-addicted partner plunged her into depression and she wasn’t coping with motherhood.
After a childhood spent travelling the world and often living overseas with her busy, distant parents, Shannon was at a loss for what to do when she left school. She found a job waitressing and soon met the partner of her two children, Aaliyah and Lewis.
“I wasn’t that confident when I left school, but I started a relationship with my then partner and quite quickly became pregnant. I didn’t really know how to cook, clean or be a parent.” Aaliyah was born and at that point Shannon realised that her partner was abusive and had a drug problem.
“I became depressed and I wasn’t providing Aaliyah with the safe environment that she deserved. I wasn’t cleaning the house properly – in fact, I had completely shut down emotionally and it showed through my environment. Each day I would do the bare minimum.”
“Family Start became involved and they reported that I was a cause for concern to OT (Oranga Tamariki). Aaliyah was placed with my mum and OT social workers worked closely with me as I was pregnant with my second child, Lewis at the time.”
Unfortunately Shannon’s situation didn’t improve. If anything, after Lewis was born, things went downhill. “I wasn’t coping at all and my living situation became even worse. I was on my own with the baby and just not managing.” Shannon and Lewis moved into her mother’s place with Aaliyah, and from there, Shannon and her two children moved to Merivale.
Merivale – tough, but supportive
“Merivale was tough,” says Shannon. “Aaliyah and I had to learn to connect with each other again and that has been hard. I’ve felt incredibly guilty for a long time over the upheaval she has been through.
Initially Shannon was to be at Merivale for six months, then it was extended for another three months. “We’ve lived here for nine months, so for Lewis it is home. They’ve taught me how to establish a routine for the children, how to clean(!), cook and look after my kids.
“Now I’m really clear on what each day looks like and what we’re going to do. I do the big jobs around the house when the kids are asleep and the smaller ones when they’re around.”
What is Merivale?
Merivale is a residential parenting programme for women who have a background of abuse, addiction, or domestic violence – and who are struggling with the challenges of parenting. Women receive counselling and attend a range of life skills, self-development and parenting classes.
Most mothers graduate after six months and can then leave the programme with their children in their care. Most mothers are sent here by various agencies, but they all have one thing in common: Merivale helps them get their lives back on track.
“I’ve been challenged like never before but also felt so supported. Emotionally I am much stronger … I feel confident and have my self-respect back. It’s not something that Merivale can give you but as you go through the programme, you pick it up along the way. It’s been amazing in that way.”
“The staff genuinely do care…”
At the time of writing, Shannon is about to graduate from Merivale. She says her focus is on transitioning the family back into everyday life in the community – initially in emergency housing.
“It will be very sad to say goodbye. There is a real family vibe at Merivale and everybody is here for each other. I was made to feel so welcome when I came here by the staff – they are so lovely and the kids love them. It’s been a tough process but as they said (often!) … they wouldn’t push us unless they didn’t care about us and our kids. The staff genuinely do care and they show it, which is really nice.”
Once the family have transitioned back into life, Shannon is determined to maintain the routines and skills she has learned at Merivale. She would like to continue with an event management course she started – and to keep baking (a skill she developed at Merivale).
I’ve been challenged like never before, but also felt so supported. Emotionally I am much stronger … I feel confident and have my self-respect back.