There are a few phrases you will hear in society about what some people consider to be an adult or independent. You will especially see this as a re-occurring theme on autism parenting related blogs or forums.
“My child is severely autistic and will never be able to live on their own”
“My child will have to depend on me or other care for the rest of their lives, and will never be independent.”
“Stop giving your adult children money or supporting them all you are doing is enabling them”
While in some cases on that last statement I can agree that some adults take advantage of their parents and we are living in a very spoiled society. However, it is not true in ALL cases and even that topic is worth discussing in my opinion, but not for the reasons you may think or what this post is about so back to the topic. Such statements are made often about a child or when an adult has a lifelong disability or condition that they need some extra help.
The assumption that a person who lives on their own is considered an adult and independent by default, but adults who depend on or need support to conduct their daily life is dependent, or worse not an adult is very skewed. This is because it leaves no room for gray areas or well reality.
I will give you a few scenarios of gray areas and somethings we need to consider when discussing dependent vs independent.
An elderly woman or man who is in poor health lives on their own. He or she has daily visits to help with household chores, personal duties and maybe has people bring them groceries or helps with other daily needs.
Is he or she still considered independent or dependent? Maybe something else society has failed to consider.
How about a personal scenario?
Before I met my husband I lived on and off with my parents. I tried living on my own, to come home few months or so later.
I currently depend on my husband for financial support (hopefully not for much longer, fingers crossed I get a job ASAP) I always have and will continue to depend on him for a lot, financially or not. So am I considered dependent or independent because I no longer live under my parents roof, but still have continued help and support? Oh wait…I know the answer. When I get a job, I will be considered independent, right?
Currently I see us as a interdependent couple. He is bringing in financial stability and the pay checks, while I make grocery lists make sure we leave the store with everything we need, make to do lists, take care of anything for him I can, I do household chores and try to think of dinner ideas etc. Even then, he is just as more likely to make his own phone calls, help out with the chores, and a lot of the time cooks us dinner.
Here is where it gets tricky…We are currently living in his parent’s basement (save the living in your mom basements jokes plx) while we went through the long process of getting me legal in another country so I can work, pay off the lawyer, government fees and so fourth until we can get financially stable to find a place of our own. So even though at this time we were not financially stable to live on our own and pay thousands of dollars to get two people legal in the same country (something we have just accomplished that we have been wanting to do our entire relationship) and we live in a place where we have our own place basically (kitchen, rooms, bathroom etc) so we carry out all our daily activities independently, pay bills and so on. Are we considered dependent? Okay maybe for now we fit the definition, but in some circumstances we are very independent.
So was I never completely dependent because I never successfully lived on my own without support in some way for very long. Or was I only independent part time? Or am I now considered independent because of my husband? What about when he and I lived with my parents, but I was working just about full time and paying all the bills? Even though I was living with them, doesn’t mean I was financially supported. In fact, it was quite the opposite which I don’t care to get into right now. Was everyone dependent including my parents?
Does that mean some of us live more interdependent than others? That Independence and dependence are extremes where no one actually lives because at one point or another, everyone needs support or help sometimes, just in different degrees or at different times.
The opinions of dependence/independence/interdependence especially those from parents of disabled children is one that is surrounded with intense emotions. Parents worry or decide long in advance that their children will never be or live independently.
Disabled adults assert or at least attempt to assert their right to direct their own choices daily and in life, regardless of support or help they need to carry out these choices.
Often disabled adults themselves will agree with others that independence should be a valid goal for every human being.
If we all agree that everyone can be interdependent, why are the disabled held to some fictional standard of being entirely independent?
What does independent mean when we are talking about the disabled?
I can express that it doesn’t mean living alone, doing everything by yourself or for yourself with no support system or help. So why is that the standard that many of us, especially those with disabilities are pushed towards as a goal to achieve adulthood?
Independence means having control over one’s choices and one’s life. A person who is considered an adult legally could choose to live with their parents or other family members and still lead an independent life. How well that works will of course depend on the families understanding, support and respect of their disabled family member. However, a person freely living with their family, a caregiver or whatever it may be is still an independent adult.
I often find myself keeping score because I depend on my husband for daily things and tasks. Having to rely on him to help with or to do things that I use to do for myself is a personal definition of dependence.
These feelings most certainly do not come from a lack of independence because I am still free to to make my own choices and I am able to direct my own life as much as the average adult.
It also doesn’t come from not being able to acknowledge that there are just some things I will always need support with or just somethings I am plain terrible at. I have made peace with that a very long time ago.
Not from the illusion that I’d thrive living on my own either. As it is something I’ve never managed to do my whole life, at least for an extended period of time.
I have no idea where I am going with this point, and in some places I went way off topic, but here is my conclusion when it comes to dependent, vs independent and society’s view of such topics.
According to society rather you are succeeding at your own standards, and are truly happy and satisfied with your own life you are considered dependent or an adult child if you depend on your parents for financial support, but probably only financial support. The rest they probably won’t argue because we are a monetary driven society where money equals happiness and success, right?! Or even better you get to call yourself an adult.
I don’t know how many times I will repeat this in the future, but I will warn you all now this next point will become a very common theme on my blog.
Society has the tools to help and/or support disabled people to be both successful and happy according to their standards. The problem is society’s idea of what happiness and success means is very skewed. We can argue who is dependent or independent all we want, but all I give a damn about is the human is successful and happy according to their standards. I don’t think independence is the only defined goal to achieve that and further more the discussions of such are very self serving that leaves many questions and gray matters.
I am unable to find a clear definition of independence or dependence. I also cannot define the relationship between the two. Interdependence I think is an interesting thought and perhaps something intriguing I brought to the table when discussing such topics. Considering no one on this planet is truly independent. Most of us buy our very basic needs, very few grow or hunt our own food, make our clothes or build our own shelter. I bet these adults that know so much though about dependence vs independence though would argue I am being extreme with that remark, or grasping at straws. Which is why I took the time to hopefully explain a few different scenarios and thoughts here. Also the more we advance humans and this is just a personal observation it feels everyone is becoming more dependent, not less.
I am done with this post and I am also done with trying to find the definition between dependence, independence and the relation between the two.