Having a child with a disability made me a better person

RSA Ability Employee Resource Group member Tony Bough shares lessons from his parenting journey.

A friend of mine who is slightly older and has a family life similar to mine (in that he is a parent of someone with a disability) once said to me that – having a child with a disability made him a better person.

 

I was new to supporting a child in that way when he said this, but I can say that I agree. I’ve always drifted through life and the other two kids sorted themselves out but when my youngest was born I learned to care more. I learned to notice more. I learned to tolerate more. I’m pretty laid back anyway but I 100% learned to extend all of those things.

 

Having a child with a disability made me a better person. It made me accept people even more without judgment. My daughter is fun and funny and loving etc. She’s a child who has a few extra needs. I do sometimes worry that I spend too much time on her and not enough time on my other children which I guess is natural. Natural parental guilt!

 

The RSA culture of openness, honesty and being a people-shaped employer has really helped. My leader has been very supportive and understanding when I need to take short notice holidays or alter my hours, also generally by listening and talking to me about the additional responsibilities of my personal life. This flexibility has been a massive help and I take comfort knowing that the ability to ask for reasonable adjustments and other alterations to my work-life balance is an option through RSA’s more formal flexible working policy. The way in which RSA accepts that our employees are different, with different work-life needs supports me in terms of feeling confident.

 

It’s made it clear to me that being around people who are not like you is good for you.

I want to shout out to all of you who care for others as much as to those of you who are facing your own challenges around health or disability or any other challenge. You are awesome.

Here’s what I’ve learned since my daughter has been born:

  • Love is actually hard because I had to earn my daughter's love and acceptance.
  • You do need to take time to do something you enjoy every day no matter how long you get to do it. You need to relax and unwind. Especially before you try and sleep!
  • I do really need to take a pause at times and look around and appreciate things. The sights the smells, everything really. I get lost in doing things and sometimes forget to do that.
  • Life is about connection and the more we connect the happier we are. We are all social beings in our own ways.
  • Someone has it better than you and worse than you.
  • A piece of advice I got as a child was that when you see someone and don’t know what to say or do. Pause and smile and maybe say “hi, how are things”. That tends to work in most circumstances. In work and in general.
  • Bullet points are long and boring and I’m not sure why I started doing them in this article. But hey – this is where we are – smile!

RSA Ability is an employee resource group set up for the purpose of championing and promoting disability inclusion and in particular, focusing on strengths, abilities, and the wellbeing of all individuals. ERG members have been sharing their stories to raise awareness of the sometimes hidden struggles and successes, and to educate and foster solidarity. We believe diversity and difference make us stronger and better at what we do. I joined the RSA Ability ERG as a wellbeing expert and to help support with my knowledge of interventions and adjustments for health reasons. The speakers have been fantastic it’s helped me to better understand the experience of others and see my own family’s needs in new ways.