Money For Nothing
According to the website https://www.accessliving.org/newsroom/blog/ableism-101/:
Ableism is the discrimination of and social prejudice against people with disabilities based on the belief that typical abilities are superior. At its heart, ableism is rooted in the assumption that disabled people require ‘fixing’ and defines people by their disability. Like racism and sexism, ableism classifies entire groups of people as ‘less than,’ and includes harmful stereotypes, misconceptions, and generalizations of people with disabilities.
In the 21 years I have had a movement disorder because of a stroke, I have been dealing with various forms of ableism. Perhaps the most painful form has been being treated as “less than” by my own family. My husband resisted adapting to life with my disability and moved out five years ago. But in the 16 years we were together following the stroke, he modeled disrespect for me to our sons who now continue to treat me that way.
I relate deeply to this story by Maria Palacios from the Disabled Parenting Project’s website where she describes feeling like a shadow while others cared for her young children:
I came home from the hospital in a wheelchair after I had my youngest son and have lived with ableism from both of my sons. They are adults now and inspired me to write about how they continue to treat me as “less than”.:
“Get a job, Mom.”, they tell me. They are my 21 and 23 year old sons. They seem to be under the impression that I don’t have a job because I am lazy and would prefer to be dependent on their father to support me. They often accuse me of not being aware of the value of money because I haven’t worked outside the home since 1994 when I was laid off from my last career job.
They also know I have been collecting Social Security Disability benefits since 2001 after I became disabled from a severe stroke at age 35. I was 6 months pregnant with the 21 year old at the time so he has never known me as an able bodied person. They think this is “free money”.
Whenever I buy anything they accuse me of freeloading off their father who moved out five years ago. It is hard for them to understand that he is legally bound to support me in the style in which I was accustomed for the 28 years we were married.
Intellectually I’m sure they know it isn’t actually worth it for me to try to work. They have admitted they wouldn’t hire me for jobs I’ve applied for such as a hostess at a restaurant because I limp and carry a cane. They will acknowledge employers are likely turned off by this if I walk into an office to apply for a job as I once did at the local police station. They mock me for having a degree in marketing from NYU that is no longer useful as far as getting a job. “Good thing you went to college, Mom. It did you a lot of good.”
Part of the issue is I look normal except for the way I walk and not having use of my left arm and hand. My children understand I am smart.
My sons seem to like to pretend I have it made because I don’t have to go to work and live a pretty comfortable lifestyle when in fact this has come at an enormous cost through my losses of a functioning body and a workable marriage.
I think it is time for me to stop trying to justify my existence to them. I earned my Social Security benefits and I expect my husband to continue to support me whether we are living together or not. It is valuable for our sons to see it is ok for me to live my life without having to worry about supporting myself. This realization will hopefully come with maturity.
© Victoria Ponte 2020.