Roy O’Mahony is a single parent to 2 children, including his 18-year-old son Callum. Callum, who has spina bifida, is a member of the Breaking Barriers Theatre group at Crann. Earlier this year Roy took part in ‘A Moment for Me’ programme, a four-week wellness programme specifically designed for carers of those with physical or additional needs.
Roy says that this was the first time he had participated in a course of this kind. “I don’t know if there’s anything like ‘A Moment for Me’ out there for parents like myself. I am not aware of any. I would never have looked for this kind of programme before. But, having done it now I can say with certainty that it was something I just never knew I needed.”
Roy, who is a member of the Cork Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association, says that services like ‘A Moment for Me’ simply are not made readily available for parents caring for those with physical or additional needs. “Everything is very much condition-focused. My own personal experience with the health system has occasionally been draining, both physically and emotionally. At times over the years I have felt like we’re fighting that system and that in itself carries a burden. It can leave you feeling isolated, like you are the only person going through this. It is a form of tunnel vision. That is a tough place to be as a carer.”
That shared experience with other parents opened my eyes
For Roy the biggest benefit of ‘A Moment for Me’ has been its ability to help him see beyond that tunnel vision and help him shift his focus beyond simply caring for Callum’s needs. “It is so easy to get caught up in everything, attending to those needs and ensuring you’re doing everything you can. It can lead you to focus overwhelmingly on caring for the child with the additional needs, sometimes to the determine of other aspects of your life.
“I know this programme would have been invaluable 10 years ago, when I felt like we were going through this on our own. That shared experience with other parents opened my eyes. Listening to other parents talk through their experiences and how they cope. Nothing beats peer-to-peer support. Ultimately, anything that helps the parent will end up helping the child. It is all connected. And it starts with self-care.”