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Overcoming Perceptions of Parenting with a Disability

When I became a mom, I never knew how much scrutiny I'd face just because I happen to be disabled too. You read that right, my disability is secondary to me, and to be quite honest, I actually don't think of it at all.
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When I became a mom, I never knew how much scrutiny I'd face just because I happen to be disabled too. You read that right, my disability is secondary to me, and to be quite honest, I actually don't think of it at all. That's not to say that in my life, I haven't faced my share of prejudices and discrimination, no matter how subtle, but for some reason, that possibility never crossed my mind. The excitement of welcoming a baby into the world was always at the forefront. Although I made preparations for the new addition, and knew I might encounter obstacles not every other mom knew anything about, I was up for the challenge. However, the thought of having to prove myself over and over again was never one of those things that crossed my mind in the least.

Even so, it seems like now that I'm a mom, I'm put under the microscope more times than not before people even give me a chance to say a word. My physical appearance leads people to assume that I can't possibly have the ability to take care of a toddler's needs, even though this misconception is the farthest thing from the truth. As mean as it may sound, I also realize that not everyone's opinion matters when the day is done. No one should live their lives based on the opinions of others. More specifically, I'm referring to those people who come into your life and play certain roles on a regular basis.

My disability has never stopped me from doing what I wanted to do before. In my eyes, being a parent wasn't going to be any different. The other misconception I've run into a lot is that people feel like because I've got certain physical limitations, I have to have mental limitations too. The news flash for them is that not everyone with physical limitations also have mental limitations. When they encounter me and my son it's almost like we've stepped into an episode of Ripley's Believe It or Not, and they aren't sure what to think. It certainly isn't my responsibility to worry about what others think but, this is just something I've learned to be prepared to confront. I see it like a layer of an onion that is parenting with a disability. What does it matter if I don't accomplish the tasks of taking care of my son or playing with him the way parents who aren't disabled can? Doesn't each parent bring their child up the way they see fit? Along that line of thinking, no one has a problem with that. Why isn't this seen in the same way? Is it possible that this broadens the scope of parenting in a way the mainstream hasn't seen before?

Maybe this is something society isn't really ready for but, the truth is that it's becoming more common than you might think. The fact is that with medical advances and people living longer after things like stokes and accidents that might leave them paralyzed, there are more parents with disabilities than people might realize. It's not like you're born disabled or have an accident that as a result causes disability and thoughts of having a career, relationships or even a family suddenly disappear. Realistically that just doesn't happen. In my opinion, the answer to all these questions is that the most important thing is ensuring the child's needs are met and that they're in a loving environment that will nurture them to become productive and well-rounded individuals.

In my life, I've come to understand that all questioning of my abilities isn't necessarily out of ignorance or prejudice. Some people just don't know how to approach certain subjects. They either make them feel uncomfortable or they think you'll feel uncomfortable talking about it. I like to think of it as a barometer of sorts. Curiosity plays a large part in people's actions, and to me, it's better to ask the questions that are on your mind in the most delicate way possible than to never broach the subject at all. If you're concerned that you may hurt the person's feelings, or that it might just come out wrong, starting the conversation in that way may ease your anxiety. Although notions of disability make people seem like their limitations stop them from doing everything they want to do, I'd like to be at the forefront and help people see a different side of what disability is to those who live with it on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, we live in a world that's full of misconceptions, predetermined notions and prejudices that rule our opinions. It's time we move ourselves forward and base our beliefs on facts. As cliché as it sounds, I try to answer people's questions so they understand I'm no different than them despite having to accomplish tasks in different ways. This certainly doesn't prevent me from being a parent in any way whatsoever. I've also learned sometimes people don't realize that different isn't necessarily bad or wrong, it may just help others live their lives within their abilities.

One day, I'd like people to push aside all the things they think I can't do and what they think prevents me from being a successful and nurturing parent, and instead see that my disability is one of my strengths. Despite my challenges I've set goals for myself and achieved them. I've also been known to defy what textbooks and even the Internet may say my disability should "look like" "in real life". Maybe that sounds like a kumbaya way of thinking but, it could help ignite a ripple effect that just might change the way society not only sees the realm of disability but also other less talked about issues too.

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