At 23, Erykah and Caleb are young stay-at-home parents to Luca (2) and Sadie (3 months). Their son Luca has a rare brain abnormality that means he is unable to see or walk, and requires 24-hour care. The young family is supported by their wider fanau.
The couple learned of Luca’s condition when 21-year-old Erykah was 30-weeks pregnant with him. “With that and being young parents and Luca being our first, it was quite a challenge to accept,” Erykah says. “We didn’t know what to expect and were told lots of things: that he wouldn’t walk, talk or eat properly on his own.”
Parenting comes with challenges
Still, the couple was excited for their baby but weren’t ready for the challenges that were about to come. Caleb says a lot of patience is required with Luca and they are grateful to be surrounded by great support from both sides of their fanau. “Any child requires patience but Luca especially does and we’re fortunate to have support, not just from immediate family but extended family as well, from my aunties, my cousins.
“It’s common in Polynesian families to be close with everyone and we’re fortunate enough to have that support.” Caleb says having their family take care of Luca for a night means he and Erykah can rest and “watch a movie or something” and come back refreshed.
“It’s pretty good for us, and helps us be the best parents we can be for Luca,” he says. Erykah says Caleb’s parents are very close and they see them frequently through the week.
Reducing the daily stressors
Caleb’s father Francisco (Francis) has been particularly supportive – “he’s always there for us and the kids,” says Erykah. She says he helps by watching the kids, taking Luca to hospital appointments – and financially. “He’s helped us to pay for some things we need for Luca, and get our own place because we were all living with them earlier this year and all last year.”
Erykah says Francis checks in regularly to ask if they need anything. Francis says he likes to help by doing things to reduce the daily stress of being new parents. “My wife and I have six kids and were also young parents – we had our oldest at 21. We had a big family around us and we wouldn’t have survived without all that help, so when Erykah and Caleb had baby we understood what they needed. We’re fulfilling a promise as parents to help our kids.”
Erykah and Caleb and the kids live in Papatoetoe with Caleb’s brother Liam, his fianceé Fita and their son Caleb. They all help each other to get the time away from their children to rest and relax. Erykah says getting time away from home is vital for her physical and emotional wellbeing.
“As a mother it’s important to have time to yourself, to read, exercise and things like that. It helps you be a better person and a better mum.”