There’s no way anyone-- anyone-- can truly be prepared for parenthood. The challenges that having children throw your way are unpredictable. Whatever problems you get ready for will never appear, while issues you never even thought of will become common occurrences. That’s just how it is.
With that said, people living with disabilities shouldn’t jump into parenthood with nothing but a wing and a prayer. If you know you want to have children in the future, it’s best to start planning today. It’s all about doing what you can leading up to parenthood to make daily operations as smooth as possible so you can handle surprises as they come.
1. Start Saving… A Lot
Parenthood is expensive. The average cost of raising a child through age 17 is now $233,610. That’s just the amount you’ll pay after you have your child, not while you’re expecting. If you plan on having children, start saving for parenthood today.
Beyond saving, parents living with disabilities should take full advantage of personal assistance services available through federal and local governments. While your tax dollars pay for these services, a surprising number of people don’t take advantage of them. Look into these cost-effective solutions to things such as housing and transportation to save more money for the things you want to spend it on.
2. Add Those Extra Accessibility Features
Your home may be accessible, but there are always those extra modifications and accessories you put off because of time or budget. Make sure all of the following are completed before baby arrives:
Install grab bars in tubs and showers to assist with bathing your kids
Remove tripping hazards
Transition to all non-slip rugs and mats
Invest in a braille label maker to label children’s food for meal prep
Add rubber grips to things you open often
Install a low counter for diaper changes
3. Listen to Your Gut
When you’re a parent, perfect strangers will feel the need to tell you about how you are doing the whole parenthood thing wrong. When you are a parent living with a disability, these unnecessary and invasive opinions come tenfold. Take the anecdote provided by Rhoda Olkin, Ph.D. Whenever she asks her daughter to help with her crutches in public, she sees people judging her for placing “another burden” on her child.
Dr. Olkin rightly calls out the prejudice behind the fear that children of parents are forced to take on caregiving tasks at inappropriately young ages… but that doesn’t mean you won’t have to deal with similar situations. Dealing with prejudice and judgment can be exhausting, but don’t let it dissuade you from parenting as you are. Nobody is perfect; everybody is just doing the best they can. Trust your gut and do what you feel is best for your kids.
The truth is...
You can never be totally prepared for parenthood, but you can be pretty prepared! Start saving today and look into personal assistance programs that help parents with disabilities. Make all the accessibility changes possible before baby comes home. Finally, listen to your gut and tune out the critics that are bound to pop up.
About the author: Ashley Taylor is a freelance writer, photographer, and advocate for people with disabilities. She created DisabledParents.org to provide information and resources to other parents with disabilities. When she isn’t working, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two children.