Shifting Attitudes: Perspectives of Personal Assistants

August 27, 2009 at 4:47 pm | Posted in Megan's Blogs, Ramblings, The Nitty-Gritty | Leave a comment
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We’ve just started with a new personal assistant in the morning for Barton. It’s great because some of my best writing flows before 8am, and it’s been a busy week, so there’s been a lot to do in the morning. I don’t have to worry about getting both of us ready for the day- I can go ahead with my schedule without worrying about what Barton needs. Being a married couple and adding a personal assistant in the mix can be quite a challenge. It’s can be a little weird, rolling out of bed to let someone into your house at 6am- it’s a pretty vulnerable position to be in, for both of us.

We noticed something interesting, though. Last week, Barton’s personal assistant began asking questions- how did Barton eat lunch, was he okay at home alone, how did he use the bathroom during the day, what agency/program (SDD) did he use, what did he do while I was gone all day. It wasn’t so much the questions, because we are so open and would gladly answer them, but the attitude behind them. While Barton told her he had a full-time contract and worked, she didn’t really believe him. (There we go again, bursting illusionary- bubbles).

Not only that, but his personal assistant began asking me questions- the same ones as well as some others. Not realizing that Barton has already told her, my answers matched his- although looking back later, I realized how I should have just deferred the questions back to Barton since they weren’t really mine to answer. Both Barton and I felt devalued, not just as individuals but as a married couple. As a man, and as a husband, he felt his assistant judging and mothering both of us.

For example, if Barton doesn’t want to eat lunch, he doesn’t eat lunch. He can make his own decisions. Now I can do the wife-nagging bit, but I’ve learned it doesn’t work very well with Barton- it really only pisses him off. So I’ve learned to back off & let him handle it. And if he needs help during the day, he has gotten to know neighbors in our community or figures out how to get the assistance he needs. And I trust Barton, in guiding our family with the decisions that he makes, like when we moved to North Carolina. 

This morning, Barton spoke with his personal assistant about his feelings, pretty openly, and amazingly, she was open enough to listen when he told her I wasn’t his mother, I was his wife. We don’t know if her attitude will shift, but I felt Barton become more empowered by addressing these issues head-on, and I felt her attitude shift as she heard him and she spoke about him being an inspiration to live so independently. There’s not a day that goes by where we aren’t learning how to shift perspectives, in others, in each other and in ourselves.

Barton Published an OpEdPiece, published in Raleigh’s News & Observer about how personal care assistants are often devalued in their work.  

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