All parents experience a degree of guilt about their shortcomings, but is it any different for a parent with a disability?
Guilt is a concept most parents experience at some point. Whether it is because they feel they work too much, miss sport events too often or aren’t the best cook, guilt rears its ugly head in every parent’s lifetime. It’s no different when parenting from a wheelchair … or maybe it is?
Looking back on my early days as a parent in my chair, I vividly remember having intense feelings of guilt. However, that guilt didn’t come from the same place as my earlier guilt-related feelings as a “walking” parent. These new feelings came from a more profound, heavier place.
Will I be good enough?
Like a lot of other parents with a range of various challenges, I had so many concerns about being “good enough” as a “wheelchair parent” to my kids. I was riddled with internalised questions like: How would I play with them?
How would I pick them up when they needed a hug? How would I catch them when they fell? Even worse, how would I rush them to the emergency room if they were hurt?
Challenge the dark days
There were dark days when I felt so guilty for burdening them with having a “substandard” parent. During those days my negative self-talk and limiting self-belief had the best pity parties, leading me to believe that my children would be better off without me.
With a little help, and mustering my professional background, I soon realised that I – like any walking parent – needed to work on checking my unrealistic feelings of guilt. I needed to weigh them, measure them and the minute I found them wanting I had to kick them to the kerb!
Keeping it real
So I did, and it worked. Like any other parent, there were things I could and couldn’t do for my kids. There were, however, other things that my children experienced and learnt as a result of my newfound parenting role. And as strange as it may sound, I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.
My son couldn’t run into my arms as I pick him up and twirl him around like I used to do after a day at preschool. But he could run and jump onto my lap, catching the coolest lift to the car while being envied by all of his friends!
The moment I reminded myself and wrapped my head around the fact that every household has challenges, things started getting better. When I realised that my challenges as a parent were perhaps mainly physical and that we could work them out as we went along, I could let go of my irrational guilt about parenting from my chair.
I could relax in the knowledge that it did not take anything away from my being a mom, being there to nurture and to care in my own way, and that it would be good enough for my kids.
After all, it’s about just keeping it real and remembering that parenting is not about how you get around, it’s about being around.
Do you experience deep feelings of guilt because of your challenges? How do you deal with those feelings?
Wanda Boshoff is a wife, mother and qualified occupational therapist who also happens to be a paraplegic. Thanks to her experience in these fields she is able to assist others in similar situations. Before her accident in 1998, she ran a successful private practice specialising in children – particularly those with childhood-development and school-related issues. Over the past 20 years she has been running her own businesses, and become a blogger and the owner of a guest house.