By: Ashley Taylor of DisabledParents.org
Parenthood is a blessing and a responsibility, a profound lifestyle change that places a premium on self-sacrifice and preparedness. For disabled individuals, preparing to care for a child means preparing your lives for a new routine, a new home environment, and sourcing sometimes difficult-to-find equipment that helps make an often-demanding job a little easier to handle.
If you’re a disabled parent, focus on making sure your home is readily accessible, safe for you and your child, and has the parenting equipment you need. If your home just isn’t up to the challenge, you should be prepared to research houses that suit your budget and physical needs.
You can research home prices for your area in the comfort of your living room, and find the best deal to accommodate the needs of yourself and your growing family.
Safety Above All
Every modification you make should be done with safety in mind, first and foremost. Be sure that all heavy furniture is firmly anchored to the wall, have safety gates installed in all stairways, and add special cupboard locks at floor level. Some of these precautions may seem a little premature for a family just bringing home a newborn, but getting used to a fully kid-proofed home is good practice for everyone.
If you or your spouse is in a wheelchair, add threshold ramps between rooms to ensure there’s no obstacle that might prevent you from reaching your child quickly. Hallways should be at least 36 inches across and doorways a minimum of 32 inches wide (add expandable hinges to create easier access).
Pay special attention to the bathroom, one of the most dangerous rooms in the house where more falls take place on average than in any other part of the home. Grab rails should be installed in the bathtub and in the wall next to the toilet. Slips can also be prevented with skid-resistant flooring strategically placed around the sink, tub and toilet.
The Right Stuff
A well-modified home is an important part of preparing to be an excellent parent. The other part is having the right tools on hand, preferably ones specially designed to make parenting with a disability as easy as possible. Someone with a physical disability is apt to experience difficulty dealing with a traditional crib or getting a child in and out of a car safety seat, a demanding task for any new parent. This is another area where diligent online research can pay dividends.
For example, side-entry cribs are available, but finding one that’s right for you may take a little work. Swiveling child safety seats are a bit easier to find but no less helpful when it comes to easy accessibility and convenience. Being in a wheelchair doesn’t mean you can’t take your child for a walk in a stroller. A careful application of velcro connecting the stroller handle to your wheelchair allows you and your child to enjoy the fresh air together whenever you like.
Even the most effective home modifications won’t keep you from getting tired and feeling worn down periodically. Disabled parents require enough down time to recharge their batteries and enjoy some R and R. Prioritize your own free time so you have enough to set aside for yourself. Be prepared to say “no” at work and with acquaintances when you need a little “you” time.
Your time should include activities and a self-care routine that’s yours and yours alone, and these should be kept sacrosanct to make sure they take place. Arrange it so you and your spouse both have some time to yourselves. If you’re a single parent, reach out to a friend or relative who can babysit so you can run errands or enjoy a coffee out with friends.
Becoming a parent is a transition, and it takes time to get used to a new lifestyle. For disabled individuals, there’s a lot of adjusting to do to make your living space safe and accessible for a young child, but don’t neglect your own needs. To be a good parent, you need to be well-rested and energetic, which means taking time for yourself when needed.