After an accident in 1998, Wanda Boshoff’s life changed dramatically. Here she proudly shares her experiences as a mother with a disability.
Until Sunday morning, December 13, 1998, I was a regular wife, a mother of a seven-year-old daughter and a four-year-old son. I was an occupational therapist with a growing private practice, a busy schedule and a full life. By lunch time, however, my life and the lives of everyone around me changed irrevocably. We were no longer a “regular” family: our new family life began with a wheelchair as a permanent accessory.
Facing the new reality
My husband was a member of the South African Police Service at the time and worked unpredictable hours. He could leave home at a moment’s notice and was often away for days at a time. The children were used to their independent mom holding the reins when it came to household tasks, schooling and shopping.
After the accident, it felt like those days were over. Lying in my hospital bed, I was sure I would not be able to remain the active parent I was before. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew I wanted my children to have a life as close as possible to what they were used to.Despite initial despair about her daughter’s wedding day in December 2018, Wanda said the special day was “just as magical as it would have been as a regular mom”.
One vs four people with disabilities
A couple of months after I was discharged, I visited the CEO of QASA, Ari Seirlis, who was an acquaintance at the time. As an experienced wheelchair user, he shared a lot of solid advice with me, but one sentence was pivotal in my approach to my new life as a wheelchair user, especially in the roles of parent and spouse.
“You decide if you are going to be the only person with a disability or if there are going to be four people with disabilities in your family,” he said.
No way was I going to allow my situation to disable my children, my husband or any other member of my family or my social circle. There would be no pity parties.
Finding my wheels
To say that there was an adjustment period would be putting it mildly. Independence took time to develop. There were no miraculous strides (excuse the pun) – only slow progress. But at least there was progress. There were even surprising positives along the way!
I recall fetching my son from pre-school on my own for the first time. I always used to wait for him to exit his classroom and run towards me, and I’d scoop him up in my arms and carry him to the car. Those days were over – but what could have been soul-crushingly sad unexpectedly turned into a positive.
Pretty soon my visits to the school to fetch him created quite a bit of envy among the other pre-schoolers: He got to ride on Mom’s lap to the car, while most of the other kids had to walk or simply be carried by their parents!
The harder I worked to be an involved parent, the luckier I became. My family made and still make parenting from a wheelchair easy. My kids allowed me to be their mom and I insisted on being the most active parent despite the countless daily challenges. As a family, we endure the stares, the comments and the intolerance as much as we do the praise and well-wishing.
It’s all about attitude. If you want to be an involved parent, be one. Be present, no matter what your circumstances. Parenting is not about how you get around, it’s about being around.
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.