I have two wonderful children, both now in their early thirties.  One of them was diagnosed as neuro-divergent whilst at primary school.  My child is really loving, funny and massively creative. They see the quirky side of life, they have firm views about the world, and they will never conform. 

Things went well at primary school, where there was good support and an after-school club. High school was more challenging, especially because my child needed someone to come home to, we live in a rural area, so local support was very limited. 

I’d been working full-time, and I had no choice but to go part-time, as well as asking my parents for backup.  A couple of years later I was made redundant and decided to go self-employed.  The flexibility worked for a few years – my child did well at school and eventually went to university, so things were manageable. 

Then our family found ourselves dealing with several difficulties.  I became unwell and had to have surgery. My child graduated and came back to live in the family home, and suffers with depression.  At this stage I found myself working in a series of short-term contracts, in a fairly cut-throat industry, with employers who didn’t make adjustments for carers. 

Being a carer has had a long-term financial impact for me. I went part-time and self-employed to be able to work flexibility to support my child, so I haven’t been able to build up a workplace pension – unlike most of my friends of similar age to me, who are now enjoying a comfortable retirement.  

I’ve been supported by Carers Leeds for about 5 years. I attend a group, which has been so helpful. It’s amazing to meet people in the same position. And it’s been really helpful to meet carers who are further down the line and find out how they’ve overcome the same sorts of challenges. We share really sad and challenging things, but we also have a laugh, and that’s so important. I have met my tribe. 

Being a carer has affected my career and my income. It’s also put a fight in me – and made me really resilient and resourceful.  Someone told me that to be a carer you need to have iron fist in a velvet glove – I’ve developed that whether I like it or not.   

There’s still a long way to go, but I’m glad things are slowly changing for the better. Carers have a lot to give, and we deserve good jobs and a decent retirement. 

My Carers Story is an ongoing project by Carers Leeds to capture the stories of unpaid carers across our city. If you are interested in taking part, please email Juliet.