Every day the Instagram algorithm feeds me posts and graphics about what it takes to be a good parent, or how to identify a bad parent.
And as I read the lists, I feel nothing but shame:
Be physically and emotionally present all the times.
Make sure you are taking time to get what you need.
Be gentle with your kids.
Ask for help.
Don’t argue in front of your kids.
Don’t send your kids to their rooms.
Don’t do too much screen time.
Don’t lose your temper….
There apparently is not an in-between.
You either get it right… or you get it completely wrong.
Do you know who all of this advice does NOT apply to?
Moms with disabilities raising children with disabilities.
Why? Because all of this advice is usually based of neurotypical mothers who have access to supports financially, physically, and physiologically.
Moms with disabilities may not have access to the same supports.
Our bodies may not work the same or have the same abilities.
Our brains may be wired, function, or damaged which makes them function differently.
I cheerfully announce to people that I am the world’s OKAYEST Mom.
Because that is what I am.
I am a Mother with both physical and neuro disabilities with trauma.
I lose my temper because my amygdala is smaller, have hit sensory overload, or autistic burnout.
I say nasty things when my brain hits Hulk mode because my brain bypassing the pre-frontal cortex and I can’t think before I speak.
Before diagnosis and intense therapy, I’ve been an abusive mom. I’ve hit, spanked, and more when I’ve gone into fight or flight mode.
I send them to their rooms and put them in time-away when I need them to stop what they are doing because they are harming someone, or I want to harm them.
I put the screen on for whole days when they or I am triggered, in overload mode, burnt out, or my physical disability is experiencing an autoimmune reaction.
These are things I cannot change about my brain and body.
I am a Mom with disabilities.
I also am an incredibly attuned parent because I have a hypervigilant and notice things other people don’t.
I always do the follow up work sitting with my kids apologizing, mending, and bonding when I lose my temper because I know I am responsible for my actions.
I always explain why I chose a discipline to our children because I want them to know why it was chosen depending on where our brains and bodies were all physiologically at.
I spend hours snuggling with my kids when I am in pain or experiencing burnout because if the least I can do is lay there and watch TikTok… then at least I am there. I have four different parenting toolboxes for each of my kids because all four of them are massively diverse in their disabilities, trauma, and physical needs. That’s SKILL.
We educate our kids on our family’s disabilities, why we function differently, the good, the bad, the ugly. This is normal every-day conversation for us. Because being disabled is not shameful. It is not bad. Having disabilities does not need to determine our worth as humans and certainty not as parents.
Parenting expectations are created for “the perfect storm” of accessibility economically, physically, physiologically, and systematically.
Lists… graphics… pamphlets… expert advice… professional advice… medical advice… all of it given from this space of accessibility is ableist.
Those of us who parent with disabilities need to take parenting expectations with a grain of salt. We need to find our own community of disabled parents. We need to find our own methods of support. We need to call out ableism in the accessibility of parenting supports. We need to reject the idea that an OKAY parent is a bad parent. And if we can’t show up for our kids in the way they need us to, we need to be able to have access to that support without shame, judgement, or consequences.
I am the world’s OKAYEST Mom. I parent with disabilities. One moment you will see my eyes bulging out of my head as my brain loses control and I scream at my kids. Five minutes later you will see me under a tangled pile of bodies snuggling, attuning, bonding, and laughing at our stupid punny jokes.
My disabilities aren’t going anywhere. Neither are my kid’s disabilities.
And I wouldn’t want them to.
Because we are the weirdest herd you have ever seen.
And we wouldn’t have it any other way.