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Constructing the (M)other

Narratives of Disability, Motherhood, and the Politics of «Normal»


Edited By Priya Lalvani

Constructing the (M)other is a collection of personal narratives about motherhood in the context of a society in which disability holds a stigmatized position. From multiple vantage points, these autoethnographies reveal how ableist beliefs about disability are institutionally upheld and reified. Collectively they seek to call attention to a patriarchal surveillance of mothering, challenge the trope of the good mother, and dismantle the constructed hierarchy of acceptable children. The stories contained in this volume are counter-narratives of resistance—they are the devices through which mothers push back. Rejecting notions of the otherness of their children, in these essays, mothers negotiate their identities and claim access to the category of normative motherhood. Readers are likely to experience dissonance, have their assumptions about disability challenged, and find their parameters of normalcy transformed.

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Chapter Thirteen: Mother Is Wise: How Disability Constructs Maternal Identity (Linnéa Franits)


chapter 13

Mother Is Wise

How Disability Constructs Maternal Identity

Linnéa Franits

My mother was 38 years old when she gave birth to me, and I was 38 years old when she passed away. I noticed this numerical curiosity when reflecting about the timeline of our lives, and found it interesting that I arrived in her life at the chronological midpoint that neatly divides her days into those without me and those with me. Using the same logic, I might identify the present time in my life as my days without her, but that would not be accurate as she is still with me in many ways, including the ways in which I am wise about disability. I use the term “wise” in the manner that Goffman (1963) introduced it in his classic work on stigma, and specifically as it applies to living with disability. That is, “being wise” is having intimate knowledge of a person’s lived experience of being marginalized and stigmatized because of disability (Cochrane, 2014; Goffman, 1963). This knowledge is indirect, or what Cochrane (2014) terms a vicarious narrative, and is unique to those in close proximity to the person with disability. In this sense, my mother and I both became wise because of my sister, Annalise, who was a woman with disability.

I was born into a disability story that had already begun to unfold, as my sister’s neurological malfunctions predate my birth by two...

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