Mothers of disabled children who are living in poverty face multiple interlinked disadvantages in relation to gender, care, disability, and poverty. Yet, their experiences have been largely neglected in academic literature. This study explores how mothers from a poor urban settlement in South Africa manoeuvre, adapt, act and react in such a difficult context, and how they maintain or improve their own and their family's wellbeing. Our qualitative research with 30 mothers shows women's adaptation and agency in the trade-offs they make. Fuelled by social discrimination and abuse, mothers prefer to focus solely on the child, its care and the household in order to keep themselves and their child safe. Despite providing certain benefits that mothers value, these preferences perpetuate or indeed worsen their position in society, as they reinforce traditional gender structures and render them invisible to policymakers. This poses serious challenges for women's empowerment and gender-sensitive poverty-reduction policies.