Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Disability and Work

In an earlier post I talked about the price of disability, and a fair number of readers chimed in with their stories of financial stress due to caring for a disabled loved one. There is no question that families of the disabled take a HUGE financial hit. We are a good example of that: although I have worked since 2005, when Benjy was 5 years old, I have never been able to have a "real" career. I've worked as an adjunct professor at various colleges, earning very little but having the flexibility I've needed to be Benjy's mom. And I've been grateful for the flexibility, if not for having a PhD and earning less than my undergrads will earn when they leave college with their Bachelor's degrees.

But have I done a good job? At times, yes. Other times, decidedly not. When you are not sure you can keep your child alive, or even just happy, on a daily basis, that impacts your work. When you are worried about him being bullied or her being stressed at school, when you know he's going to come home with tattered fingers or a swollen lip -- his own way of dealing with the awfulness of his days -- you simply cannot focus.

I'm thinking of this now, because the one class I am scheduled to teach in the spring has not filled up. Not even close. And I have to wonder why. Is it the ungodly hour? (It's a very early class.) Could be. Is it me? Could be. Whatever the reason that students are not flocking to take my class -- and this is the first time in six years that they haven't, probably because last semester and this have not been successful ones for me -- I am likely to have no work after December. And that is at once a wonderful and a terrible thought.

The wonderful thought is that I would not be stretched in too many directions. I would not be worrying about Ben's safety, his emotional state, and what would happen when I got him home, while trying to teach. I would not be interrupted, constantly, while trying to grade papers or prepare for class. And I could devote myself entirely to being there for him and Saskia. No more partial attention. No more distraction at work and at home.

The terrible thought is, as little as I bring home each month, it's all earmarked for something. Imagining a one-salary life for our family, even if salary # 2 has been so negligible, is a scary thing.

But: I guess I can see it as an adventure. Can we do it? As a matter of fact, I think we can. I don't know for sure it's going to happen, this loss of income. But I do know that, if it does, it will be a HUGE relief. Even if it throws the earth off its axis for a little while.

Readers, have any of you struggled at work due to family issues? Have you succeeded? Failed? And how did you feel about it? Let me know!

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