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:
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.