Gareth lives in north east Hampshire and is a dad carer for his youngest daughter, Zoe. Now two years old, Zoe has Down’s Syndrome and underwent major heart surgery at just three months.
Gareth says that when in their own homes, dads are almost as confident as mums when it comes to caring. “But take them out of their comfort zone and put them with a group of mums and I’d say they definitely don’t feel as confident.”
To instil more confidence in dad carers, he believes support and understanding are vital.
“Somehow re-assuring them that being a carer doesn’t detract from their masculinity, or role in a typical family hierarchy. Peer acceptance and understanding of what they are doing as a carer by everyone they come into contact with could make a massive difference.
“I just don’t think enough dads would be prepared to find out what support they could get or even admit that they needed support.”
Supporting carer dads
This could leave many dads feeling alone and undervalued, and since many continue to work, Gareth believes employers and colleagues have an important role to play in supporting carer dads.
“I think the biggest element of support could come from the working environment, for colleagues and employers to understand the home situation and how different it may be from what they do at home and be caring and supportive. In particular, there needs to be recognition of how valuable time at home is.”
And it is Gareth’s time at home that throws up some of his biggest challenges, for he has to juggle several things.
“The juggling is in small doses. I try to relive my wife when I get home from work by finishing dinner, having playtime with the kids then sorting bath, milk, stories and bed. At the weekend no juggling is required and we’re a combined team. I appreciate that this is when mums need to have a lie in, so I try to oblige by keeping the children quiet while my wife dozes.
Spending quality time together
“The biggest strain is the amount of time that can be truly accounted for as being just for us. It gets harder and harder to spend quality time together talking about anything other than the childrens’ progress, what extra help they need, how they compare to their peers etc.
“Evenings pass in a blur, sleep is much valued. We both know we need to make more time for ourselves as a couple, but the best intentions all too easily get pushed sideways.”