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.

9 Comments

  1. Sabrina said:

    I believe when we make choices that are slightly different from what is considered the norm, we remind others that they too have options. That can be uncomfortable. I can also see how either side could see the other as the extreme but, because of the conversation, a perfect fit might be found somewhere in the middle. You seem to have found the perfect fit. I so appreciate your transparency.

    November 1, 2013
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  2. As Sabrina said, people can get really uncomfortable when others make choices that they either ‘forgot’ or ‘didn’t fully realize’ they actually had. Living and/or working outside the box is part of the joy in making choices, people often do forget that because they’ve become accustomed to whatever someone else has deemed “the way to live”. I appreciate this post, for many reasons! :)

    November 2, 2013
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  3. We’ve been on and off public assistance for several years now. After I had my first child at 25 I became a SAHM and have gone back to work twice since then. We ended up spending more money in gas and uniforms for my job, not to mention lunch. It was ridiculous! I now have three children and homeschool them. Childcare for three kids would be outrageous and my oldest was recently diagnosed with Autism. Me being at home is what works best for all of us. I have no shame in receiving Snap and Medicaid. We are human beings like everyone else and we have the right to eat and get medical services. I am thankful for these programs!

    November 3, 2013
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  4. Meg said:

    Thanks for this. I’m really struggling with idea of utilizing wic for my family while being a stay at home mom. I feel like staying at home makes me less deserving than a family with 2 working parents… but you’re right, that isn’t the case.

    September 16, 2014
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    • There is no real reason to put a job outside the home in front of your work inside the home. A career might suffer from an extended break, but that’s a separate issue. We ought to be allowed to live true family values without shame!

      September 17, 2014
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  5. Meranda said:

    Thank you for this, really. I’m almost in tears!
    My husband and I are young parents of a 6 year old and and a year and a half year old. Up until I had my second child we were both working and barely making it. We did not receive food stamps or Medicaid at the time (partly because I was afraid others would think we were undeserving and such). We worked such long hours and didn’t get to spend much time with my son; I feel awful for it now. And I would say now that we probably didn’t eat an adequate diet and never had enough food in the house(I make awesomely healthy meals now). When I had my daughter we had lots of changes, my husband got a new job out of town so we moved, I left my job and decided to stay home because we wouldn’t have any family members to babysit for us anymore. And daycare was out of the question. We got the kids on Medicaid and got on food stamps as well. We are still barely making it financially but I’m so glad I get to get my kids to the doctor when needed and that I’m able to get them nutritional food, and I am at home able to care for them the way we feel is right for us. I feel like my family is in a much better place than ever before. I am so thankful for the benefits we recieve, it really is a blessing!
    So any way I am just so glad that I am not alone as far as being a SAHM who happens to receive assistance. It’s reasuring to know that I have nothing to feel guilty for, and I am doing what I need to take care of my family.

    September 17, 2014
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    • Anne-Marie said:

      You are NOT alone, and I think it’s a symptom of a cultural problem that we are laden with guilt and offered just enough to live on simply for choosing to spend time with our families, rather than at jobs that give nothing back to us and contribute little, financially. I’d like someone to look me in the eyes, sometime, and say that working when I’d rather be with my child is the “right” choice. It’s just another choice, one of the infinite choices we make as grow our families.

      September 17, 2014
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  6. Alexis said:

    I don’t know if you still comment on this,but I did need to read this. I’ve recently been told that I would have a nearly for sure part time job, but am scared to take it. For that would mean my two kids would need childcare and my oldest would no longer qualify for his preschool, we’d make just enoughnto no longer qualify for our snap and probably wic, or even our health insurances and even where we live. My husband will be in school in the fall, so that would put us in a tighter spot as well, and I’m just so scared, but so many people think of me as a lazy stay at home mom while my husband does all the work. I’m so confused, but reading this helped a little and made me realize I do have a choice. I just want to make the right one for my family.

    June 4, 2016
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  7. Annette said:

    Government welfare programs like Medicaid (Medi-cal in California), SNAP, and WIC services (although WIC is not considered welfare) are needed and essential to our society and the survival of the family unit in our country. The negative views of these programs affects the need for immigration due to insufficient native born population because of financial constraints associated with child rearing. If our country could do what politicians have been promising for years, and what other countries manage to do, which is to provide government benefits to all, like healthcare, childcare, education, and a minimum wage that can sustain livable conditions, we would be much better for it.
    As it is now my fiance and I have been together nearly 12 years and have been engaged for 10 years because of financial difficulties and because we would not have qualified for free hesitate services if we did marry. We considered marrying when I became pregnant 2 years ago but that would’ve meant i no longer qualified for Medi-Cal and would’ve had to pay around $300 a month for Obama care along with copays and co-insurance, an option we really could not afford. Now with our daughter, and if we were married, he makes $100 over the limit to qualify us for healthcare services which would mean nearly $500 a month for healthcare coverage, not including co-pays and co-insurance. If I were to get a job childcare would cost is $1000 a month. Add on top of that cost to get to work, extra food expenses, and healthcare, I think we would barely break even.

    This social and government structure is not sustainable long term and really needs to change.

    September 15, 2018
    Reply

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