I am pleased to introduce a guest blogger for my Child Safety Blog:
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Parenting with a Disability - How to Prepare Your Heart and Home for Little One
Adjusting to parenthood is a challenge for everyone. You prepare the best you can, but a good part of parenthood is learning as you go. If you’re living with a disability, you may face some extra challenges taking care of a new baby, but just like any other new parent, the key is to being willing to learn and grow. Here are a few tips to prepare your home and your heart for these challenges, so you’ll be ready to face them head-on.
Preparing your home and gear
No matter what your limitations may be, baby gear will take over your home. As you start thinking about everything baby needs, you will find that some baby gear works for you, and other things may need to be adapted. Every disabled parent will have different limitations of course, but a great place to start is with the babycare equipment guide from Through the Looking Glass. In many cases, simple adaptations to equipment and to your home will allow you to care for your child independently.
Connecting with parents who are in a similar situation can go a long way towards helping you figure out how to adapt so you can parent the way you really want to. For example, many parents choose babywearing these days to keep babies close, while at the same time keeping your hands free to do other things. The Disabled Parenting Project has how-to videos for everything from babywearing in a wheelchair to making a crib and changing table accessible.
For some of your child’s needs, you may find that an alternative activity works just as well to accomplish the same goal. As one disabled mother on The Mighty explains, she found that while she couldn’t play on the floor with her daughter, they would have “highchair” time instead. They got the same quality time together that other parents may find from “floor time,” and because they would spend that time doing flashcards, their daughter learned things like shapes and colors early. Based on your situation, start thinking about the ways you want to interact with baby and how you can set up your home to make these interactions work.
Preparing mentally and emotionally
Becoming a parent is unlike anything else, and the full emotional weight of that role is hard to understand before the time comes. But you can start preparing now for how you will handle the emotional rollercoaster of parenthood, and especially for the specific needs you might have parenting with a disability. In the past, parents with disabilities often had a hard time finding support and connections. Now with social media, it’s easier than ever to find other parents with disabilities who have been in your situation. Start seeking out these communities now because they will help you feel connected and can also help you find practical advice based on your shared experiences.
Even with the best support and adaptations for care, the early days of parenting can be overwhelming and stressful. You’re running on very little sleep, and you’re on-call 24/7 for your precious little one’s needs. This is enough for any new parent to feel run down, so go ahead and give yourself permission to take the time for self-care that you absolutely need to be a good parent. As a new parent, even your basic needs can slide, so start there, with sleep, good nutrition, and exercise. Beyond the basics, plan on taking a day just for yourself at least once a month. This time should be away from the house (or home alone) where you do something nourishing just for you.
New parenthood is a time that is both amazing and amazingly stressful. This is true for any new parent, but as a parent with a disability, you may need to prepare for it a little differently. As you prepare, try to find a balance between accepting your limitations, and at the same time celebrating what you can do to care for your little one.