When Karina Love gave up a high-flying job with all the perks to be a stay-at-home mum, her self-confidence took a knock.
Now, seven years and three children later, Karina has rebuilt it and gained much more, something she credits to joining Blenheim Playcentre - of which she is now president.
She remembers her tentative first steps into Playcentre with her oldest son, Jack, then 8 months old, now 7 years old.
"I went because my sister said it was cool and I went with a friend from coffee group.
"I thought, I have to be on time, and had a little baby and I was trying to get him to have a sleep before we went.
"I even took him in tidy clothes."
Karina found the clothes would soon be dirty and the sleep would often not be forthcoming, but Jack and subsequent children Ned, 6 and Anna, 3, thrived.
"It's the free play I love about Playcentre. Every session is different.
"It's child-led, which doesn't happen in other places. The kids help set up the activity such as playdough, they say where they want things.
"They can choose what they want to do."
Initially, Karina says she was too nervous to say anything at the first few parent meetings she went to.
It was a complete change to the confidence she had held in her work.
With a horticultural degree with honours from Lincoln University, Karina worked at HortResearch in Hawke's Bay first as a research technician and then a research associate.
She won a scholarship to represent New Zealand at the first organic fruit symposium in Colorado, in the United States, where she presented a paper.
The trip also included a visit to a summer fruit research centre in Vancouver: "That was an awesome experience," says Karina.
In Hawke's Bay Karina met her husband Craig Love and they moved to Marlborough together, where Karina was raised.
She quickly found work as a viticulturist for Montana, now Pernod Ricard, and although it was a big change, "it had its perks".
Then, in 2006, Jack came along and life changed dramatically.
When Ned and Anna were born, Karina found it much easier to take everyone to Playcentre rather than do various drop-offs at kindergartens at different times of the day.
Now Karina is busier than ever, particularly after taking up the role of president at the end of last year.
"It's given me confidence, definitely, but I'm still learning."
She is passionate about what Playcentre can offer to children and parents alike, including free education for parents relevant to Playcentre.
"The course work has really helped me, it forces you to do things outside your comfort zone."
Above all, Karina and her children have made life-long friends.
"The other parents become like surrogate aunties and uncles and the children's friendships are really quality, really strong friendships.
"Everybody has value at Playcentre.
"We all support each other through the tough times. They become your friends."
Blenheim Playcentre is holding an open day on May 9, from 10am to 11.30am, at the centre on 17 Eltham Rd.
The centre is also holding a raffle of grocery items to update its carpentry table, with tickets on sale from next week.
- The Marlborough Express
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