Proud Welfare Mom Finds Support at #BlogHer14

I didn’t expect Proud Welfare Mom to show up at the BlogHer conference. I knew that the minute I got back, I’d need to be on the phone, dealing with the IMPOSSIBLE-to-get-on-the-phone Department of Social Services, because the process of renewing our food stamps benefits wasn’t finished. I wanted to put it out of my mind, until I got home. On the last day of the conference, though, it struck me that the words I was hearing from women of color about the abuse they encounter, when they write about their experiences as minority women, sounded all too familiar. So, when they took questions, I went straight for the microphone.

“Can we just throw income into this discussion?” I asked. “The only time I’ve been treated with the kind of abusive tone I’m hearing described by these women of color is when I write about using food stamps.”

I didn’t feel pride, and I didn’t feel brave, until some members of the audience cheered that they had been there, too – white women on food stamps. The moderator pointed out that those hostile to government assistance programs fail to realize that the person most likely to be on food stamps is an elderly white woman. The women of color shared that many people assume that they are low-income earners, and accuse them of being “takers,” even if they earn well above the average income.

intersectionality panel

I used money we didn’t have (yay, credit?) to go be with these women, because they are my tribe. They keep me going, and their words and hugs fill up my writer soul. When I stood up in front of everyone who was in the “Grand Ballroom” and told a panel of really impressive bloggers that my family uses food stamps, it wasn’t a confessional. I simply felt that it was relevant. They responded that it was, in fact, relevant, and we also exchanged empathy. Privilege was acknowledged, and so was the sadness at readers who leave hateful comments in response to the words we publish.

Proud Welfare Mom is a sort of persona I’ve developed to talk about using government assistance to help meet my family’s needs, without shame. I’m proud of my family, not proud (or ashamed – it’s simply a fact) that we use “welfare.” I will always be proud of my family, and nothing can shake that. I did feel propped up, however, in that room full of women who responded thoughtfully to my request that we include income while discussing “The Intersection of Race, Gender, Feminism and the Internet.” I spoke up because I couldn’t shake the feeling that income, real or perceived, was tied up in all of this, and Proud Welfare Mom was suddenly right there.

I’m sitting here, finishing this post, while I wait for a very kind social worker to get back to me about finishing our SNAP (food stamps) renewal. Yesterday was a really hard day, with three full hours on the phone, most of the time spent on hold, trying to get everything straightened out, and discovering that I had misunderstood a few things. I’m not supposed to be able to fax anything, but the social worker who picked up my call has allowed me to do so. I’m not in our home town, so I can’t drop off the paperwork at the main office (also not something that’s normally allowed). If she had been strict about following the rules, I would have had to mail everything and let our benefits lapse while we waited for the mail to arrive. I’m waiting for a call, right now, to confirm that I’ve finally gotten it right, this time. I was feeling pretty low, still in my pajamas and fighting a migraine caused by the stress, when I remembered what my tribe had done for me at BlogHer: applauded my contribution.

My view from the San Jose Marriott, of the convention center, a few other hotels, and the valley.

My view from the San Jose Marriott, of the convention center, a few other hotels, and the California horizon at sunset.

Contribute what you have, and your tribe will find you. “Trolls” will find you too, yes, because there’s one lurking under the bridge of every controversial topic, waiting to jump out and say something awful. They disappear, though, in the face of the people who stand with you and affirm that every voice deserves a platform. (Trolls, find your own – this one belongs to me.)

This blog began as a place for me to share my experience with anti-anxiety medication and pregnancy; as my family has grown, this space has grown, to encompass my experience with motherhood, trying to pay the bills, needing help, staying healthy. I write what’s known as a “Personal Blog,” and I’m so glad I do. I don’t know enough about “Lifestyle” or fashion or DIY projects to write that kind of blog. I do know that when I share my story, others come to stand with me. I call you my tribe, dear readers, and I thank you for coming here to think and feel with me. I thank you for your comments, emails, silent readership. I have come home from BlogHer feeling more certain than ever that we thrive, when we share our stories. Our communities may not overlap entirely, but they do intersect, and sharing those parts of ourselves can only make us stronger.

Sorry for getting a little bit saccharine. It just felt so amazing to thank these amazing writers for their contributions, and to hear “thank you” right back. I wanted to keep that going.

Proud Welfare Mom Goes Back to Basics

I’ve realized a few things about these posts: one, I have had a blind spot that needs to be addressed, now that I can see what’s back there, and two, I need to articulate what these posts are supposed to be for. 

One: I have had a long, internal struggle with the idea that I am asking for more than I deserve, in life, in general, and I have let myself get defensive and mean-spirited when responding to comments that imply that accepting government assistance is, for my family, taking more than we “need” or “deserve.” I learned something from a conversation with a commenter who seemed very negative, at first, but turned out to be willing to actually hash out some of our differences. This conversation could only take place because I approached her as a human being who deserves respect and love, just like any other human beings. I don’t like the idea that I may have shut down other conversations before they could happen and may have lost opportunities to learn more. I really don’t like the idea that I’ve put people in tiny stereotype boxes based on a hundred words in a blog comment. Which brings me to…

Two: The reason for these posts is NOT to educate anyone about how government assistance works, the experience of the average person (is there one?) on “welfare,” or really any details. There are people much better able than I who are writing about poverty in America and how, why and when The System fails. My favorite resource is the blog Poor as Folk. I get tips on ways to stretch a low income, and I get to keep up with current events that are related to poverty, the fight against poverty and government policies aimed at fighting poverty.

The reason I write these posts is to show anyone who might read this that there are some seriously diverse families using government assistance programs. The “proud” in Proud Welfare Mom doesn’t mean that I’m proud that my family receives SNAP/Food Stamps and Medicaid; while I am grateful that we receive help with food and medical expenses, I am simply proud of my family and unashamed of our choices. If a white family living an apparently middle class qualifies for “welfare,” who else in your community might need some help?

My family’s fall below the poverty life was caused by this fact: my husband is a PhD in a program where students also work, while I stay at home to raise our son. If I were to work outside the home, we would require childcare for our son, because my husband’s program does not give him the kind of free time that is often associated with being a “student.” It is a job, as well as an education. The university where he works and learns, like almost all universities, does not quite know how to classify him (employee? student?) and so our family falls into a liminal space, where we are granted some of the benefits of employee status, some of student status and miss out on some other benefits that full-fledged employees/students enjoy. It’s pretty bizarre.

The point in writing these posts is to illustrate that there is no image or description that can sum up “Poor People.” There are a lot of reasons to use these programs, and just as many incorrect assumptions about the people who participate in them.

This graphic, on Poor as Folk, of course, really sums up what I’m getting at, because it’s about a group that our society almost NEVER talks about:

Single women in poverty

I want a myriad of faces to appear in the minds of people who think about “people on Food Stamps.” I want the politicians who talk about these programs to understand the range of constituents who use them, and I want more voters to see that their neighbors, not just “Those Other People,” might need a hand.

I don’t see these posts are particularly informative, groundbreaking or even educational; but blogger write about their day-to-day lives all the time, and I am including this aspect of my life, in my blog. I label it the way I do, as Proud Welfare Mom, because I do not think that there is any shame in asking for help, when we need it. I’m proud of my family, no matter how much or how little money we make. I’m proud of our growth and development in every aspect of life, and I blog about that. I don’t speak for anyone or anything. I don’t have the education about poverty to do that. I simply want to tell my story, in case it helps someone in a similar situation feel less alone, or someone with very different opinions consider a new side to this currently “hot” issue.

Public Assistance, Family Values and Hard Work: Proud Welfare Mom

In a country that proclaims its love of both family values and hard work, I feel that many of the readers who admonish my family’s choice to work fewer jobs/hours and spend more time together, as a family, see either one or the other, but for whatever reason, do not see how the advice to “get a job” conflicts with the idea of “family values.”

If my husband and I worked enough to make up for the gap in income that puts us below the poverty line, we would not be able to spend time together, both of us with our child, very often, and probably only while sleeping. A commenter recently suggested that we work “staggered schedules,” presumably meaning that one of us should be working, while the other cares for our child, in order to enable us to “get off” public assistance. This advice troubles me, because in order for a family unit to remain strong, we must experience that family as a unit. If my husband and I were too busy or too tired to communicate effectively, we would be risking our marriage. If we worked “staggered schedules,” we would each miss out on a large portion of our son’s first years. We choose not to do this, and the state does not ask us to do this. Why does the state not ask that we do this? Because the state cannot mandate that only parents whose family incomes exceed a certain amount are allowed to stay home. Do you see the problem, here? If it is wrong to accept government assistance only when working every available hour at a paid job does not provide “enough” (who defines that, and how?), then that means that it is only ok for parents who can make “enough” on one income to have the other parent “stay home.”

Our society does not to force families like mine to choose childcare provided by someone other than a parent. To suggest a that accepting public assistance is wrong, when we could choose a “staggered” division of time and labor, assumes that my family does not deserve to care for our own child, at times together, with all three of us in one room. It also assumes that jobs with appropriate schedules are readily available to us, which is another unfair assumption. What saddens me further is that this insistence that we are taking something we do not “need” values only paid work that takes place outside the home and does not consider parenting to be valuable work, or hard work.

I would like to point out that parenting well is exhausting work. It is a rewarding and difficult CAREER that our society embraces my right to choose as my only career, should I wish to make that choice. It is not a choice that only families who earn above $X/year are allowed to make. Every family gets to make that choice. If you value hard work, please value what my husband and I do when we are parenting. If you believe in family values, please value our choice to spend time as a family, even though we could probably be working low-paying part-time jobs without benefits, instead.

family values and hard work public assistnace

Less time as a family makes for a weaker family unit. Parenting is hard work. Stop believing the lie that families on public assistance are lazy, even the ones with a stay-at-home parent.

Proud Welfare Mom Update: We have not caused a budget crisis

There’s been a rash of absurd comments on a post I wrote last summer about WIC vs. SNAP, most of which have nothing to do with the content of that post. I would like to address a few apparently common misconceptions about life on government assistance, nevertheless, in case anyone is actually reading the content of my Proud Welfare Mom posts.

1) People on assistance programs have always been on assistance programs and will always be on assistance programs. This applies doubly to those who are not ashamed of accepting assistance.

This is false for many so many reasons, that it’s difficult to know where to begin. But let’s pick this place to start: there are many kinds of assistance, and most of us do not receive all of them. My family, for example, receives only SNAP (Food Stamps) and Medicaid, at the moment. “Welfare” is a catch-all term that does not always refer to people receiving cash. In my state, by the way, people who receive financial assistance actually do so through a program that is called the TEMPORARY Financial Assistance Program.

To the “lifestyle” question (a thin veil for the stereotype that if we are poor, we must also be lazy) I have the following answer: at any time, the government may demand information about our income, rent, and other bills, in what is called the “redetermination” process. For my family, that means that the amount of money we receive for SNAP has changed three times in the past nine months. This is not a yearly thing, folks! You don’t get a SNAP EBT card to spend on anything you like (and for the love, please know that the popular myth about buying cigarettes and alcohol with SNAP is a MYTH! It’s not possible!) without any sort of check. Oh, no, friends–they check. The last “redetermination” form I sent in, along with the proof they wanted, was a twenty-three page document.

Finally, I am not ashamed that we are using public assistance to SUPPLEMENT our income (yes, I know that these programs are supplementary, people who have commented 1,000 times to remind me–it is my budget we are discussing, after all, and that little fact is pretty hard to miss!) because while my husband is in graduate school, neither of us can make enough money to pay all of our bills. After he graduates, I am happy to assure all and sundry that we will be hunting for jobs harder than anyone in this history of job hunting. It is neither fun nor easy to use public assistance, and I would love nothing more than to simply use what’s in our bank account.

2) All government assistance does is let people get away with irresponsible choices.

If there is a way for a family of three to live AND stay healthy on $20k/year, please–send me that budget, and we will follow it. This is the most responsible choice I could find. And, just in case you missed it, I have to choose it for my family again and again, because there is some sort of issue that needs clearing up, on the state’s end, nearly every month. Again: not fun. Not easy.

3) Stay-at-home-moms who accept government assistance are really just staying at home for fun, and should be working.

This one is so easy! Guess what? If we made enough money to even think about looking for child care, we wouldn’t qualify for any public assistance! If you find me some free daycare, I will then talk to you about my choice to stay home. (FYI, it’s illegal to leave your one-year-old son at home, even to go to work.) Until the day free childcare becomes available, let me just explain something: I AM SO LUCKY THAT I AM HAPPY AT HOME. I have no freaking clue where I would start trying to find the money for child care while I worked. And, for the record, I am now a WORK-at-home-mom, because my writing has started to earn me some income. Not enough to get us off assistance, but enough to help me avoid a panic attack every time there’s an issue with our SNAP or Medicaid. If you think I’m lazy, please try to write well enough to get paid for it with a one-year-old who is struggling with sleep.

4) Being dog owners is irresponsible, because that money should go to food and bills.

I find this complaint truly weird. It has come up a few times, and I just don’t understand either the assumption that we got our dog while on assistance or that the dog has anything to do with any part of this debate. Nowhere on the application for assistance of any kind does it say “How many pets do you have?” The government does not care if our dog has enough dog food, so it’s not a factor! The end! Which brings me to…

5) The amount of money we get from the government is calculated based on the money we have left over after we blow everything on dogs, dog food, cigarettes, alcohol, and organic food.

INCOME + FAMILY SIZE + PREDETERMINED COST OF LIVING = ELIGIBILITY. Mitigating factors do include rent, utilities and medical expenses. They do NOT include “I own a dog” or “I prefer organic foods” or “I like beer.” All of these things are true, for me, but the government doesn’t care! They’re not on the forms! If I spent all our money on all of the above (even though I quit smoking long before we qualified for aid) then we would simply have no money to pay our bills. You cannot receive aid simply because your preferences raise your cost of living. I think that I got a lot of “how dare you ask for organic food” crap after writing my last post, because I complained that WIC specifically prohibits organic eggs, milk, cereal, etc. First: the idea that organic food is for Fancy People is absurd. I’m not going to discuss whether or not it is healthier, because science says that it is. I will discuss this: if I were to find a coupon that made organic milk CHEAPER than generic non-organic milk, I still wouldn’t be able to use a WIC voucher to buy it. That bugs me. Because it makes no sense, not because I think that my family is entitled to fancier food than your family.

I don’t buy jars of baby food very often, because my child has pretty much always eaten food I’ve prepared for him from groceries, or breastmilk. These are, by far, the cheapest options for feeding a baby who is old enough for solid foods. We use the money we save by not buying prepackaged baby food (WIC covers some, but not all–remember: supplemental!) to buy some organic produce for the child. I have a list I keep in my purse of the foods that are “clean” – I buy organic berries, but not bananas or avocados. I assure you, government assistance and our income do NOT allow me to simply turn up my nose at anything that doesn’t have a “USDA Organic” label attached to it.

6) All government assistance programs deposit cash into our bank account.

I am getting the impression that people think Food Stamps and Medicaid are amounts of money deposited into our account, and that we can spend that money irresponsibly. Just so there’s no confusion, let me make this clear: SNAP/Food Stamps money goes on an EBT card, like a debit card. Each family gets one and only one, which makes it pretty obnoxious to realize that you want to buy groceries, but your partner has the card. This card has money added to it each month, and when that money runs out, you don’t get more until the next month. You can keep whatever you don’t spend. You cannot use the card to purchase non-food or prepared-food items such as cigarettes, alcohol,  and restaurant meals.

That’s it for today, folks. Anything else I can clear up for you, while certain representatives are trying to claim that families like mine are bankrupting the government? Note: if anyone brings up my birthday gifts from yesterday’s post, I will delete you. Don’t mess with me on discretionary household spending anymore, because, and I’ll happily repeat this until the cows come home, it has NOTHING to do with how much money we get on our food stamps card. Also off limits: my dog. He has nothing to do with any of this, and I love him very much.

Lewis the dog

We consider this guy to be part of our family, but Lewis the Dog does not appear on any of our applications for government aid.

Proud Welfare Mom: WIC vs SNAP

:::UPDATE – This post was written in 2013. Much has changed in our lives since it was written, but I remain proud of my family, and we do remain both dependent on and grateful for government services provided through the Connecticut Department of Social Services. Please read other Proud Welfare Mom posts. If you comment here only to vent rage or hate, I will delete your comment. If you have something to say that might help someone or further discussion, I will try to reply. The comments I receive on this page make me question humanities, some days. Be human beings. :::

I’m putting on my Proud Welfare Mom hat today to explain the difference between WIC and SNAP (food stamps). It’s really important, and really confusing. I’ll do my best.

**Disclaimer: I am not trained to explain any of this to anyone, or to help anyone apply. My experience is limited to the Connecticut Department of Social Services only.**

First, it’s important to understand that WIC is a special kind of “welfare” program. The acronym is for Women Infants and Children. It’s the most basic of safety nets, in that the purpose of WIC is to make sure that pregnant women, infants and very young children receive very basic nutrition (milk, eggs, bread) for low-income families. You can qualify for WIC if your income is below a certain amount. Other WIC requirements include: living in the area of the office you’re applying through, and a few other things. The most important thing about WIC, though, and what makes it such a basic safety net, is that you don’t need to prove that you’re a US citizen or a documented immigrant to qualify, meaning that the US government realizes that the most very basic nutrition for pregnant women and children under five-years-old is good for society at large. Or, if you are cynical, it is cheaper to provide basic nutritional assistance for the most vulnerable population than to provide health care after they show up in our emergency rooms.

Unlike WIC, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as and still informally referred to as “food stamps,” requires a rather lengthy application and many more eligibility requirements. It is not just for the basics, but for groceries in general. Very unlike WIC, you can’t even receive SNAP benefits unless you’re a US citizen or have lived here legally for at least five years. That’s probably because SNAP is much more expensive–a family of three, like mine, can receive about $500 per month. That’s not what we get, but you can imagine that it adds up.

One of the stranger questions asked on the "adjustment" form I'm currently filling out to continue receiving SNAP benefits.

One of the stranger questions asked on the “adjustment” form I’m currently filling out to continue receiving SNAP benefits.

You’ll notice that I didn’t mention a dollar amount for WIC. This is the second important difference between WIC and SNAP; WIC benefits include a book of “checks,” or vouchers, for specific foods, to be used at specific stores, while SNAP provides money for food in general, at a variety of stores and even, in some states, restaurants. WIC checks are so complicated to use that my husband and I have never managed, between the two of us, to make it through the checkout process at a grocery store without encountering some sort of problem. Right brand, wrong type of bread–“Yes, you did get the 12 grain bread last time, but that was in December. Now, it’s a new year and we only allow the Whole Wheat from that brand.” If we don’t get everything that’s been printed on the check, or if the store is simply out of stock, then we are out of luck. Nothing organic is allowed. Keep in mind that we are over-educated, native English speakers, and we have a really hard time navigating this process. When my therapist asked me why WIC made me feel angry, infantalized and humiliated, I showed her the booklet explaining which foods we are and are not allowed to get. She made several mistakes trying to understand the first two pages. 

Why is WIC so complicated? Because it involves negotiations between the states and food manufacturers. The state asks companies to submit bids and accepts whatever it can get for the least amount of money. Big companies can usually afford to provide the deepest discounts. WIC makes a list of those foods and prints it on our vouchers. The stores must then write down the dollar amount, send in the vouchers and wait to receive compensation. For that reason, if we wanted formula from WIC, we could only get Enfamil. If we chose to use the vouchers they give us for jars of baby food, we could only get certain “flavors” of the Beech Nut brand. Babies who are breastfed can get the jars of meat, but babies who are formula fed can only get the fruit and veggie jars. Why? Because they only allow iron-enriched formula. Breastfed babies need the iron in the jars of meat, presumably. Just for the record, our local WIC office encourages breastfeeding with warmth and enthusiasm, and I love them for it. Every three months, we go to the office and sit down with the booklet and a nutritional counsellor and choose from our options. We are apparently unusual for choosing the tofu option. Everyone receives vouchers for gallons of milk. I don’t know how anyone goes through that much milk. It’s supposed to be on of my main sources of protein, unfortunately.

We're enjoying organic berries this summer, thanks to SNAP.

We’re enjoying organic berries this summer, thanks to SNAP.

WIC is stuck in the distant past in its nutritional suggestions (processed cereals, juice from concentrate, skim milk for protein, etc.) because highly processed foods are cheaper. Organic is more expensive. I wasn’t really that angry about “Big Agra” and corporate food until I saw for myself the way low-income families get stuck with the worst options, simply because they are the cheapest to manufacture and contain foods heavily subsidized in farming (corn and corn products are in absolutely everything). Frosted Flakes (generic, processed corn, sugary) are allowed, while steel-cut oatmeal (high in protein, hardly processed) is not. We can only get the most heavily processed hot cereals, too.

SNAP allows us complete freedom in what we buy; it simply limits the amount of money we are allowed to spend. We fill out mountains of paperwork, and the Department of Social Services determines how much money we should receive. They put it on an “EBT” card that we swipe and use with a PIN, just as through it were attached to our bank account. It took me months of waiting and hours on the phone to get that amount adjusted after Walt was born, because someone, somewhere, had failed to type in his social security number. Now that we have received the money we ought to have been allotted in the first place, I can feed my child organic products. Because we prefer to eat unprocessed foods in general and because, in the store itself (as opposed to in the board room, where WIC is negotiated), vegetables are cheaper than anything else, we eat well on that amount.

In Connecticut, the only restriction we’ve encountered on what we buy using our SNAP money is on prepared foods. Oddly, we can’t use it for the salad bar at Whole Foods, but we can use it for the sushi they package and sell in a cooler right in front of the counter where they prepare the sushi. I don’t really understand the restrictions, but I love SNAP. Whatever it doesn’t cover just comes up as a balance. It’s easy for everyone, as though you were splitting the bill onto two cards.

You can use your SNAP card at any grocery store, whereas WIC vouchers may only be used at stores who have agreed to participate. Cashiers don’t need to understand any rules or call over managers for any signatures when we use our SNAP card, but WIC vouchers require both. We can always use our SNAP card at farmers’ markets and even receive an extra $10 to spend on fruits and vegetables when we “spend” at least $10, there. WIC has just started giving out checks for the market, but they are few and far between.

I’ve surpassed 1200 words and have also reached the limits of my patience. I’m happy to answer any questions, though! Ask away!

One more thing: I am proud of myself for navigating all the paperwork and time on the phone required to get my family the help we need. I am still struggling with feelings of shame in actually using that help. I can’t handle WIC checks at all. Nathan does it all, so that I don’t have anxiety attacks in the aisles of Wal-Mart (a company I hate, but the only place where the cashiers know what they’re doing regarding WIC). My emotional response is complicated. Money is hard for everyone to deal with, even people who have lots, in my experience. I’m hoping that talking about it will help me and anyone else who happens across this space.

Welfare Mom: A Title I Will Be Proud to Claim

I have taken my time writing this post, because I wanted to write it from a calm place. I didn’t want to write it while I was still very angry. I was fired, you see, and accused of–hmm. How exactly do I put it? An accident happened. It was scary, yes, but it might happen to anyone holding a squirmy child, and the child was not hurt. There was not a scratch on her. If I hadn’t done my job and told the parents what had happened, they’d never have known. But, in the end, I was accused of being, essentially, untrustworthy and unsafe.

A few of my friends think that my employers just wanted to move on and were looking for an excuse to let me go earlier rather than later, having already decided that they did not want a heavily pregnant nanny or one with a child of her own. I don’t pretend to know what they were thinking. I do know that I am glad to be out of there. I didn’t realize how much pressure I felt until it was gone.

We have a new beginning this week. I no longer work. We are moving into the bigger apartment across the hall. We have acquired a real, grown-up, king-sized bed with a natural mattress (purchased before we realized we’d have no income this summer), and we spent today helping my incredibly efficient mother-in-law clean our new apartment. It’s a bit hard to help her, you see, because she’s so darn quick and it seems to always be easier for her to do it than for her to explain what needs to be done! I watched and learned. I am writing this in a clean, new bed, in a clean, new (to me) space.

I love this space. I can picture our child coming home to this apartment and growing and learning to walk and run, here. I can see the baby playing with the dog. I can picture Nathan holding the baby and pointing out the window at the flowers, trees and passersby we can see from our big, gorgeous front window. I can see myself baking bread for my family in this rather large and cozy kitchen. This all provides an invaluable perspective.

It’s not going to be easy to get through these next few months. Neither of us will be drawing a paycheck. I can’t bring myself to apply for a job with a new family this late in my pregnancy, especially since I seem to need so much sleep just to feel like myself. I am hardly the “energetic, camp counselor” type that one ad sought. We get some help from family.

We are applying for food stamps first, since that application process is the easiest to understand. A beautiful site called End Hunger helped me figure out whether we were eligible and explained the application process. We have mailed the application, and we are waiting to hear from someone at the Department of Social Services. This someone will schedule an appointment to meet with us, at which we will prove that we were born, where we were born, that we are US citizens, that we pay x amount in rent, that I was in fact fired, that Nathan receives x dollars during the school year, and on and on.

I am, in fact, enjoying the prospect of blogging as a Welfare Mom. Applying for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Energy Assistance (help paying the electric bill, etc.) will come. As far as I can tell, we qualify for both. I am eager to openly write all about the process, so that perhaps just one person will understand that financial assistance from the government is incredibly difficult to receive. It is not easy to fool anyone at the DSS into giving you money that you do not need. And it is not only uneducated, irresponsible, substance-abusing mothers who ask for financial assistance from the government. I fully intend to work again. I do not intend to stay on SNAP (food stamps), TANF (welfare), or energy assistance longer than my family needs the help. But we do need it. And I’m not ashamed of that.

Through no fault of our own (according to me), my family does not have enough money to pay our bills, our rent and buy food. We cannot very well stop paying for any of these things. I need to eat healthy food, and lots of it–I’m growing a human, for heaven’s sake! I am thankful that our health insurance comes through Nathan’s job, so we need not apply for MedicAid. I can keep going to see the same wonderful midwives I’ve been seeing for a mere $10 copay. I can keep paying small-ish copays for my medications. But yes, we do need help paying for food, rent and other expenses. And we don’t look like the Welfare Family one might picture if one listened to those who are against giving families in need any help at all. I am proud that we are growing closer as a family through this experience and supporting each other. We are happy. There’s just one thing I don’t understand…

How on earth does anyone complete one of these applications without two college-educated brains reading it over? The darn things are nearly as incomprehensible as tax forms! I suspect that the same people write both forms. My proof is in the tendency to ask for additional forms that do not appear to exist anywhere (where is this W-147-something form you speak of? where?!). I’m still not sure we did it correctly. I’ll let you know!

For now, be happy for us that we have a summer-long “babymoon” to spend lazy days together and get plenty of sun. Perhaps we will even introduce Lewis the Dog to The Ocean and The Beach. Most definitely, we will be getting excellent sleep–this bed and mattress are divine!