It’s been a quite week for judging people, hasn’t it? It’s been judged that the News of the World is no longer worthy of publication and the 200 mostly innocent people now out of jobs are somewhere beneath amoeba in the grand scheme of life. Journalists give their judgements on celebrities’ private lives, while those same journalists have their choice of writing subject judged as being too trivial for intelligent consideration ( e.g. Sali Hughes on Cheryl Cole ). The world seems to be permanently wearing its collective wigs and robes in readiness for passing judgement on some subject or other.
One such subject of intense judgement was brought to my attention over the last week courtesy of @BrokenOfBritain on Twitter. The story of Shana Williams, a woman whose husband was severely disabled in a car crash, was published by the Daily Mail’s Femail section. The story appears to me to centre around two of her decisions:
i ) not to be her husband’s full time carer, and
ii ) to begin a relationship with another man whilst still married to her husband.
I have a great deal of sympathy for Shana. The life she looked forward to when she married has been denied her. She’s dealt with it all in the way she’s thought to be most appropriate to her and now, with this article, her decisions are very much in The Court of Public Opinion. I have a great deal of sympathy with Shana because of the things that I’ve previously touched upon in this blog and other things I’ve not let out into the public domain.
The article states that Shana has some professional experience of caring as a nurse and has decided that being a full-time carer, a mother to two sons and continuing full-time employment was beyond her. She arranged for her husband to be placed in a care home. I don’t envy the decision she’s made but I do respect it. And I will not judge her. Being a full-time carer is a demanding role – both physically and mentally. I didn’t choose to do it. By which I mean I didn’t apply for it and I didn’t study any specific qualifications to do it. I do it by dint of the fact that the person to be cared for is my wife. The woman I fell in love with and married. Don’t assume that I care for her with a smile on my face and lightness in my heart every day. That’s not true. There are an increasing number of times when the exact opposite is true. I chose freely to do this and it’s a decision I make every day – hell, sometimes every minute. Shana chose differently and has my respect for that.
The paper then goes on to touch upon the fact that Shana has recently begun a relationship with a man other than her husband. This second decision seems to have exorcised those people who love nothing more than to spray their bile on comment sections. Let’s make this clear, Shana didn’t start this relationship with another man immediately after her husband went into care. I’m not going to try and guess what she was thinking. She may have lay awake for many nights contemplating the possibility before beginning the relationship. It might have been an instant attraction that took her by surprise. I don’t know and the article doesn’t make it clear. I’ve read many similar stories on carers’ forums from people who care for their husbands/wives/partners. Some writers have their own solutions to being in an extremely difficult position, i.e. being in an unfulfilling relationship – from escorts to affairs to accepted celibacy. Others have no idea how to deal with this most personal and intimate of subjects. The one common denominator seems to be the anguish they put themselves through . Many, many weeks, months or years of frustration. As I’ve written, Shana may well have been through this too. But, however her new relationship began, she did not deserve the raging torrent of enmity poured on her personal life from malicious commenters.
The Mail article states that “…only those who have made such a self-sacrificing choice have, ( Shana ) believes, the right to judge her." I disagree. She deserves the right not to be judged AT ALL. The right not to have her character assassinated by those who are full-time carers OR those who have no semblance of idea what she’s gone through to reach her decisions. I’ve written about being judged as a carer before. I’m not looking to be cast as a paragon of virtue or an icon of immorality because I’m neither. I’m just me. I face many of the same inner struggles as Shana but our circumstances are different. I don’t know what lays around the corner with my wife’s MS. I don’t know if I’ll reach a breaking point and want to run a mile, never to return. All I do know is that, like Shana Williams found, my life – and, yes, that of my wife – is not what I envisaged when we met 9 years ago. Our relationship is radically different from when we met too. And IF my outlook to caring changes in the future, I reserve the right to have my decisions respected and not to be judged either. You can shove your wig and robe up your arse.