National carers week: How I looked after my disabled mother aged just eight
Ringing up the gas supplier isn’t a job that most eight year olds have to take care of.
But Amani Mohamed Omar was responsible for many of the household tasks while she was still at primary school as a carer for her deaf and disabled mother, Nasra.
Yet grown-ups didn’t always take her attempts to sort out the household seriously.
“I remember once talking to the electric people, British Gas or EDF, and I called them up and at the time I was around nine,” Amani, now 22, recalled. “The customer services lady that picked up asked me for my age and when I said I was nine years old she said she couldn’t talk to a person that young.” After finding out that she would need to be 13 years old in order to be heard, she called back and told them that she was a teenager in order to get the job done.
Amani, who lives in East Village, Stratford, says it was tough to juggle cooking, cleaning and organising the household with her schoolwork, especially with her mum always at the back of her mind.
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“I would think ‘I’m having fun now but what is my mum doing at home, is she okay?’” she said. “It kept going through my head, especially in school.
“I didn’t really tell anyone about my situation. It was really hard at some points to cope on my own and in the middle of the night I would feel really low with nobody to talk to.”
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However Amani says that going on trips with Newham Young Carers helped her to meet other people in the same situation.
“It kind of took you back to being a child again, and being allowed to have fun,” she said. “Most of the time we wouldn’t talk about our personal problems or what we do, it was about having fun.”
Now juggling studying for a masters in business information systems at Westminster University with looking after her mum, Amani believes that being a carer has made her a more rounded person.
“I have a lot of confidence and I can talk to people of different age groups and I have also got organisational skills as well which I don’t think that I would have gained without being a carer,” she added.