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Guilt about going to a children's centre as a well off middle class person

(66 Posts)
JuniorAngler Wed 10-Jun-15 14:05:45

I go to my local children's centre fairly regularly. I discovered it though midwife appointments which were held there, and after DC was born have made use of the regular stay and play sessions, baby massage classes etc, which are all free.

None of my NCT group ever went there, and it was clear that most of the other parents attending were perhaps from the poorer end of the socioeconomic scale, but people were friendly and I've kept going back, and I have a good time as does DC.

I've recently learnt more about how children's centres work, and it seems their main aim is to target as many resources as possible towards the poorer most deprived families and children. And I also leant about how underfunded they are.

This made me worry that by taking advantage of all these free sessions, I am taking money and resources away from a less well off family that could really use them more than me...

I could easily afford to attend all the £10 a session music and rhyming baby classes that my NCT group seem to prefer, it's just they seemed a bit of a waste of money when I had the children's centre stuff available for free!

I may be over thinking this, but should I feel guilty? Or should childrens centre resources be available to all regardless of income?

AnythingNotEverything Wed 10-Jun-15 14:08:42

Do you feel guilty about free prescriptions during pregnancy or for your child? It's the same in my mind. Just because some may be too snobby (or whatever reason) to go doesn't mean you shouldn't of you can afford to pay.

Maybe you're helping to keep these groups running- I imagine they need a certain number of attendees.

Support the children's centre - do they have a cafe you could use or do they take donations of recycling for craft or old toys?

Ginrummy Wed 10-Jun-15 14:09:43

I would've thought that the more people they have accessing the activities, the more demand there is for the service. At a time when there are so many cuts to services like this, they need as many people as possible demonstrating its value to the whole community.

AuntieStella Wed 10-Jun-15 14:11:46

Have they had to turn people away from any sessions you attend because they are full?

If not, you have zero to fret about.

NickyEds Wed 10-Jun-15 14:12:34

We're not on a low income but I use Sure Start. I've done baby massage/sign and yoga there, baby club and now Stay and Play. the staff told me that's it's vital they keep numbers up for activities in a "use it or lose it" way. None of ours are totally free though,just cheap compared with Jo Jingles etc. I suppose it depends on if there are long waiting lists of low income families waiting. At ours there are lost of nct types!

GuiltyAsAGirlCanBe Wed 10-Jun-15 14:12:54

I am not poor, but my children's centre was a bit of a lifeline for me when I was isolated and depressed with a colicky baby with tongue tie and I was struggling to bf. We had a nice mixed group at a lot of the sessions and the atmosphere was very pro bring aetc and I think it probably was useful for the younger mums to be in a mixed group like this. I was also encouraged to go by my he as I was reluctant at first and I was glad I did. I never felt unwelcome, there was more of an attitude of inclusiveness for all at mine really.

GuiltyAsAGirlCanBe Wed 10-Jun-15 14:13:29

And I live in a rural small town so there weren't really alternatives for me.

m0therofdragons Wed 10-Jun-15 14:16:34

Children centre staff do like parents from a variety of backgrounds as it means parents tend to model different parenting styles which is really beneficial to many attending. It's hard to write this without using stereotypes but parenting shouldn't be about sticking with your class.

MrNedSchneebly Wed 10-Jun-15 14:18:17

I agree. While it perhaps is more needed in general for people on a lower income I think everyone working in them feel they are targeting any one that needs a bit of help in any way. I go to my local sure start regularly and when I was having a really tough time with PND was helped a lot. It's about helping women who've become mothers with whatever they need, advice and support for people who don't get it from anywhere else or just some human contact, regardless of income.

JackRackham Wed 10-Jun-15 14:18:34

I don't really know everyone's backgrounds but our local CC seems to be a mix of different people.
I think if they didn't want better off families to attend they would say so or means test.
I don't think you should feel guilty and I would struggle to pay for the £10 sessions. I would think it's good for children from different backgrounds to mix with each other.

handmadewithlove Wed 10-Jun-15 14:19:39

I am on the management committee of our local centre. They have targets to meet regarding how many people use the centre and also how many people from specific groups use the centre. By attending you will be helping with their engagement figures. We also have many discussions about how the centre serves as a lifeline for families in rural communities who would be isolated otherwise.

I would say that as long as you are not taking places on courses that are oversubscribed and targeted at specific groups then dont worry! and maybe consider volunteering when you have some spare time....

lexyloub Wed 10-Jun-15 14:22:59

If you and your child enjoy going and get on with everyone else there then that's the main thing. I certainly wouldn't leave a free group you enjoy to go and pay for a group you're not that bothered about

Lottapianos Wed 10-Jun-15 14:24:54

I've worked in Children's Centres for years. You have absolutely no reason to feel guilty OP. Every single parent has questions or concerns or needs support with something at some point, regardless of how much money you have or what sort of house you live in. Children's Centres are there for everyone who needs them so carry on attending and enjoy!

AWimbaWay Wed 10-Jun-15 14:25:57

I am on a children's centre steering group and would agree with everything handmadewithlove has said.

PerspicaciaTick Wed 10-Jun-15 14:27:18

IME children's centres want to draw in families from the whole community. It is quite possible for mums (and dads) to be depressed, isolated and struggling and for children to need support with their development, even if the family is financially OK. The free sessions are only a part of what the centres do, but the rest will be less visible to the general public.

withalittlebitofluck Wed 10-Jun-15 14:27:56

Hi children centre staff here! Please don't feel guilty... I'm sure that the centre you attend has had a positive impact on you or your child and that's exactly what staff aim to to. It's also wonderful to have a mix of parents attend sessions as all family's are different and us mums and dads can learn something from each other...if you want to help... Maybe offer to volunteer, we have a mum who puts our display boards up... Frees up family support staff to work on there one to one...failing that biscuits are lovely wink

MonstrousRatbag Wed 10-Jun-15 14:28:20

You should not feel guilty.
Mixing is good, and keeping the numbers up is vital for funding.
By all means make some kind of donation to the centre or local children's facilities in lieu of paying, if you want.

iHAVEtogetoutofhere Wed 10-Jun-15 14:29:31

Keep going - it keeps their numbers high for future funding.

It also encourages a good mix of folks, which is always healthy.

If you could afford £10 a session, could you offer to donate some of that / occasionally bring craft supplies / baking so you felt you were 'giving back'?

You sound thoughtful. Most people wouldn't even think / care.

BlueThursday Wed 10-Jun-15 14:37:04

I've never heard of a children's centre. Are they everywhere?

WyrdByrd Wed 10-Jun-15 14:40:04

I've worked at our local children's centre for the last 5.5 years during which time we've seen some massive changes to how we operate thanks Mr Cameron hmm.

Really, don't feel guilty. We are set targets by the 'powers that be' and if necessary it results in some activities become invitation only so we can ensure that those most in need are getting the right level of support.

We also run lots of 'free for all' groups and it's great as people from all different backgrounds can help and support each other in all sorts of ways. Many of our attendees have helped out with fundraisers or gone on to become volunteers as their DC's have gotten older, which then helps us keep groups running for others with minimal cost involved.

TBH the whole 'sharp elbowed middle class' BS drives me nuts, as does the snob factor some people have about Surestart Centres. Being 'middle class' doesn't stop someone suffering from PND, having a child with special needs, being in an abusive relationship or many of the other things we help people with.

OP I hope you keep going and attending the groups you enjoy. I'm sure all anyone there would ask is that you're considerate and respectful of the space and people (which I'm sure you are), help tidy up occasionally after a group and of course the odd donation of time/cake when needed is always much appreciated!

mamaneedsamojito Wed 10-Jun-15 14:44:02

I'm reasonably well off and live in a v middle class area but went to our local CC a lot when DS was born. I needed bf support and that's where my (very) local group convened. I don't think there's any need to feel guilt about using it. Better that people use it and it's existence is justified, imo. It'd be much worse if all the 'I'm too rich for this' people stayed away and the place shut down! Plus by joining things like support groups held there you're actively contributing and helping other Mums.

mamaneedsamojito Wed 10-Jun-15 14:45:16

Oops. Rogue ' in 'it's' . Autocorrect fail. hmm

MrsNextDoor Wed 10-Jun-15 14:47:29

My friend did it OP...she lives on the cusp of a deprived area and so qualified to attend. There was no waiting list or she would not have gone. It's my thinking that the things are there for all who live locally...just like the playground and parks etc.

toomuchtooold Wed 10-Jun-15 14:54:02

No I think as long as the sessions aren't oversubscribed your presence is very positive. Also it's not only people on low incomes who benefit from a bit of extra support - for example there are plenty of middle class people (hello!) who have moved for jobs so don't have a family support network around them and can be quite isolated. I think in that situation you're as entitled as anyone else to take advantage of what children's centres offer. I used to haunt mine when the kids were smaller, as we lived in London, there wasn't much green space around and as I had twins, I needed to be in a child-safe space with them.

imisstaxdiscs Wed 10-Jun-15 14:56:54

When people from a wide range of backgrounds use a service it can help to dispel stigma attached to using that service. If using the children's centre is linked in people's minds with being a struggling or poor person, then some of those who need it most will be put off it as they won't want other people to know they're struggling and/or poor. But if everyone goes there regardless of income or other factors, it feels okay to go.

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