Parenting is commonly referred to as the “hardest job.” Add a disability to the circumstances for mom or dad and things get more challenging, but not impossible.
That has been the reality for Janie Gaudet and family for going on six years. While living in Vancouver in 2010, Janie suffered an incomplete spinal cord injury after falling from a roof. At the time, she ran a business with her husband, Steve Gaudet.
Incredibly Janie doesn’t recall feeling fear about how life and parenting would work from a wheelchair.
“I wasn’t afraid. I just knew things were going to be a lot more difficult.”
“I was in the hospital for a few months. Being away from your kids is horrible and at the beginning of course, she was kind of scared to come near me,” Janie said, referring to one of her two daughters, Danielle, who was just two years old at the time.
It didn’t take long before Danielle showed just as much determination as mom to make this a good life.
“She was just kicking my wheelchair around and deciding she was going to be boss of this whole situation,” Janie recalled.
There were blessings in disguise, according to Janie, such as living in a city with recovery support and others with spinal cord injuries, which she found at GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre in Vancouver.
WATCH BELOW: Janie recalls a terribly ironic moment, post accident
Having an incomplete spinal cord injury meant Janie could gain some mobility back, starting off full-time in a wheelchair and eventually learning to stand and walk with the assistance of special canes.
She realized over time that it was alright to ask for help, and every day she made a conscious choice about what to spend her energy on. Some days it meant choosing a clean house, or making a meal, or a grocery trip. But not all of the above. Janie accepted she would have to do things in smaller amounts.
Janie’s daughter Danielle, 7, knows pitching in at their house is not done to get allowance or gifts, its necessary and part of being a family.
“I take out the bottom of the dishwasher and unload (it). Sometimes I help load it. Sometimes I help my mom find her keys and load the groceries,” she said.
Danielle rolls out the recycling and garbage. She goes with her mom to the community mailbox to unlock it and reach what’s inside.
Describing what she admired about her mom, Danielle said “Mommy’s positive.”
Waking up and starting the day with a positive attitude has been the household mandate. Janie’s family have been her biggest cheerleaders, and vital support system.
Together they made the move to Warman, Sask. Janie, husband Steve and daughter Danielle moving into a home they modified with a chairlift, wheelchair accessible bathroom, and pullout kitchen cabinets. Older daughter Jaylene and her husband Alex moved in next door.
Staying positive and receiving help didn’t mean Janie never had a moment where she felt frustrated. Her biggest pet peeve is when people who can walk take up accessible parking spaces to just “run in” for a minute.
According to Janie, only twice since her accident did she curse her disability.
“One day Danielle was missing after school for a short time, and that day I remember cursing my disability because I couldn’t run around and look for her. I couldn’t do that,” Janie said.
“The second time I cursed my disability was when my husband got hurt and I couldn’t help him get into the hospital.”
In 2016, Steve Gaudet injured both heels in an accident.
Dealing with a temporary disability put more strain on the family, but they managed. How?
“Determination and willpower,” Janie laughed.
“We’re living like we should have been when we were 86, like Oh honey I can’t get up, can you get that for me? No sorry, I’m stuck here… Danielle?’”
Part of parenting with a disability has been all the teachable moments. Danielle especially, because she was so young, developed a natural sense for being helpful and inclusive.
WATCH BELOW: Janie explains how her daughter has adapted to her parenting with a disability
Janie’s grown used to stares and strangers asking questions, such as “do you have MS?”
Remove the stereotypes about disability, and life is still life. Family is family, and parenting is still the hardest job.
“This is just part of our life and a lot of great things have come since I broke my back, and a lot of things I have in my life because I broke my back. So I can’t complain about too much,” Janie said smiling.