When I Asked My Kids What They Thought About Having a Mom With a Disability


Hello, I’m Just Mom.

My teenage daughter called me that — Just Mom — with a shrug, nonchalant-like. She didn’t mean it disparagingly. It was simply fact. To her, this is how she sees me.

I took it as a compliment, one of the best I’ve ever received. Why?

I had asked her what she thought about having a mother with a disability. I have cerebral palsy, spastic hemiplegia to be specific. The muscles on the left side of my body are tight, constricted, and I can’t grip with my left hand. When I’m tired, I walk with a limp.

I had been reading an article about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the civil rights issues tackled by that historic legislation — employment, fair housing, accessibility. How I felt about my disability was on my mind, and I was curious about her perspective.

Her answer was so wonderfully anticlimactic (with a shrug, even!) that it made me pause. What did I expect? I had no idea. But to be Just Mom — not Disabled Mom, not Mom-With-a-Disability — it was a good feeling.

So I asked my son, too, just to see.

mom holding sleeping baby
Liz holding her son as an infant

He forgets. Even when looking right at me, with the constricted left arm that to me is so obviously different, he said he forgets that I have a disability. It’s not until I ask for help — a jar to open, a box that needs two hands to lift — that he remembers. I’m the one who badgers him about school and I’m the one who buys the orange juice he likes to guzzle with the fridge door hanging open. He doesn’t see the disability, he sees Just Mom.

I love my kids. I wish I could see myself like they do, with no disability. But for me, cerebral palsy is part of my identity. I was born with it, it’s just who I am. It’s always there. Unlike my son, I can’t forget.

Which is why articles about disabled issues, like the ADA, catch my eye. Despite having adapted nicely throughout my life with no real barriers because of the cerebral palsy — college, job, family, bills and so on — I still consider myself part of the disabled community. I’ve felt the sting of discrimination, ridicule and being judged not on my ability, but on that “dis” in front of it. It’s unfortunate and unfair, and despite that celebrated ADA, we still have a long way to go in terms of true equality.

So in a way it was uplifting to have my kids so casually disregard my disability. They honestly see past it, and while cerebral palsy will always be part of who I am, I’ve now learned — through my children’s eyes — it’s not all that I am.

Hello, I’m Just Mom.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: Describe a time you saw your disability, disease or mental illness through the eyes of someone else. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected]. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Cerebral Palsy

Why I View My Cerebral Palsy as a Blessing

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a neurological disorder that prevents the brain from communicating to the muscles. There are different types of cerebral palsy, but everyone with the disorder goes through challenges that affect the muscles in some way. Aside from the muscles not being able to function properly, there are some cases in which a person might [...]
mandy's friend bill in an orange shirt and hat holding jars of candy

When a Jar of Candy Sparked a Lifelong Friendship

We all know the famous story of E.T., the lovable alien who was led out of the woods by a handful of Reese’s Pieces, brought out of the dark by trails of the Halloween-esque colored treats to the safety and friendship of the beloved Elliott. For someone like me being unfamiliar with being out on [...]

Teen With Cerebral Palsy Has Powerful Message for Parking Spot Shamers

Robyn Lambird is an 18-year-old Australian video blogger whose YouTube clips have prompted all kinds of important discussions about disability. Her latest video covers accessibility. “Just because you’re disabled doesn’t mean that you use a wheelchair,” she begins. “Sometimes it has nothing to do with your legs or your mobility at all.” Lambird notes that many disabilities and [...]

The World Was Not Made for Me

When you have a physical limitation, to get through a day requires so much awareness of what is around you. How long will it take to get to meetings? Can you enter a building in the front? Maybe you have to go through the only accessible door, ending up on the opposite end the elevator is on, [...]