It’s an awful thing to admit, but if I’m honest sometimes I feel like I’m a stuck at home mum – not a stay at home one. Because when it comes to doing anything with my two children outside of our house on my own, I really struggle. Mainly because it’s impossible to make sure that they’re both safe. And, well – that’s the priority isn’t it?
Brody has no danger awareness. And he’ll happily attempt to run off if I let go of his hand. Shouting “stop” or calling his name goes over his head. He cannot talk and struggles to follow basic instructions. His physical disabilities mean that his legs tire easily and he can’t walk distances (we thankfully have a wheelchair). Sometimes he’ll simply refuse to walk and he is now so tall and heavy that I just can’t carry him around.
Our one year old Sydney can walk and talk quite well for her age. But she is very much a typical toddler – stubborn and a perfectionist when it comes to almighty tantrums (she’s going to give the terrible twos a run for their money). So I can’t yet go out without her buggy.
So how do I go out with them on my own?
To be honest, it’s not even an easy task getting them in and out of the car safely on my own a lot of the time.
I can’t push a wheelchair and a buggy at the same time. Brody is far too big for a double buggy and even if he wasn’t, they would take great delight in walloping each other if they sat next to each other (ah brother and sisterly love).
Simple things like walking them round the block are a no go because if Brody refuses or cannot walk, carrying him isn’t an option. So I just can’t risk it.
I’ll admit I haven’t mastered the art of “wearing” Sydney – as I know that this is something some people can do. Even if I did, getting her in and out of the bloody thing whilst trying to keep her brother safe would not be an easy task (*hides from baby wearers*).
In a park or at soft play, the lack of danger awareness thing and Sydney being so little means that there is no way I can leave either of them to play unsupervised.
Supermarket trolleys (and I am eternally grateful for the Firefly GoTo ones trust me) only fit one child, so the supermarket is out of bounds.
The sad thing is I don’t even feel confident anymore going to friends’ houses with the two of them. I can’t sit down and leave them to wander and I can’t follow them both when they go in different directions. Most friends don’t need stairgates anymore or don’t have to worry about things like hot drinks being grabbed or breakables being within reach.
The long and short of it is this – I need to ensure that my children are safe and if I’m on my own with them being at home is the only way I can do that without help (and I hate asking for help).
I am eternally grateful to Brody’s nursery because when he is there it means that both he and Sydney currently have more opportunities to do things other than being stuck in the house together playing with me or watching YouTube and fighting. And when he isn’t at nursery, without my Mum I would have quite possibly lost my sanity since Sydney was born. I kid you not.
At the weekend, it of course all changes when Daddy is home, but we admittedly sometimes stay at home as a family too because Brody is so unpredictable when out and about these days. We like to go to as many places as possible and we don’t want them missing out on anything. But sometimes his disabilities and sensory issues, combined with not being able to tell us how he feels or what he wants, makes it hard to keep him happy. It’s a constant guessing game. And it’s frustrating for everybody. We’re slowly getting better at knowing what places might and might not work – but we quite often get it wrong.
Home is our safe place. It’s our happy place too. But sometimes the situation can leave me feeling utterly useless and like a crap Mum. And it makes me feel a million times worse if people don’t get it, which quite often they don’t. Or they compare it to having typical children, which is always helpful.
I am hopeful of course that this situation isn’t forever and that one day it will get easier. Maybe Brody’s understanding will improve. And when Sydney grows older she’ll be able to walk alongside his wheelchair if need be and will thankfully have awareness of dangers and be able to understand dos and don’ts (I know she won’t always conform).
Who knows, maybe one day I’ll also be able to return to work when they’re both at school (I’ll factor in appointments and different schools in different villages somehow).
But right now, some days I am pretty much a stuck at home mum – who tries not to feel constantly guilty about it or care what others think.
But I do.
A version of this blog originally appeared on Family Fund.