Makin’ your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got
By Dorothy Wilson ‘The Marion Mom’
I’ve officially been disabled for a year now.
When I applied for a handicapped placard, I didn’t realize the DMV would also issue me a new driver’s license with a handicapped symbol on it, and worse, that the expiration date was not extended.
So last October, I received the handicapped license.
Four months later, I spent my birthday, at the DMV posing for a license picture that will stay with me for the next four years. Of course, I was pregnant.
So that’s cool.
I decided I would only take advantage of the close parking spots on days when I really needed it — days when my back pain made it impossible, or at least intolerable, to walk the extra distance.
It was several weeks before I chose to take advantage of that blue hanger when I took my girls to see a comedienne/ preacher event at a church in Memphis.
We were late. Surprise, surprise.
The close lot appeared full, and I was faced with parking in Egypt.
The light bulb went off.
“Hey!” I exclaimed. “I can park in the handicapped section!”
My girls cheered because, well, they’re lazy.
But as we circled into the segregated area — they had an entire parking lot dedicated to those with limited mobility! — I saw I had chosen the wrong event to expect an available handicapped spot.
We definitely brought down the average age in attendance there.
There I learned not to expect an available spot at places like doctor’s offices, buffets, and yes, churches.
Which is kind of sad, because aren’t doctors and churches both in the business of healing?
I’ve even been stalked before, mostly by creepy old men who have nothing better to do than defend the close spaces, presumably because I appear young, vibrant, and not-at-all disabled from the driver’s seat.
But as soon as I hop down to the asphalt, my stenosis shuffle sends them scurrying away to their hidey- hole, awaiting their next able-bodied prey.
As I’ve descended into disability through the last five years, I’ve really struggled emotionally with the idea that I now have to depend on the generosity and goodwill of others to sustain me.
My husband, for example, spends most of his hours at work, and then comes home to meals that can’t be cooked and housework that can’t be finished due to my pain.
Seventeen years ago, when we married, I chose to stay home to manage the family affairs.
So I haven’t had a paying job in fifteen years, since our oldest was born, but I’ll wager I’ve contributed to the well-being and financial stability of this family of nine, now, during that time.
In fact, if I were to suddenly pop off to that glorious Beulahland where there is no sorrow, no pain, and no death, my husband would be faced with hiring a staff of servants to fulfill my absence.
He’d definitely need a chauffeur and a chef. A maid would be nice, although I have never touted my housekeeping, even before the injury took my ability to pick up the floor or do the dishes.
Not to mention, as homeschoolers, the kids would benefit from a full-time semi-private tutor and a daycare for the youngest.
Boy, the imaginary dollar signs are starting to add up. So I’m saving financially by providing these services for my family as a homemaker.
But our society doesn’t see homemaking as a viable career. Sure, it doesn’t produce income, but the services provided by a fulltime stay-at-home parent cannot be denied.
At one point in my marriage, with five children under age five at home and my husband working 100 hours each week in a startup, I begged him to help me with housework.
I simply couldn’t keep up the house and the kids at the same time.
Cleaning a room with the kids in tow was like brushing my teeth while opening a bag of Oreos!
He suggested we hire a babysitter so I could clean the house.
“Ugh,” I replied, nose scrunched in disgust, “I don’t want to pay someone to play with my kids!
I want to play with my kids!”
So then he suggested hiring a maid.
But how many of you have taken a wad of dollar bills and flushed them down the toilet? That’s how it feels to pay someone to clean a house that will stay clean literally for only 20 minutes. (And then you’d have to plunge the toilet, too.) I remember one time deep-cleaning the small bathroom, proud that my preschoolers entertained themselves for 30 whole minutes, only to find they’d wandered into the kitchen and poured out a mound of Rice Krispies and Cheerios to kick around the room.
Now, a decade later, I would experience tremendous pain either cleaning the bathroom or sweeping up cereal, as well as pretty much all housewife-related activities.
Did you know that a disabled homemaker doesn’t qualify for disability through a spouse’s contributions to social security?
Along the same lines, I was a little surprised to be asked at the interview for a hardship driver’s license if both my husband and I worked “outside the home.”
Telecommuting still counts as working — real income-producing work.
Just because you’re on the phone at your home instead of at your office doesn’t mean you can stop everything to go pick your kid up from soccer practice, you know what I mean?
I have come to the point that I feel blessed to have been able to stay at home to serve my family throughout the ups and downs of the decade of my husband’s small-business ownership.
Even on bad days, when the pain prevents me from even dressing myself in the morning, I’m so very thankful that my children pitch in with housework, and even cooking.
This phase of my life has led me to wonder how our society as a whole would be different if we supported the career choice of homemaker in ideology and policy.
In the words of your favorite preacher, “And all that was just the introduction…” I actually don’t have a conclusion to the premise, but I’m certainly entertaining ideas.
Meanwhile, I’ll be rocking my baby in the glider, because that’s my favorite job in the world.
Dorothy Wilson lives in Marion with her husband Chris as they enjoy all of the adventures life with their seven children brings. Her column appears monthly in the Marion Ledger, with reprints appearing in the online edition of the Evening Times.