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.

4 Comments

  1. Becca said:

    Well said! I think most of us could do with letting go of the need to judge others. Listening and learning about other people’s lives is good for all of us. (And I’m really glad that your family is getting the help that you need. We could all use a hand once in a while.)

    November 2, 2013
    Reply
    • Anne-Marie said:

      Thanks, Becca. Humility is important, even when politicians make me so mad I want to get up on a soapbox and shout forever.

      November 3, 2013
      Reply
  2. I applaud you for writing these posts and putting yourself out there. The world needs it.
    “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?
    The world would split open.” ― Muriel Rukeyser

    :-)

    Sarah

    November 29, 2013
    Reply
  3. Rose said:

    I just stumbled on your blog and I just wanted to say thank you. So many things you have written here are things I have wanted to say. I am weary of all the nasty comments regarding “public assistance.” My husband works hard in a state job and I stay home with our 4 kids. We both have bachelor’s degrees and I could go back to teaching if I wanted to, but I have chosen to homeschool due to our current location. We qualify for both WIC and SNAP and our kids qualify for secondary Medicaid. They help out a lot. Frankly, and this is not meant in a condescending way, we receive less government aid this way than if my kids were attending a public school. As it is, we are responsible for purchasing all school materials and paying for enrollment in a state approved school. We pay sales tax, property tax, state income tax, and vehicle tag taxes. We drive old cars, shop at thrift stores, and our kids wear hand me downs. My mom still pays for my cell phone as a gift. We are “white” – whatever that means. I hate stereotypes and I hate the judgment that we are leeching from the system as we try our best to raise kids who will be well educated and compassionate members of society. Thanks again for putting yourself out there and writing this.

    May 3, 2016
    Reply

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