Raising a child is no easy task for anyone, but when a parent has a disability, it can be all the more challenging. If you're contemplating having a baby but everyday tasks are already a bit difficult, you may be worrying about how you'll manage. Tasks such as picking up or carrying your child, changing its diapers, and going for walks with a stroller could be difficult. If you tire easily, you may be concerned about how you'll keep up with an active kiddo while trying to maintain housework, shopping and cooking.
It's common to stress about being a burden to others when you need help. However, there are currently around 4.1 million disabled parents in the U.S., so it's not out of the realm of possibilities to raise a family. Here's how to prepare for parenthood while taking care of your own needs too.
Before making any adaptations to your home, look into grants that can help you fund any work. It's likely that you already have several existing modifications to support your disability (wheelchair ramp, grab bars, non-slip flooring, etc.), but you may need to implement a few more to make the parenting process easier.
Research suggests night care, bathing and carrying the baby were among the biggest concerns of disabled parents. With that in mind, simple additions such as a height adjustable changing table, side opening crib placed next to your bed, a chest harness baby carrier, and a stroller that attaches to a wheelchair can be life-changing. Other helpful tools include making a DIY accessible baby bathtub, Velcro baby bibs, a breastfeeding sling and a swivel base baby car seat.
Helping Your Child Understand Your Disability
While you won't need to think about this until your child starts to talk, it's important to remember that children are naturally curious, so it's likely that they'll eventually have a lot of questions about your disability. Help your little one understand your limitations and educate them on the different types of disabilities. Explain how it affects the way people walk or talk, teach respectful terminology to use, keep the emphasis on similarities, stress the importance of empathy and being respectful of medical devices such as wheelchairs or canes.
As your child gets older, they may become more active in helping you out, which can lead to an increase of self-esteem and a sense of worth from having additional responsibility if handled correctly.
Seek Help and Support
Disabled parents can find it hard to ask for help, yet it's crucial that you know your limitations and plan in advance for support. Tap your partner, family and friends, but cast a wider net by seeking out community groups and disability and social services, too. There are also online resources with message boards and true-life stories to help you connect and feel supported by like-minded individuals going through a similar situation. Two great resources are: US Dept. of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy: www.dol.gov and National Council on Independent Living www.ncil.org - so check them out.
It's not uncommon for parents or disabled individuals to become depressed. If you're having prolonged feelings of worthlessness, pessimism, insomnia, irritably and sadness coupled with suicidal thought and loss of interest in things you previously enjoyed, seek immediate help. Along with support groups, counseling can also be a good idea - even before a deep depression sets in.
It's all too easy to put yourself last when raising a child, but it's key that you regularly implement self-care so that you can stay healthy, happy and focused, while being the best parent you can be. Avoid turning to drugs and alcohol to relax as that twill undoubtedly have a catastrophic result. Rather, schedule time within your day to do something you enjoy, whether that means reading a book, partaking of a hobby such as crafting or talking with a friend. Don't neglect the basics (proper diet, regular activity and getting enough sleep), as they are the key building blocks to your physical and mental well-being. Remember, with millions of disabled parents successfully raising children, you can confidently pursue your dream of parenthood.
My thanks to this week's guest blogger, Martin Block, for giving us insight to this important topic. He can be found on his website at www.ablerise.net.