Recently, speaking at a function, I was introduced as “This is Sophie, she is a carer to (and they said my oldest sons name). Well, that is odd, I thought, considering I have three children, two with diagnosed disability.
Does that mean I am mother to two and carer to one?
Or am I mother to one and carer to two (as one is very high functioning)?
Now I am confused by the introduction.
You see, I am not a carer. I don’t want to be a carer. I never wanted to be a carer and I don’t plan on starting now. Yet, people often refer to me as a carer and I find it bizarre.
I have three children and I consider myself to just be their Mum.
I stood up and said actually, I am not a carer. I am a mother to three children all with a variety of needs. Actually, first and foremost I am me. I am myself – I am also a friend, daughter, sister, lover, blogger, taxi driver, cleaner, cook, wanna be surfer, motorbike rider, traveller, movie goer, beach lover and the list goes on. No where would I define myself as a carer.
It isn’t that I don’t care. I do. I care for my children, I care for my mother, I care for my cat, sometimes I even care for my pot plant (though I think it is dead, so perhaps that is not a good example.) Carer is not my title though. Caring is just who I am, part of my personality.
The term “carer” is very confusing. The government refers to us as carers, if we receive a carers payment or carers allowance. Respite workers and council workers are often referred to as carers. They are paid to care. They come to your house or assist for a few hours and provide “care” work. When they leave their responsibilities are finished. They no longer have to ‘care” until their next shift. They have holidays, they have sick leave. They can only perform certain duties due to work health and safety requirements. It is a job they choose to do. They can quit this job if they have had enough.
Yet, this same term is used for a family member who cares for someone who has a disability or is aged. The family member has none of the benefits of workers who are carers, they are not paid, they can not leave, there is no holidays, there is no sick leave. They do everything they need to regardless of their own health or safety. It is not a job, it is their life. They did not choose it and they can not quit it. It is their loved one, often it is their child. So there is a difference. I am not a carer to any of my children, I just care for them. They all have different needs and I try my best to meet them, like any mother of children. The biggest difference is I do everything because I love them.
One of the things that used to concern me, was my children would say in public, this is my carer (not about me but about their paid carers.). Or “my carer is picking me up”. Using this terminology instantly made them different to other kids around them. Other children at school didn’t have carers. It identified our family as different. So I decided to ask them to stop using the term and the difficulty rose about how should we refer to them. Other families had babysitters. This didn’t work for us as my very literal children thought it meant someone was coming to sit on our baby, which as you can imagine was particularly distressing for them! (Got to love autism!). Whilst we were friends with our carers, we didn’t want to use the word friend as they were paid and sometimes they would leave us and we would not see them again. This did not teach the lessons I wanted my children to learn about friendship. So eventually, we worked it out. We just use their name. Simple. So we cut the word carer from our vocabulary. They were not carers, they were just people, there to help. They were just who they were.
Just like people/society label our children, they also label us. I don’t want to be a label. I don’t want to be a carer. I want to be Me.
So despite the government referring to me as a carer, despite society classifying me as a carer. I know I am not a carer. I am a Mum …. who cares. A Mum, just like I dreamed of, just like I planned, just like every other Mum.
Do you think of yourself as a carer or a Mum?