Tuesday, November 5, 2013

According to the internet, I am a lazy, worthless piece of crap. Just wanted you to know.

I took WIC when my children were babies. I was 22 years old and had a set of twins. My husband walked out on me when I was pregnant, but since I "spread my legs" and got pregnant, then it was my responsibility. My ex-husband paid very minimal child support for a while and then quit altogether. My son, who was very sick, required a special type of formula. I couldn't breastfeed as I had given birth far too soon and never had any milk come in. My son had to eat. I took daycare assistance too. My paycheck didn't cover the cost of two infants being in daycare while I worked. Literally, the entire amount I made for the entire month wasn't enough. That whole "having twins" thing. Sometimes you can't help how many children you have. Maybe I spread my legs too far? Not sure.

I wanted to do better for myself and my kids so I took government backed student loans to pay my way through college. I'm still paying them back (at extremely low rates, thankfully), but I guess that was wrong too. Sucking off the government and whatnot. I got financial aid, which mostly ended when I married Jason. I was thankful for it while I got it. I worked full-time and I went to school full-time too. My first home was bought with an FHA loan. I faithfully paid it back as well, even when it was hard, even after I moved and didn't even live there anymore. Until it sold. I paid it back.

I'm thirty-eight years old now. I have a college degree and a okay paying job. I have a pretty house in a nice neighborhood. I'm "okay".

I volunteer at various places and from time to time one of those places is a local food bank. Every time I go there are a number of young, single women there with their children. We talk. They sing songs about Jesus that I don't know, but I sing along anyway. One of them had her son, her very very young son there, and he was helping me sort potatoes along with his sister, who was even younger.

"I like your hair," the little girl told me shyly, reaching out to touch me. I didn't mind.

"I like yours too," I told her.

She leaned closer into me, smiled, and whispered, "You smell like a rich lady. Why do you come here?"

"I'm not a rich lady, "I explained, not having a clue what a rich lady smells like. "I come here because I want to help out."

"Me too," she told me. "I like to help."

I smiled and told her how wonderful that was and how great it was that so many people want to help out. I heard her mom say to her, "We're so lucky, we have so much. We are here to help people who don't have enough."

I don't think she has what most of this country would define as "so much", but what a blessing, what a privilege to be among people like this lady and so many of the other ladies and men who are there, giving up their weekends to help other people.  Who understand that even if they don't have a lot, they could have less. Who are grateful for that.

Every day I see things online that are shocking and a lot of them are about people who take or have taken government benefits.


People like me. 


I know that people abuse the system. There are people who abuse anything, any system. The most blatant, flagrant fraud, waste and abuse of the government that I've ever seen in my life had nothing to do with an overweight lady buying Oreos for her children. I promise you that.

I never felt entitled. I was thankful, very thankful, for the help I received. I wanted my daughter to see that just because life sometimes hands you a bad deal it doesn't mean you give up. I didn't want to take WIC checks or daycare help. I wanted a conventional mortgage and to be able to pay my way through college with my own cash money.

I grew up with decent, loving, hard-working parents. We did not have a ton of discretionary funds, but we had a creek and a big yard. My mom sewed a lot of our clothes and my parents tended a huge garden. I didn't realize we were poor until later and I can honestly say it was never, ever due to my parents lack of integrity, initiative, and hard work. We were just poor.

My parents weren't lazy. They weren't worthless. They did not raise me to be worthless or lazy.

When my husband left me and I was alone trying to raise two children, I felt completely worthless. I felt like a piece of crap. I felt like no matter how hard I worked and how hard I tried I would never be able to be okay. I wrote down lists of dreams and wrote down dollar amounts of money I'd need to make, houses I'd need to own, and feelings I'd need to feel just to be okay.

It's hard. It's really, really hard. I imagine it's a million times harder for people who have no support, no decent loving hard-working family. Who can't imagine even dreaming dreams as big as the ones I dreamed. It's not just about how hard you work. It's also about believing you can. It's about having resources and opportunities and hell, just support. A lot of people don't have those things. A lot of people, like me, were so beaten down by life that they couldn't even see it. It's really easy to say, "Don't perpetuate the cycle!" but it's really hard when you are living in the midst of it, when you are so depressed it's hard to wake up in the morning, when you believe for whatever reason you aren't good enough and can't do it.

It's hard.


I am not lazy. I'm not worthless. I'm not a piece of crap. I wasn't when I was a single mom, I wasn't when I got WIC, and I'm not now.

Maybe, just maybe, the lady in line at the grocery store with the food stamp card is just exactly like I used to be. Broken down, sad, scared, and desperately in need of any kind of kindness.

I mentioned to a family member that I had been hurt by another family member's comments about single moms and how they should "keep their legs closed" and she said, "Oh but they didn't mean you".

But they did. They did mean me. That was me.


There are people, real people with real feelings, behind your words.

Real people just like me.



17 comments:

val said...

I so hear you. I get so sick of the bullshit too. xo. love, Val

Jill said...

People are such a**holes. I'm sorry. I try and always comment when someone says something stupid like that online. It annoys me so much. If there weren't this huge push for profitability in our country, everyone would do what they did before-- they'd help each other out instead of the government 'having' to do it. People would volunteer to babysit, pass you off a 20 and a smile. No one does that anymore. They're all about themselves.

Jill said...

People are such a**holes. I'm sorry. I try and always comment when someone says something stupid like that online. It annoys me so much. If there weren't this huge push for profitability in our country, everyone would do what they did before-- they'd help each other out instead of the government 'having' to do it. People would volunteer to babysit, pass you off a 20 and a smile. No one does that anymore. They're all about themselves.

Jill said...

People are such a**holes. I'm sorry. I try and always comment when someone says something stupid like that online. It annoys me so much. If there weren't this huge push for profitability in our country, everyone would do what they did before-- they'd help each other out instead of the government 'having' to do it. People would volunteer to babysit, pass you off a 20 and a smile. No one does that anymore. They're all about themselves.

Anonymous said...

You are NOT worthless, a piece of crap or lazy!!!

As a single mom of 3 working 80 hours between 2 jobs you are my HERO!!!

Kathy

dspence said...

Well said. Thank for you this post.

Jana Holdeman Frerichs said...

Our stories are so similar. Except the twins part. I took assistance too. I was a single mother trying to get through college. It's okay to get help when you need it. I do not get assistance today, I work, I own a home, I pay for everything. I volunteer on the board of directors of a non profit organization. I won't feel bad for my past. And neither should you. You are FAR from a loser.

WicketsMom said...

Unfortunately there are too many that DO abuse the system, that they make a bad name for those who truly need it and use the assistance as it is intended.

My husband had a project building decks in a section 8 apartment building. He was shocked at the quantity of high-dollar electronics (better than we have!) in most of the units, while many of the occupants were home sleeping while he was working. I also worked at a beer tent for a charity event in my city and had someone want to use their EBT card to buy beer!

It is a system that needs reform so that it can help those that truly need it, and get rid of those who are abusing it. At the same time, we need to realize that not everyone is abusing it and not lump everyone into the same category.

Anonymous said...

This is so stupid. It's not like you took welfare or something! WIC is totally different!

Anonymous said...

First I would like to say AMEN!!! This is very well written and extremely well said. To the anonymous poster that commented "it's not like you took welfare or something" that is the level of intelligence that has gotten everyone where they are today. People open their mouthed and speak when they are uneducated on a topic. In Tennessee welfare is referred to by some as AFDC (aid for families with dependent children) those dependent children are the children their father's have left behind and left totally to the mother to support monetarily. AFDC is a cashpayment each month paid out to the mother for the needs of the children be it groceries, utilities (Yes including a cell phone they are cheaper than house phone) clothes, cleaning supplies, etc. If child support were paid in a timely and consistent fashion the mother's wouldn't very in need of this. BUT mother's are drug to court by the child support enforcement office to sit for hours while the DA slaps the father on the wrist and let's him go again with no payment. Now, when the child support does happen to pass through, ya know when hell freezes over and the sperm donor does pay something, the state intercepts it and takes their half of it to pay back the AFDC the mother has gotten for her children. So you see the mother doesn't get free money it is paid back. People need to understand that mother's do not set out to be single mother's they set out for the normal family everyone else wants. God is the one with the plan and that's all we can do is live by his plan. So the next time anyone is passing judgement on the mother with a buggy full of children and WIC checks in hand and a food stamp card in the other.... before u pass judgement on her stop and think that maybe, just maybe God is working on a plan for her. Maybe this was his plan to help her learn patience, to learn the gift of giving etc. Do you really want to very the one passing judgement on God and his plans??? I think not.

Steph said...

Anonymous@ 10:49am, WIC is a government benefit.

Lori said...

Very well written!

Lori said...

Well written, Stephanie!

@Anonymous - I take issue with your reference to the Fathers as "sperm donors" and the implication that payments will come from them "when hell freezes over". You are making the same stupid type of generalization that seems to have inspired this article. Not all men want to be seen as a paycheck and not all women who DO receive timely child support actually use it for the children; they spend it on themselves & then they use those same children as bargaining chips and tools for manipulation. Men also have dreams of a normal loving family but it doesn't always work out that way. There are at least 2 sides to every relationship. Just because a woman has a buggy full of children & an EBT card, that doesnt make her a slut- nor does it make her a saint and the Father a scum. Maybe you should take your own advice and refrain from passing judgement.

theressa perrigan said...

I am your Dads first cousin and your story was so touching. I know you were brought up by hardworking and responsible parents. You have a gene pool of integrity and honesty. I wish all those that used the sources you've mentioned were as worthy as you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this. I admire your courage and determination.

Lizi said...

This was really touching. Thank you for sharing. Your story and the stories of so many others need to be told.

rainydayinmay.com said...

I read something the other day that said "rich people know Jesus and poor people know Jesus. Knowing Jesus won't guarantee you one or the other. Just like rich people birth babies and poor people birth babies. Let's stop caring what kind of people we are and notice the common denominator in all of us: people." I LOVED it...