MEGA-MUM BESIDE HER STAR HUBBY
From apprentice electrician in Perth to the AFL Player’s Association best first-year player, Tim Kelly’s life has transformed in the past year. But off the field, writes Abbey King, his partner Caitlin Miller has emerged as a star mum raising three children on the other side of Australia
AS she seamlessly feeds one of their infant twin sons on one side of her body, while holding the other, and he takes their toddler son for a quick change in the next room, it becomes immediately evident young parents Caitlin Miller and Tim Kelly are no strangers to the concept of multi-tasking.
Mum and dad to 21⁄2-year-old Tykeem and eight-month-old twins Tariq and Trey, the couple, both 24, have had a whirlwind year; one which has seen them move 3000km from Perth to Victoria, and almost double their family in size.
Caitlin is quite humble about believing in Tim’s future — and theirs — when the AFL experts didn’t.
In his debut year, Tim has emerged as a bonafide star for the Geelong Cats, while Caitlin’s commitment to sharing her day-to-day reality of raising three kids under the age of three has gained her a growing Instagram following.
And though the year has brought with it many positives, it has not come without some heartbreak and hard work for the West Australian couple.
Tim was overlooked in five national AFL drafts. For most, any one of those knockbacks could easily have ended his AFL dreams.
But Tim and Caitlin never gave up. Even when they became young parents.
Tim’s fortunes changed in November last year when he was selected by Geelong with the club’s second pick, 24th overall, in the 2017 draft.
He was 23 and fiancee Caitlin was due to give birth to the twins in the next month.
“It definitely was mixed emotions; ultimately I was very excited, it was an absolute dream come true,” Tim recalls.
“I thought, ‘This is it, I’m on my way now, I’m finally getting my opportunity’.
“But at the back of my head I’m going, ‘We have no family on that side of the country’, and there was the fact that Caitlin could have given birth to the twins at any given time.”
Caitlin admits while she was ecstatic for her partner and relished seeing him picked, she quickly began to think logically about the situation their young family was about to find themselves in. “It was scary,” she says. “I didn’t even know where Geelong was, I had never even been to Melbourne in my whole life.
“I seriously looked up and said, ‘Where’s that? Where are we going?’,” she laughs.
With Tim beginning training at the club almost immediately after the draft, he was fortunate to be home in Perth for the Christmas break and was present to see Caitlin give birth to the twins on December 30.
“We were lucky he was back home in time to see the birth of the twins, but they were just eight days old when he left again to come back here,” Caitlin said.
Living on opposite sides of the country, once the twins were four weeks old, the couple found the distance had become too much.
Tim called Caitlin to say he was not coping without them.
The thought of living in a town where she knew no one was terrifying for Caitlin, but she knew they had to be with Tim and packed the kids on to a plane to make the big move.
Around the time of the move, the couple were also given an autism diagnosis for their eldest, Tykeem.
“It was so hard, it still is, having absolutely no family and no friends here; whereas back home we had everyone within one suburb and having that support was priceless,” Caitlin explains.
“We lived with my family before we moved out here, we’d never lived by ourselves before and now we had Tykeem and the twins.”
Tim made his debut for Geelong in the club’s narrow win against Melbourne at the MCG in the opening round of the 2018 season.
He played every game since, securing his position as one of the team’s dominant players alongside greats such as Patrick Dangerfield, Joel Selwood and Gary Ablett Jr.
He says, while it’s been hard to be so far from family, the ability to play AFL full-time at Geelong has given him the chance not only to realise his playing potential, but also to enjoy more time at home with Caitlin and the boys.
When in Perth, Tim, who started at Palmyra Junior Football Club, was working full-time as an electrical apprentice and most of his spare time was taken up by football commitments.
“I think it would have been very hard if I was still playing WAFL footy, because I’d still be juggling a full-time job as well as part-time footy and family as well,” he says.
“So for me being able to focus full-time on footy, physically I’ve found I’ve become a lot more than I was last year or ever before.
“The fact that Caitlin doesn’t really have that much support and needs help with the boys, it’s been great that I’m able to be home and obviously footy has gone really well.”
Caitlin admits if it wasn’t for the support Tim gives her from the moment he walks in
Even after a game he’s just straight into dad-mode, and will do anything to make (the kids) happy.
the door, she’s not quite sure how she would be able to cope.
Caitlyn says no matter how hard her day has been, seeing Tim with the kids is often enough to put a smile on her face.
“I’m lucky that Tim’s really helpful, he literally does not stop,” she beams. “He gets home and is straight into dad-mode; bathing and cleaning and making dinners.
“He’s knows what it’s been like for me all day and will just go non-stop to help out, he’s just a machine.”
While the couple enjoy lots of visits from family and friends in Perth, Caitlin says it’s been hard to meet other local people and familiarise herself with her new city, and having the three young kids at home leaves her limited time to venture out of the house.
“To get all three kids in the car is a bit of an effort but once we’re out we have fun, it’s just about pushing ourselves to get there,” she says.
“We go to Woolworths and I go down every, single, aisle,” she laughs.
While Tim has his footy, Caitlin has been able to find her own personal outlet. Something she likes to do for herself and make time for.
Last year, she set up an Instagram account — @caitlinmiller — to keep family and friends updated on her pregnancy with the twins, but says once she started posting pregnancy photos, she began to attract more and more followers.
“It kind of blew up — everyone was amazed at how big I was — I was huge,” she says.
After realising people were genuinely interested in her story and advice, and the fact she enjoyed sharing it, she began to post more often about the truths and realities of pregnancy and motherhood.
“I speak to people all around the world. It’s kind of crazy,” she says.
“People get in contact and say, ‘How do you do it?’ and I say, ‘You don’t really have a choice you just do it, they’re your children and that’s why you have them’.
“I’m quite open about everything, like with my breastfeeding. There’s lots of women who can’t bring themselves to do it in public, whereas I’m like, ‘Just do it, it’s natural’.
“I love helping them.”
Caitlin has also learnt to deal with the dark side of social media. She has caught people, on multiple occasions, stealing her images and passing them off as their own, and has also been on the receiving end of inappropriate messages.
But she says she likes to take the good with the bad and has realised that sharing her story is a great way to connect with others and keep her sane.
“It’s almost like a job now, it’s something for me to do and keeps me busy,” she admits.
The couple have been through a lot already in their seven years together, but say they knew from the start were destined to be together and couldn’t imagine life any other way.
Having first met on Facebook as 17-year-olds through mutual friends, what started out as a fun online flirtation, quickly blossomed into a life-changing, loving relationship.
“One day, I just wished him a happy birthday — I slid into his inbox,” Caitlin recalls, as they both burst into laughter. “We talked for a few months before I gave him my number, then we met up and I haven’t been able to get away since.”
The pair have given each of their children names starting with “T”, a Kelly family tradition.
Tim was named after his dad, Timothy Sr and has four younger brothers Troy, Terence, Tyson and Thomas. Caitlin says she would have loved to have a daughter to give her a “C” name to start a tradition of their own, but for now the couple have enough children.
“We are done,” she laughs. “I think after you have twins, it’s harder to imagine going again. The Kellys are going to start to run out of ‘T’ names which is why we kind of came up with some of our own. I’m Caitlin and I’ve met that many Caitlins in my life, I like the idea of giving my children unique names.”
With the challenge of their big move now behind them, the couple are enjoying watching their boys grow older and bond as brothers. Caitlin says the twins are already starting to show glimpses of their own individual personalities.
“They’re teething at the moment, which isn’t the best, but they’re always staring at one another and playing,” she explains.
“But I’d have to say Tariq’s the bully,” she says pointing to her twins playing on the floor.
Tim played his first AFL final last weekend when Melbourne beat the Cats.
He says he would not have made it through the whole season if it wasn’t for the support and devotion Caitlin has shown him.
“This year was really tough, but Caitlin did make it really easy for me to just focus on what I needed to do,” Tim says.
“Obviously with Caitlin’s support and help from the boys and everyone back home pushing me and pushing me and then being so self-driven to get in and get to know everyone and train as hard as I could, it’s put me in a good position.
“It’s really exciting. I definitely think success is heading our way.”
With Tim’s impressive season behind him, and the award season ramping up, Caitlin and Tim have found themselves on the guest list at a number of events over the coming weeks, even a chance for a Brownlow Medal invite.
Caitlin says while the idea of it all sounds glamorous, finding time to prepare is proving more difficult.
“It’s all new to me really,” Caitlin admits.“I’m still not too sure where to go shopping or know any hair stylists or anything like that and it’s hard to get out with the boys.
“I don’t really see myself like some of the other girls, I don’t have a model figure, I’ve got a mum bod, and trying to find something I look half-decent in is going to be quite hard.
“It’s easy for the boys, they just chuck a suit on,” she laughs.
“I can’t really go shopping in Melbourne, when I can’t even get to Woolworths.”
PERTHNOW.COM.AU SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 2018 Family bond: Above: Tim Kelly, partner Caitlin Miller and children, their twins Tariq and Trey, and Tykeem. Picture: Hails & Shine. Below left: Kelly playing for South Fremantle; a Caitlin Instagram snap; Kelly as an apprentice in Perth.