I am the mother of two children – Nicholas (22) and Natalie (18). Nicholas has severe cerebral palsy and lives at home with 24 hour care. Natalie is a student of Diaspora and Trans-national studies at Trinity College, University of Toronto. My husband, Jim Wright, is Canada’s High Commission to the UK and so currently, we live in London.
Here’s a picture of us at home!
For most of Nicholas’ life, I looked after him myself. But now that he has full-time care at home, I have the opportunity to reflect on our family experience and what it may mean to the rest of society. It is the big questions that interest me. For example, I wonder if, when presented with a tax bill that includes some of the costs of my son’s care, a taxpayer in another province will ask “Why should I care? Why should I pay?”
To that taxpayer, I want to answer that to give and receive care is good for all of society. It is a life-enhancing activity. And I want to explore the wider consequences of saying, “I don’t care and I won’t pay”.
Reflecting on my personal experience has prompted me to ask myself, “What do I want my family to be? What do I want my community and my country to be? What is the relationship between someone who is not perceived as contributing to the economy and the state?”
These questions do not only relate to disability – they relate to mothers and children, the chronically unemployed, the aged AND people with disabilities. They relate to anyone in the community who is vulnerable to social exclusion and in need of extra help from someone else to thrive. By my informal estimate, that could very well be close to half the population.
I hope that readers of my blog will be keen to comment! People like Amartya Sen, John Ralston Saul, Jean Vanier, and Al Etmanski have already created the sparks to ignite a national discussion. I hope that my reflections can stoke the fire and that all may gather round it to share stories and ideas of belonging here.