SEVEN-YEAR-OLD Millie Watts snuggles up to her mother, Emma, when asked how she feels to know she is poorly.
“It’s upsetting,” she says shyly.
Mrs Watts, 37, suffers from a kidney disease and arthritis, which have left her in constant pain.
She is on pain relief around-the-clock and is often bedbound at the family home in Harrogate.
Millie and her brothers James, 14, and Daniel, 18, help her with everything from the housework to the shopping and looking after the family’s pets.
They also fetch her medication and help her to stay mobile.
“I help her go down the steps and help her walk. She holds my hand,” says Millie.
James and brother Daniel, 18, also help to look after their sister.
“I don’t really think about it, I just do it,” says James.
Their help is a lifeline to their mum, especially when her husband Shane, 35, is out at work as a support worker for adults with learning disabilities.
“I struggle to do anything,” said Mrs Watts, who had to give up her own job at Asda nine years ago.
“There are some days I struggle to make a cup of tea. The kids help a lot. They help with something every single day.
“It’s difficult. I can’t do the things I want to as a mum and a wife and I think they miss out a lot.”
One of the things they miss out on is family days out. Their mum’s condition means they can never plan ahead for things like cinema and swimming, trips that other youngster might take for granted.
“We never know if she’s going to be ill so we can’t say if we’ll be going or not,” says James.
Such treats are only guaranteed for them when they are organised by the young carers team at Harrogate-based Carers’ Resource.
“It gives them planned days out they can really look forward to,” says Mrs Watts.
The service has also given the children valuable support.
“We get meetings at school and we can just talk about how life’s going and what’s happening at home,” says James. “If I’ve got a problem I can speak to someone and they can help.”
Mrs Watts can’t speak highly enough of the charity.
“The support is amazing and the people that run it are so kind,” she says.
She adds: “I hate being like this. To have your kids helping you is heartbreaking. I don’t want them to have to do it – I just want them to be kids.
“But they’ve never not got a smile on their faces. They’re always smiling, always happy, loving and caring.”