The birth of a child means a significant lifestyle change in any family. For Department of Human Services Team Leader, Chris and his wife Julia, this change was even bigger.
After giving birth to their son, Julia developed rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune condition that targets the lining of her joints, causing inflammation and joint damage.
“It started with a few aches and pains, but within a week it got progressively worse,” Julia said.
“I got up in the night to feed the baby and fell over because of the pain. I knew then that something was very wrong.”
What followed were months of doctors’ visits and tests. The pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis meant managing day to day tasks became increasingly difficult for Julia. Chris took on a caring role, but was able to continue working for the department thanks to management’s understanding and flexibility.
Although working and being a carer has been a balancing act for Chris, he and Julia both spoke highly of the support they received from the department.
Being a carer has changed Chris’ approach at work and at home.
“When Julia first got sick, I expected my family – including Julia – to complete set tasks “on time”. This was very similar to how I ran my team at work,” Chris said.
“I had to learn to develop a softer approach all-round.
“Through caring for someone who’s ill – including the great days and not-so-great days – I’ve developed a better understanding that sometimes it’s just not possible to get everything done.”
Julia has appreciated both Chris’ changing approach and the department’s support of Chris while she has been unwell.
“The department has been a massive support to our family and have been very accommodating when Chris has had to be with me in hospital,” Julia said.
“They’ve supported our family to reach a good work/life balance.”
Through the highs and lows, some things have remained constant for Julia and Chris. They both spoke highly of their five children, four of whom are currently living at home.
“Our children have had to grow up quickly in some ways, they’ve been a huge help at home,” Julia said.
“They’re involved in all sorts of extracurricular activities, and supporting them has been the one constant for me during this time. Apart from my husband of course!”