As I write this and reflect on my life as a carer, I realise it has been…blinking hard! Just to set the scene, I am a 37 year old woman and I have been in a care role since I was 16, firstly for my mum and now, for my dad.
Why have I said it’s been hard? As a young carer, there were things I had to do that my friends didn’t, and that impacted my life greatly. For instance, I would have to weigh up my decisions often: should I go out on the park one night and deal with the extra hassle this could cause when I got in? Or should I miss yet another social event and do stuff like ensure meds were taken and my mum was in bed without incident? FOMO is real for young adults, let alone young carers.
Being a carer at university
Now, I was lucky, I had my dad and my younger brother to help out with the care responsibilities, but even with that support, being a carer was hard. At 18 I applied for university, which meant leaving home and moving to another city. It was difficult dealing with the guilt of leaving my dad and brother to take over the responsibilities, but university was life changing. Here, I was able to create a routine that would balance my caring responsibilities with my student life. Monday to Friday I had more freedom to be an independent, young adult up until the weekend, where I would go home to work and care. Of course, I do sometimes wonder if there was anything I missed out on by not staying at uni for the weekends, but overall it worked.
Being a Carer after University
After uni, I expected it to be difficult getting a full time job considering how being a carer could impact me, but actually, it got easier. It just took some wangling in terms of the hours and chatting through with my employer how being a carer could impact my day-to-day duties. Even though I was dreading this conversation, it was actually really helpful and I found that people genuinely will help you out and find solutions to juggling all of the stuff you do. So now as an adult I am able to manage care for my dad with a job that allows flexibility and understands my responsibilities at home. Do I still have to make decisions about social life and care role? yes. Do I still get to do the stuff I think is important to do? yes! I have managed to live independently, buy a house and have a dog. I have travelled extensively, I have a job I love (mostly, shhh, don’t tell the boss!) and I have friends that ‘get it’ and still include me in stuff as much as possible.
What I would have done differently?
But what would I have done differently as a young carer that I now do? Definitely involve others. Whether it’s a teacher/doctor (we all love that free flu jab right?)/professional/chat groups or support networks for specific things, talk to them and get support. There are tonnes of people who genuinely want to support you to make a small part of what you do easier, even if just for a short period of time. In short, allow others to help where they can.
Overall, whilst I describe my life as a carer as hard, it is also the most rewarding ‘job’ I have. I get to go to bed each night knowing that I have challenged myself to manage all the things I want to do, (care, work, live and study). I have used a whole host of skills that are transferable to all sorts of things in and out of the world of work and I have made a real difference to the quality of life of another human.
Natasha’s story comes to you in support of raising awareness for Young Carers Awareness day.
If you are a young carer, you can find a variety of support services here
More information on NTU support services are available here