I’m not a parent, but watching friends and family who are, I can see what a special time Christmas is – despite the mayhem! Watching kids ripping paper off gifts. The look of delight when they get a toy they were really hoping for. Or a surprise they really didn’t expect. Then watching them find the paper or box far more fun than the gift 😉
It saddens me that for many parent carers, Christmas can be very bittersweet. The Carers’ Trust, our national umbrella organisation, has many heartbreaking stories, but Peter’s story really hit home about the struggles they face:
“It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Six years ago, when our son James was born we were on top of the world. When Rosie was expecting our second child, our dreams of a family really were coming together. Amy was a less active baby than James, but she smiled and laughed a lot. I am thankful for those happy memories but it is difficult to think of at times, especially around Christmas.
I haven’t really talked to anyone about the years that followed – it has all been too much. Amy was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy when she was only two. That was difficult enough, we were so worried. It’s hard to accept that only two years later Rosie was killed as she was cycling home. She was such a great mum. I miss her so much but now I am trying to be a dedicated dad and also take on the role as mum to the children, as well as keeping a roof over their heads”
“There is no cure for muscular dystrophy. Amy will need around the clock care as she will never be able to walk again. I’m taking on as much work as I can when Amy is at a specialist nursery. She really loves it and I know she’s well looked after. But once I pick Amy up in the afternoon, I’m then a full time carer so I hardly have any time to spend with James when he comes home from school.
It’s been tough; at times I thought the kids would be taken into care because I wasn’t coping. I’m so exhausted when I go to bed but I don’t get much sleep as I need to check on Amy in case she is in any pain. I know I could be a better dad. James helps out as much as he can but what kind of childhood is he getting? All I want to do is kick a ball with my son and give him my time, especially around Christmas”
There are around 2000 people in Bath & North East Somerset who are parent carers like Peter – and over 20,000 unpaid carers in total looking after family or friends. Without support, they can find themselves isolated, anxious and their physical and emotional health can suffer. At the Carers’ Centre we meet so many carers at the end of their tether, struggling to cope and, like Peter, worried they ‘should be doing better’ – when they are already doing so much.
Working here has opened my eyes to their needs – the practical and emotional support they need to cope with the challenges of their role – especially at this time of year. And I’m proud to work for an organisation that does all it can to give this help to carers.