A Home Preparation Guide for New Parents with Disabilities

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Becoming a parent is one of the most joyous and exciting things a person can experience.  New parents will quickly learn that it is a continuous process and will be a lifelong adventure.  Keeping that in mind, preparing your home for your new addition is, but so is going easy on yourself when you realize just how underprepared you are once your child arrives.  That said, here are a few ideas for preparing your home that you may not have considered.

Protecting You and Your Baby

An abundance of resources exist that tell parents how to prepare their home in order to protect their baby.  They typically discuss everything from baby gates to outlet covers, as well as nursery-specific dos and don’ts.  What these resources don’t cover is how to protect the parents, or at least make their lives easier, which subsequently also protects the child.  Parents with disabilities know this is especially important and may already have made some home modifications to meet their own needs.  

Avoiding or eliminating obstacles that prevent you from providing the best care for your child is the ultimate goal in preparing your home. It is a good idea to evaluate the existing home thoroughly and consider if any previous modifications pose a potential hazard or if new modifications are needed.  Consider what you’ll be doing for or with your baby that you may not have had to do in the past.  This will help you conduct a more thorough needs assessment so you end up with a better analysis of what additional changes may be needed.  Remember, this won’t be perfect.  What might work when you first bring your newborn home may not work once he or she is a toddler, and how you’re able to handle child care may change once you get some experience.  

Room by Room

Start by working through your home room by room to identify potential areas for improvement.  For example, if you have visual limitations, consider marking products in your pantry using braille labels or textured tape to help you quickly and accurately identify the product.  This can work in any room in the house. It is also a good idea to make sure you have accurately sized measures to help you when preparing formula or other baby foods. Find measuring spoons and cups that let you measure the exact amount of product you need to help make meal preparation a snap. Adding other sensory tools, like specially designed baby monitors, might prove useful as well if you have hearing or visual limitations.  

If mobility issues are a concern, you may have already found a number of adaptive products that help you transport your baby when you are on the go. For certain disabilities, these types of products may be essential.  For others, like toys that allow you to interact effectively with your baby, you may find that creating your own is just as effective and less expensive.  Other considerations include adding grab bars to your bathroom or other areas of the home to make safely reaching your baby for bathing or changing easier.  Adding non-slip mats is also a good idea since spills are bound to happen. For more information, check out this informative guide on home modifications for parents with disabilities.  

Taking precautions and making home improvements that help you care for your child will be a learning process.  You don’t always need to focus on remodeling or big changes in order to have the best results.  As your baby grows, your needs are likely to change as much as your child’s, so don’t be afraid to adapt your approach. Keeping both the parents and baby healthy is the goal.  

  Ashely Taylor

See more information on their website: http://disabledparents.org


Minimalist Motherhood

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." ~ Hebrews 13:5

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That passage from Scripture is a foundational part of my life with my two girls. I’ll admit, it wasn’t always this way. 

After my divorce, I moved from a moderate suburban home to an urban apartment and was forced to downsize. At first, I panicked. Who would I be without a two-car garage? How would my kids exist without a giant trampoline next to their pool in the backyard? What kind of mother doesn’t have a designated playroom for her kids? But, it took less than 24 hours for me to realize that this downsizing was the most healing endeavor in which I’d engaged since my husband high-tailed it out of state and out of our lives. 

So, I purged again. And again. And again. I am now an enthusiastic purger of things.

I purge about three times a year. I have emptied closets. I have thrown out everything from nick-knacks to my entire bedroom set. Yes, you read that right. I sleep on a mattress on the floor. Why? Because it is more comfortable. Because I chose my own comfort over my concern for the expectations of others. After seeing me do it, my girls decided to ditch their bunk beds. I swapped my “grown up art” for a Wolverine decal that overlooks our dining room table. Oh my, goodness! Our lives are better for it!  Together, we have eliminated all of our extra furniture and have found our sparsely decorated space to ooze the peace we once thought we could purchase. 

Less stuff means fewer things to worry about when we could be investing energy into each other. Less space means less cleaning and more time to engage the world around us. Less focus on empty vessels means more energy to put into refilling the most important vessels – our souls. 

We don’t have much stuff, but we have a great life. For the most part. 

You see, it is impossible for inoculate our little den of peace from the rest of the world. And when you live a bit differently than society tells you that you should live, there is a need to be vigilant about not giving into the tension between true, lasting happiness and the momentary rush of social acceptance. 

I have experienced this tension first hand since moving my kids to a better school (read: school in a wealthier neighborhood). Please don’t get me wrong, I would not move my kids back to a floundering school to avoid this tension. My kids are flourishing socially and academically, and I am thankful every day that they are where they are, loving to learn. But, the tension is there.

I first noticed it in the after school programs. There are myriad “enrichment” programs (from robotics to tumbling), for a fee. So, there is the constant pressure to drop money into programs to help your children gain that extra edge. 

I’ll admit, I fell for it the first time. My older daughter really wanted to cheer. I wanted so badly to tell her no. You want me to pay for 8 weeks of chant-learning and smile practicing? You clearly don’t know your mother at all, I thought. But, I caved. I asked for a payment plan and committed myself to paying for the 8 week program. Then came the kicker…the kids were given the “option” to buy a uniform for another couple hundred dollars. I could probably stretch my budget to make it happen, but I didn’t want to. This wasn’t a competitive cheer team; this was an after school program. Why would I spend my money that way?  And I was honest with my daughter about it. No biggie, I thought, clearly some other parents, no matter their economic status, would make the calculation that these uniforms were not worth the investment. 

I was wrong. My daughter was the ONLY one without a uniform. Gulp.

Still no biggie, I thought. My girl is smart enough to recognize that standing out is not a bad thing and that joy does not come from conformity or an outfit; as well as reason through the economics of it. So, I talked to my daughter and I was right, everything was fine. Whew!

Unfortunately, I was not the only person in her ear. Later the same day, she came home and told me that she would be borrowing a uniform since everyone else had one. “What?” I questioned, “We were fine being different. We were going to put you in something fun and unique, and not worry about the expected ‘costume.’” “I know, Mom,” she said, “But everyone else has one.” Ugh.

With that one sentence, I saw three years of re-framing and intrapersonal focus drip out of her little head and slip through my fingers. Suddenly, it was more important to be like everyone else, to have what they have, than to make decisions that made sense for our lives. I was sad and angry. I wanted to call the coach and yell at her, but I didn’t. I knew that this woman was just trying to make my kid feel better and that, for so many of us, we fall prey to the lie that fitting into a crowd feels better (and is easier) than taking the time to find what makes us truly unique, and truly happy. So, I lost that battle. 

I tried not to overreact or map too many of my own feelings onto her situation, but it was a struggle. It was a small struggle in a war that I imagine I will be waging for years to come. It is a struggle for happiness, the kind you cannot buy, the kind that only comes from being at peace with yourself, with your situation on Earth, and with your relationship with God. For me, it has been easy, because I have already lived a life filled with unnecessary things, and in that thing-filled life, I was miserable. I know that happiness is not material and that freedom does not come from burying ourselves in things.

But I worry about this struggle with my girls. Frankly, I have seen too many young people suffer from the emptiness that comes from living a life full of things. I work at an institution populated by some of the wealthiest young people I’ve ever encountered. That same institution also boasts alarmingly high rates of “feelings of loneliness.” I have spent a lot of time with young adults who are searching for meaning, addicted to trying to buy it, and trapped in a cycle of superficial gratification that makes them miserable. I don’t want this for my kids. I want my kids to be fulfilled by their Creator, by their ability to recognize their uniqueness, and by their relationships. 

I am vigilant in prayer about this issue. I honestly pray that there is never an Earthly thing to which my girls tie emotion. I pray, constantly, that their emotions are only tied to the people they love and who love them, their appreciation for experiences; and gratitude for life, grace, and salvation. Because, as Jesus warned the greedy man: "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." ~ Luke 12:15

-A. Smith

How to Successfully Stay Sober While Being the Best Parent Possible

Photo Credit: Pexels,        Pixabay

Photo Credit: Pexels, Pixabay

Making the decision to be both sober and be the best parent you can be is the best gift that you can give your child. It is a great decision to make, and while it is certainly possible, it will not be easy. But you want to show your child that it is better to live a life that is happy, useful, and sober. You want to show your child that it is possible to cultivate coping skills outside of drugs or alcohol.

Addiction causes severe disruption in families, and usually it is the children of addicts who suffer the most. Whether you are an expecting parent looking to start parenthood with a clean slate or you have been a parent for awhile and you are ready to become sober, your child can only benefit from your sobriety.

Staying Sober

To be the best possible parent, you have to first tend to your own needs. Unfortunately, parents tend to overcompensate for this by putting their needs on the back burner. Preserving sobriety requires you to prioritize self-care, so be sure you maintain a healthy diet and exercise regimen. In addition, manage stress, get adequate sleep, and do not forget to have fun with your child.

Having a routine is an important part of staying sober, but having a child can mess up your old routine. Do not let that deter you. Just develop a new routine that incorporates caring for your child and yourself. It may take a bit to get into a rhythm, but that is normal for any parent.

Being a parent does not mean you cannot ask for help. In fact, most parents need support from their spouse, loved ones, friends, and coworkers. Although you may not have a spouse, you can ask a neighbor, friend, or family member to help you, even if it is just for 30 minutes so you can take a shower and eat a warm meal.

Child Care Woes

If you find it difficult to attend a mutual-help meeting because you lack sufficient child care, ask if you are able to bring your child. Some meetings are specifically tailored to recovering moms and/or dads. These programs not only understand if you need to bring your child, but they are great for helping you learn to integrate self-care into a daily lifestyle as a parent.

You can do several things to merge self-care and childcare. If you like to walk, use a stroller and take your child with you. Perform yoga stretches while your child plays on the floor with you, and some exercises use your baby as part of the routine. You can place your child in a playpen or special baby seat while you shower or clean.

Remember to be grateful. Stay focused on your sobriety by writing down five things you are grateful for every day. They can be the same things, or you can switch them up. Chances are, you will include “family” fairly often. Family means a great deal to people so spend as much time as you can with your family. This does not just mean those whom you are related to; friends count as family too. Surrounding yourself with people who love and support you is crucial.

Join an online recovery forum to help you stay sober. They offer live chats, online meetings, online resources, and more. Staying sober can be a daily battle, but your health and happiness, as well as your child’s, are worth the effort. By staying focused and remembering to care for yourself and ask for help, you can successfully stay sober and be a good parent.

- Michelle Peterson believes the journey to sobriety should not be one of shame but of pride. Her mission is aligned with that of Recoverypride.org, which is to celebrate sobriety and those who achieve it.