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!

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Comments

  1. Leah Marie says

    While my husband was finishing his PhD we utilized both medicaid and WIC.  After he finished, and before he started his new job, we briefly utilized SNAP.  The only one we are still using is medicaid, for our children.  I am not ashamed.  I’m a so grateful for these programs that have helped me to feed and care for my family when we needed the help.  We need less of it now, and will need none of it as my husband’s career advances (and mine too, I suppose, but that will take much longer since I know my boys need me at home right now). And for the rest of my life I will, happily, pay the taxes that will help fund these programs for other people.  

    I think your attitude about it is very appropriate, and I’m looking forward to hearing about your journey.  It is SO not easy to scam the system, and hopefully you can help some more people realize that.  Also, hopefully you will be able to help more people feel less ashamed about the help they need.
    Sorry about the situation with your ex-employers.  I’m guessing your friends are right in their assessment. But, I think it will be a blessing in disguise.  This is going to be a special summer for the two of you. Enjoy your babymoon!

    • says

      Thanks, Leah Marie! I am loving the babymoon, especially all of the wonderful sleep!

      It’s nice to hear from other people who have used these programs. We’re lucky that the health insurance my husband can get through his PhD program is good. Not free, but good prenatal/pregnancy benefits. And we’ll stop using help we don’t need as soon as we don’t need it! As I type, I send up a prayer to the academic gods that he gets a tenure-track position right away! Two more years in the PhD program, then we reevaluate. They don’t let students linger in his program, so the chances of him staying longer are slim to none.

  2. Anon says

    Don’t forget to apply for WIC. Get assigned a SW and they will help you apply for all of those programs. My mom has needed assistance for years and always gets help. Good luck to you!

    • says

      My plan is to get a SW through the SNAP application we sent in and go from there. It’ll do more than WIC and both of us can benefit from it. Then we’ll move on to the others. I’m not actually sure if I’m allowed to submit apply to more than one program at a time, because the directions are insanely confusing.

  3. Krystina Perry says

    ANN…I feel bad that you were fired but it will be best anyway…I was a nanny and I was pregnant and as much as I wanted to go play outside and run around all my body wanted to do was sit for long periods of time and I was so sleepy I did my best. My husband and I were once a military family and my husband had bad knees from all the deployments and the wear and tear on his body…he asked for help from Army docs and they basically told him he was a good patient for the surgery but there would be many hoops to jump through. The doc wouldn’t write him a note so when his PT test came up he failed the running…he kept going back but soon he failed so many times they decided they didn’t need him including the president was downgrading the troops it was easier to get rid of my husband. We owned our home and paying a mortgage and car and everything else he would be out of a Job in a matter of days just we didn’t know when…in a 10 day time frame we had to pack up and leave our home and move into a bedroom in my dads house. We applied for food stamps and it was depressing but then I thought my husband out of 4 years of marriage was gone 2 years and 10 months to train and fight for our country….WHY DO I FEEL ASHAMED? We are honest and need help with buying food and my husband is job searching…I only had one incident when some young girl gave me the “Oh another girl with a baby she cant support” face and when I told her “I hope everything is covered this is my first time…she said “ITS FOOD RIGHT!?” and I said yes…she cut me off with attitude…I finally said “How old are you?” She told me 17 so I said “I appreciate you working but not your attitude…do you think that I want to use food stamps that I have to admit I need help feeding my family?” I told her I am not some girl that got pregnant and thought oh free money…I said I am a veterans wife and my husband fought for your freedom and we planned our baby and we fell on hard times…so again I just need you to ring me up and not judge me without knowing me! I cried in my car because I was so angry and finally let go of the shameful feeling I carried…I wish I was like you from the start instead of the guilt I carried. We are no longer on stamps and still here but looking to move soon…we were down but soon you and your family will be on your feet! Sorry I don’t have a comma on my keyboard so tons of run-ons!

    • says

      The thing is, that if you don’t need the help, it’s not possible to GET the help. So where is the shame in that? It would be much easier to just pay for things ourselves, and no one on the planet *wants* a job to pay badly in order to qualify for government aid. It’s a hassle to get and to keep and it’s kind of an invasive process. So anyone who tries to make you feel shame is just plain ignorant.

  4. Misty says

    With a toddler running around, I can certainly sympathize with you about not wanting another nanny job while pregnant! I have been exhausted, but I’m lucky to have some childcare during the week, and the ability to work from home. I think many of us are “this close” to needing our own form of social assistance – all it would take would be a loss of one of our jobs. Scary, but that’s what the support is there for – to get us through rough times until we are back on our feet! 

    • says

      Yes, that’s exactly it. Other than unemployment for my husband when we were first married, we’ve never received help from the government. I could always find another job. I’m white, college-educated, well-spoken, in a field where that’s a bit rare.  I have a lot of privilege, and that has always come to our rescue. I am always aware of that. While my midwives are right on when they say that pregnancy is “a safe and natural state of health” it does take a toll, and in my field, the poor kids I took care of at a new job would get attached to me just in time for me to leave again, even if their parents overlooked the pregnancy *and* I had the energy for anyone who could walk. 

      • Alyce Thompson says

        Well, I know it isn’t on topic per se, but I have to push back on the idea that “other than unemployment…you’ve never received help from the government”. The goverment gives a number of benefits to the middle class left and right – from federally subsidized student loans to being able to deduct interest paid on student loans or home mortgages to generally subsidizing the cost of the roads that make suburbs possible. All of that is government help. The only difference is that the government simply hands out things that benefit the middle class, and many middle class recipients of government handouts don’t consider them handouts whereas they make poor people prove they “deserve” help. It totally distorts reality, and villefies the poor (and poverty for that matter).

  5. Amandaevans V2 says

    Do apply for WIC. If you plan on breast feeding, after a certain number of months it will supply you with a pump, nursing bras, etc. if not, it will save your rear in formula costs.
    It will also help with vitamins, etc I believe. The food allowance through WIC will also help your husband. It supplies bread, alternate proteins – beans, legumes, dairy, fresh vegs, juices, etc.
    As a teacher with an unemployed husband we needed this help while I was pregnant and with a newborn till my husband got a new job. There were definitely cashiers at Kroger that I avoided and others that I preferred. I understand.

    • says

      You know, I hear it varies a lot by state. And we’re actually doing neither breastfeeding nor formula, but donated breastmilk from close friends. The reason I hesitate is that another blogger wrote about her experience with WIC in her state–no fruits and veg, nothing but Gerber brand formula, Gerber brand baby food, etc. I’m just skeptical and dreading the nutrition education classes. I am open to it!

  6. Marie Ljosenvoor says

    I also vote for WIC.  I think its education requirement is minimal (we sat around for about a half hour once in the 2 years we were on it) and you do get some staple foods out of it (milk and beans in probably every state at a minimum).  The requirements for getting in are also probably lower than other programs, which is important because it supports so many families, but for you, it means you’re more likely to get SOME help.  Thanks for your candor.  I’ll eventually probably get to talking about our experience on my very own blog.

    • says

      You should start a blog about your experiences! The more of us, the better. 

      I’m glad you had a positive experience with WIC. I really hope my state offers *real* staples and doesn’t restrict us to one brand. I really like giving the local co-ops our business, and they’re not as expensive as I had feared. I will definitely ask the social worker right away!

    • chelsea says

      you may even be able to get a job with WIC at some point. i know someone here (in michigan) who just got a job as a counselor there. WIC, even if it helps with just milk and eggs and peanut butter, is great. absolutely apply. and i echo what everyone else has said, that blogging through this is so important. public assistance is not a shameful thing, and it shouldn’t be kept invisible.

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