This is the new blog by me, Sally Darby, founder of Mums Like Us — a network for disabled mothers. Thank you for taking the time to look! I hope you like it.
Mums Like Us is a Facebook group. You can find it here — https://m.facebook.com/groups/467609133571204 I created the group in April of this year. Since I had my first daughter in 2013, I had scoured the internet for the experiences of mums like me. I had found a huge number of brilliant mums both online and personally whose help and support in this whole mothering business had been truly invaluable. But where, I wondered, were the other mums who were doing this while living with disability? I cannot be the only one. Eventually, in March 2017, I found myself in a session at the Women of the World festival at London’s Southbank on disability. Two of the disabled women on the panel talked about their children. Here they are, I thought. These are the women who will know where I can find some support, some community. So I asked the question and was met with a surprising response. It seemed, and I continue to hope I’m wrong about this, that there was no space online for disabled mothers to share experiences, seek support and advice from each other and to be positive about doing this! I knew I wasn’t the only one. There are loads of disabled mums out there. They are parenting bloody well, whilst dealing with and living with some extra challenges. I felt that these mums might feel like me. They might want a place to talk with Mums Like Us. So that was how it started.
I was completely able bodied for 26 years before I became seriously visually impaired overnight. Three years later, I was diagnosed with MS and have subsequently experienced mobility problems. Coming to terms with the changes this brought to my life was not easy. I have often heard people call me “stoic” and “positive,” but in truth it was very hard. Having kids had, however, always been part of my life plans. My husband and I decided to go ahead and try to have children. It was not a decision we took lightly and there were many factors to be considered. I was aware, even then of the criticism I might face. I still believe there is much judgement and ignorance regarding the ability of disabled people to parent. The last four years have thrown me all the challenges you’d expect for any mum. My kids are my world and I parent them to the very best of my ability, as we all do. Sometimes it’s hard, but mostly it’s awesome. The world is full of mums doing it in very different circumstances. Single, married, gay, straight, old, young. We are all just mums doing our best.
Mums Like Us provides a supportive community for disabled mums, mums to be and those considering being mums. It is a space we can say, “this is shit,” but also, “this is amazing,” without fear of judgement. This I hope is also a place we can share resources, ideas and support for each other.
And now, I am starting this blog with the hope of achieving the following:
- To spread the word about the Facebook group. Mums Like Us is a lovely, supportive, optimistic, touching, inspiring network of Mums from all over the place. These are all Mums with disabilities sharing their experiences and advising each other on how to best navigate the minefield of parenting, with the additional challenges of disability. I hope eventually this blog will help spread news of this group to more Mums Like Us, maybe spur some brilliant Dad to create the undoubtedly needed ‘Dads Like Us,’ and with any luck, reach some people without disabilities and make them think about the experiences of disabled parents.
- To highlight some of the many important issues that are discussed on the group. This blog is anecdotal. I am not a researcher. I will not be quoting facts and figures at you or expressing my political views. I will not be reading mountains of books to intellectually stimulate you ( I have two kids under 5 and a job. I hardly have time to read the Chinese takeaway menu.) I will, however, be sharing the experiences of real women and the discussions that those experiences have raised. I might sometimes get a bit ranty or angry or sad but I hope to also show the immense joy, humour and positivity that I see on the group. I will start each post with a quote from the discussions on the group page. That quote will form the basis of the subject matter for the blog. I will talk about my personal experiences and those of others when I have received their permission to do so.
- Finally and perhaps most importantly, to generate a conversation. Mums Like Us is amazing. It is disabled mums supporting each other. But I sometimes think the conversation needs to extend beyond that group. High street retailers should be selling prams with wheel chair adapters, soft plays should be accessible, you shouldn’t have to crowd fund a cot you can put your baby in if you have a disability that prevents you from doing it with a ‘normal’ cot. People shouldn’t be asked if their kids are theirs, or patted and congratulated for leaving the house (true stories!) The message needs to get out there that disabled people do have sex, do procreate, do give birth, do have brilliant kids and bring them up like the absolute superstars they are. I am not suggesting for one minute that the general population is ableist or ignorant. But I do think this conversation is pretty muted. I’d like to turn up the volume.
So I hope this gives a flavour of what is to come. I am very nervous but excited at the prospect of writing a blog. I am not, and have never been a writer but I have found that now I have the passion to do it anyway! Thanks again for reading and see you in two weeks!