I’m not going to start this post apologising for not posting in a while because, quite frankly, it backs up the point of the post. I’ve been busy; busy working, busy having fun with friends, busy having fun in the sun, busy going on holiday. Just busy having a life and for me that’s what I expect so I’m not sorry I’ve been too busy to write this #SorryNotSorry
Whether you have a disability or not we all have expectations of ourselves, our lives and of other people. For many what we expect of ourselves and what others expect of us often doesn’t marry up and for me this is both frustrating and baffling in equal measures. Recently a number of things have happened which have made me think about this and wonder; why in this day and age do we still limit others and ourselves by our expectations?
My sister and I are obsessed by an American series called “The Little Couple” about a short couple and their two adopted short children. When watching an episode of this a few weeks ago my mum got quite frustrated when the Dad explained that being short often means that it is assumed that you will be slower academically than the other children at school. Anyone who knows my mum will understand her displeasure so this got me thinking; why do some expect less from those with disabilities and is this ever a good thing?
I have been brought up to always challenge people’s perceptions of me and what I am able to do. My mum fought ferociously for me to go to the local grammar school that I was right for rather than sending me away to what was deemed a more disability appropriate school. No excuses have ever been good enough to stop me doing what my mum thought I should be doing, even now! For example, few years ago I was working away and was stuck there due to the snow, luckily my boss lives in the same village as me so said she would collect the charger for my electric chair whilst I stayed overnight down where we were delivering some training. On collecting the charger from home my boss told my mum I was doing well and working hard to which my mum said “Good, that’s what she’s there for.” Full stop. Still to this day it’s a running joke that my mum takes no nonsense! I’ve been told that I will have to work harder than everyone else but when it comes down to it what I can do and what I should expect of myself is no different to anyone else. And quite frankly, for that I will be eternally grateful to my mum for bringing me up this way. It has made me push myself harder than I may have been pushed otherwise and have therefore achieved everything that I have wanted to so in that sense maybe the fact that others expect less of me and my ingrained determination to prove them wrong is a good thing?
My family, my friends and those around me don’t expect any less of me than they do themselves, which is why when others do it’s almost a shock. Recently my mum was talking about me at work to her colleagues; they haven’t met me yet and I presume don’t know a huge amount about me other than the snippets my mum might have mentioned. They must have known about me having a disability, being a wheelchair user etc so when it was mentioned that I had a job one of her colleagues questioned my mum. She seemed surprised that I even had a job and then even more so to find that it was a fairly successful job and one that I’ve had for a while and has responsibility and influence.
This woman’s surprise does baffle me but then she doesn’t know me so really it says more about her and her own preconceptions of disability than it does about me and my own abilities. If the general public, who haven’t come into contact with disability that much, automatically think that having a disability makes you unproductive and unable to be part of the working world then that explains why we are in this welfare state mess. People with disabilities aren’t part of every day society and therefore will always be ‘other’, until disabled people are seen as Mary who works at the corner shop or John the guy who works in the office down the corridor from you, until we are seen as relatable and one of you, it will always be a surprise that we even exist.
I am an equal amongst my friends, the same is expected of me as I expect of them. We are all in our late (arghhh that’s scary!!) twenties, some have bought houses, some are married and some even have kids. And some like me are still ploughing on through that mid to late twenties life trying to avoid putting too much pressure on ourselves and enjoying life. I would like and expect to have all of those things just as much as they expect me to have them too, but by expecting them am I expecting too much? If my mum’s work colleague didn’t even expect me to work am I asking too much to want everything else that those around me have too, should I be happy that I’ve got a life that is busy and fun and productive?
I recently watched “Don’t Take My Baby” a one off drama on BBC Three as part of the BBC’s Defying the Label season, which is about a disabled couple having a baby, their struggle to keep their baby and stop it being taken into care. Do watch it on iPlayer if you can, it’s really great with some fantastic performances and the writing is so powerful. It goes without saying I sobbed throughout but it also made me think; if I had a baby and the father happened to have a disability too would I be able to look after it to the level it would need? I watch my friend’s with children chasing after them and looking bedraggled after endless sleepless nights and I wonder would I really be able to do that… really?
Having children is something in my future, not now but is definitely something I expect to be a part of my life and like everyone it is easier if it’s planned so the processes and necessary things can be put in place to ensure that I would be able to do it just as well as anyone else. That is no different to any able bodied person but as with anything to do with having a disability there is that added level of planning. So do I think I could look after my baby if both my partner and myself happened to have a disability? Absolutely. Would it take a bit of extra planning and some clever thinking through? Of course it will but then again, as discussed in a previous post, Preparation with a capital P planning is not only second nature to me, it’s in my being now so it would be out of character not to!
This feels a bit like a constant stream of consciousness rather than having much point but maybe that’s reflective of the subject matter? Everyone’s expectations, whether they are for yourself or are the expectations of others about you are fluid and dependant on the world around you and where you fit into it at that moment in time. For now, my expectations are never ending and I hope that yours are too because let’s face it the world is often what you make of it (sorry for the cheese but it’s true!) and I intend to make the most of absolutely everything at the moment and so should you!
Inspired, honest, frank and extremely well constructed comment from Sam. Inspiring, honourable, confrontational and powerfully relatable comment from Sam. Thank you Sam. My Mum used to urge us to, ‘NEVER lower your expectations – remember to enjoy your lives’. Women like her and you change the world.
As ever, you make me blush Cherry. Big thanks and love xx
Interesting and thought – provoking…. a good read!
Thanks very much Sarah. I’m glad you enjoyed it x