Today is my baby Thom’s birthday, though he’s hardly a baby any more! He is 14 and taller than I am!
He is a funny, caring, sensitive, artistic and bright lad who will always be my baby even when he’s a big man.
Today though I thought I’d talk about our kids who are young carers.
My three children have lived with my illness for as long as they can remember, they’ve never had a “well” mummy. Their lives have only known a mummy who has to run to the toilet in a supermarket grabbing them by the arms to run with her, abandoning a trolley in the aisle.
They would bring their drawings and toys and sit outside the bathroom chatting to me as I tried not to cry out in pain on the loo bleeding.
They knew how to microwave a wheat pillow to bring to me when I was in pain and make a hot water bottle as they got older.
Theyve spent more time visiting in a hospital than any child should. Knowing sometimes they can wear sick bowls as hats and make me laugh and sometimes they can only sit quietly and hold my hand.
Theyve lived through the stresses of money being tight because I couldn’t work and dad working overtime to make sure we’re ok.
Theyve pushed me in wheelchairs never showing embarrassment but only arguing on who gets to push.
Theyve cried and shouted and screamed because it’s all not fucking fair. They’ve held brave smiles in front of me when they’ve been scared of seeing me hurt.
Theyve sat on my bed, eyes shadowed and voice low asking “mum, what can I do to make it better?”
Theyve had all these experiences that break my heart, things I wish I could take back and replace with a normal happy childhood where you don’t burst into tears when your mum goes to the GP because you’re so scared it means she’ll end up in hospital again.
But you know, they’ve also learnt empathy well beyond their years. They have skills that many other teens don’t, they can cook and clean, they can do the shopping and collect prescriptions, run baths and aren’t embarrassed to help mum wash her hair.
They are the most emotionally intelligent young people, in tune with their emotions and able to read other people’s. They know how to share how they feel and that there is no shame in crying, no fear of shouting.
They know they can tell me anything, that I’ll listen and be there. Even though being there often means them coming to me, they’ll get in my bed with me and spend hours telling me about their days, their troubles, their joys.
They know the kindness of loved ones, we have friends around us who have not only been there for me and Timm, but for the kids. Who have taken them on the days out they miss when I’m ill (even when they lose them K and R!!! 😘 ), they know they have a safe space with our friends where they can go and just be kids. They see the dishes of food that turn up after every surgery and the extra hands that come to clean up and do laundry.
They know they are loved beyond mum and dad and that our friends adore them and will always provide them with a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen and a place in their hearts.
My kids have tough times that I wish weren’t caused by me and my illness. But in many ways it has brought us closer together, we love eachother fiercely and it often feels like it’s us vs the world. We have so much to deal with but we are stronger for it.
There are an estimated 700,000 young carers between 5 and 17 in the UK and the statistics scare me.
- It can affect a young person’s health, social life and self-confidence.
- Many young carers struggle to juggle their education and caring which can cause pressure and stress.
- In a survey, 39% said that nobody in their school was aware of their caring role.
- 26% have been bullied at school because of their caring role.
- 1 in 20 miss school because of their caring role.
Though Carers Trust also say:
“Some young people don’t experience any problems and can experience a big sense of pride and a sense of achievement. But if they don’t get the right support – which is often the case – it can leave them feeling stressed and worried. It can lead to them not having life chances that other young people do.”
I just hope that I can love and support my kids as much as they do me and between us we can get through this together. I feel so much guilt for the pressures they live with. They say it takes a village to raise a child and though our village is a bit wonky, it is filled with friendship, love and laughter and I think that’s not too bad.
SheffieldYoungCarers are a charity dedicated to supporting young carers in our city, they are amazing and if you can offer any support to them through donations, your money will be spent looking after those who are looking after us.
✌🏽 & ❤️