Tell us about your role as a carer and who you care for?
I care for my wife Bethany who is a T9 paraplegic. We have been married for 13 years this year (we got married at 20) and we have two kids, Anastasia (Annie) who is 7 and Alfie, who is 4 years old. We live in Lennox Head on the Northern Rivers of NSW. I guess you would say that my role as a carer (currently) is more centred around the home and kids. I work four days a week and, because we’re still quite young, Bethany is largely independent in daily activities. I often find my role is more around supporting the entire family, as it is difficult for Beth to get out with the kids by herself, so when I’m at home, its often a chance to get amongst the duties around the house/community/kids/activities etc. (the list is endless!) that need to be done.
What does an average day look like for you?
As I said, because we’re still quite young, Beth is largely independent in her daily activities, this gives me a chance to work four days a week, where I work as a disability advocate and love it! In saying that, I often find that if Beth is facing an issue that could utilise my advocacy, I am often ‘advocated out’ when I get home.
What is your biggest challenge as a carer?
Comparison towards other couples who don’t have the disability specific issues that we face. It’s something that I need to guard, as sometimes it’s easy to look at people’s circumstances on the outside and think “if only we didn’t have to worry about this or that…” and find myself spiralling into negative patterns. I’ve heard it said that “comparison is the thief of joy” and that’s the reality. Over the past 13 years we’ve been married, I’ve come to realise that each person/couple is running their own race, facing their own issues and I can’t get caught up on that and all I need to do is concentrate on my own race and stick to my lane!
What do you love most about being a carer?
Having a front row seat to see my wife face her challenges with such an amazing attitude. Despite the circumstances, she often looks to the positives and often, in doing so, she spurs me on to look at my challenges in a more positive light and I’ve found we encourage each other to keep going!
What advice would you give other carers out there who fulfil a similar caring role?
Do what works for you, don’t look to what works for other people just understand that your situation is unique, people can have similar contexts, but there are small nuances that make your situation yours. And find out the things you can do together as a couple and by yourself that give you energy and fills your proverbial life/love tank, even if it’s a small thing, concentrate on taking the time out and being intentional with your life to ensure that you’re not running on empty, but there’s always a little bit in the tank each day! If you’re really struggling and constantly running on empty, talk to a health professional who can point you in the right direction that works for you!
What has been the most important support for you in your caring role?
Finding what energises me. For me it’s a range of things - I’ve recently started reading and love getting in to a book when possible (as the kids get older and busier, this becomes trickier). I also have recently started brewing beer with a few mates… the beer is usually terrible, but the time spent hanging out with mates helps me to have a laugh. I also find support in my family - it’s so important to mix up the everyday routine and get out if you can - to the park/beach/whatever, changing your environment often changes your perspective!