Life with a disability can be a challenge on its own. When we also have children, it’s a whole new challenge. While being a parent is a beautiful journey, it can certainly bring its share of frustrations and unexpected situations. As disabled parents, we also face certain social stigma and preconceived notions about our abilities as parents, although many parents with disabilities prove every day that we are more than capable. As a multi-tasking mom living with paralysis due to my spinal cord injury, I’d like to share some of my helpful life hacks for other disabled parents.
My Helpful Life Hacks for Disabled Parents
While we are capable parents despite our disability, here are some tips that I’ve found helpful for tackling my tasks as a caregiver to my children.
1. Focus On Your Health.
Many of us living with a physical disability often have ongoing therapy sessions. Physical and occupational therapy can help keep the muscles and joints functioning as best as possible.
However, I think it’s important to focus on our health outside of physical therapy too. Having more stamina and strength can help us better take care of our daily tasks. It’s not just about strong muscles though. It’s also about having a positive attitude. Regular exercise and meditation can be essential to cope with our children’s needs.
For example, if your child is young enough, you may need to lift and carry them, change their diapers, feed, and bathe them. It’s also about knowing how to grow along with them and be who they need us to be while staying calm and collected. Along with all our regular stressors and health concerns, we have to be careful not to develop any secondary complications, such as osteoporosis, skin issues like pressure sores, heart disease, or diabetes.
Therefore, I think the first and most important life hack is to focus on your health first.
Here are a few ways you can do that:
- Develop healthy eating habits
- Stay hydrated with enough water for your body’s daily needs
- Keep up with regular checkups with your doctors and address any unusual symptoms or concerns
- Pay attention to your body and rest when you need to
- Follow a regular exercise regimen that’s customized for your unique needs
2. Utilize Adaptive Equipment.
As disabled parents, any help we can get is often a big bonus. That’s why I think one of the biggest life hacks for disabled parents is getting the right adaptive equipment and tools. You may be surprised at the wide variety of options out there.
For instance, if you’re a new parent, you may want to try out an adapted crib, which offers easier access to reach your child from a wheelchair.
In addition, any type of equipment that can prevent us from using too much energy on various tasks can be a huge help. For example, you might want to find reaching grabbers, which help you pick up and grasp objects on the floor or on shelves you can’t reach from your chair.
You may also find a power chair better for your needs than a manual wheelchair. Also, a modified vehicle can be an essential tool for driving your kids around or running errands.
So how do you find the best adaptive tools and equipment? You can search around online for different options to start. Also, you might consider asking your doctor or physical therapist for their recommendations. They should be able to help you find the right types of adaptive equipment.
3. Get Help and Support.
Help can come in all kinds of forms. I know it’s not a possibility for everyone, but hiring someone to handle certain tasks can make your daily to-do list a little easier. For instance, hiring a maid service to come in once a month for a deep-cleaning service or having a nanny come in for a few hours a day to help you care for your child can make all the difference.
Also, having a network of family and friends can be a huge source of support. You may also be able to find other parents who know what you’re going through by reaching out to a local or online support group related to your medical condition.
When you talk to other parents, you may find they have some surprising tips or advice from their own experience. Also, you can rely on trusted sources such as your physical therapist or doctor.
Just to have someone to simply vent to or help figure out a better way to do something can make you feel so much better. This will also help bolster your confidence in being a parent and accomplishing all the tasks you need to for your children.
5. Streamline Your Schedule.
Instead of trying to do everything in one day, break down your daily tasks from most important to least important. By clearing up your schedule, you will be able to make more time for just being there with your kids.
Save Time Cooking
For example, you know that you will have to make a meal or two a day for your kids. Cooking together with your kids can be a fun way to bond and share time together, but it’s not a possibility for every meal. Plus, cooking, preparation, and cleaning up dishes after the meal can take a lot of time. To free up time in your schedule, you might consider trying meal prepping. This is a popular concept of food preparation that began in the fitness community and is ideal for busy parents.
If you’re not into prepping a bunch of meals one day a week, you can still be proactive by making your children’s lunches the night before. Then it’s ready to go the next day.
Also, using a slow cooker, such as a Crockpot, or a pressure cooker like the popular Instant Pot, can help you make meals without spending too much time on it. Look for easy and fast meals like vegetable or meat chili, roasted chicken and vegetables, or soups. You’ll find thousands of recipe ideas online that are delicious and frugal as well as time-saving.
Create a Weekly Plan
I’ve found it helpful to organize my weekly schedule. This can save time and make it easy to remember what chores you need to do that day. For example, you might make one day a week laundry day. Another day could be devoted just to cleaning up around the house.
Just make sure you set up a little time during the week where you don’t have to do anything. You need a day to just relax and spend quality time with your family, such as a movie day. Having time to rest will help you recharge so you’re ready to face whatever comes next.
With just a little time freed up in your schedule, you have more time for your child and yourself.
5. Make Quality Time a Priority.
Lastly, one of the best life hacks for disabled parents I can offer is simply to spend quality time with your child.
So much of our daily schedules are devoted to cooking, cleaning, helping your child with schoolwork, taking them to school events and appointments, and more. Plus, as someone living with a disability, you probably also have other responsibilities to yourself, such as managing a bowel program, making sure to use your intermittent catheters to regularly self-catheterize throughout the day, exercising, and other self-care tasks.
As I mentioned above, you’ll also want to make time for just being with your kids. Get to know who they are, learn from them, and play with them.
It can be tempting to sit in front of the tv at dinner, but you might make time for eating together as a family at the dinner table. You can talk about your day and get to know how your children are doing at school.
Also, I love to recommend reading out loud to your child. You might even be able to find an age-appropriate book to read to your child that explains your specific disability. This will help them learn more about you and your condition. Reading to your child before bed is a great bonding activity. Additionally, it can help them learn to read on their own and instill a passion for books.
You’ve Got This.
Above all, believe in yourself and your abilities. You have overcome many challenges before. Although being a disabled parent can be a challenge in and of itself, you can overcome this challenge too.
To learn more helpful tips for living with a disability, please check out some of my other posts on the 180 Medical blog.