Normalizing Poverty

I am a single mom. There is so much that goes with that sentence. Where do I start?

So, as a single mom, I was offered a scholarship to a really great school when I wanted to finish my Bachelors. I had to decline. Why? Well, at the time, I couldn’t even afford the gas to drive to campus. Also, I had young kids. I had no money to pay anyone to get them off to school or get them from school. A lot of people won’t understand that. A lot will.

I finished my BA as a single mom. Proudly. I then got a job that paid $16 an hour. Let me tell you what $16 an hour paid for. Nothing. I regularly had people at my door ready to shut utilities. As in, my electric, my gas, my cable. And when they showed up, most of those people acted like the money was coming out of their own pocket.

At one point a utility company refused to make a payment arrangement with me. They told me I had to apply for social services, and be declined, before they’d work with me. I HAD TO APPLY FOR SOCIAL SERVICES AND BE DECLINED!!!!!!

I went to Social Services, not because I wanted to, because, there was still some kind of shame, even while I was working two jobs and never sleeping. I went and a woman there scolded me for being there. She actually scolded me.

As a single mom I had lights shut off, gas shut off, phones shut off, basically everything shut off. I was working two or three jobs. I had a Bachelor’s degree.

I won’t get into the car trouble, the driving cars that were older than me, the repairs, the breaking down on the side of the road, the way people were honking as smoke poured out of my engine, as if I was just stopping to sight see.

We shame poverty. We shame people who are actually trying. We act like all you have to do is get a 9-5 and life is good. I can tell you that it is not.

My daughter said something to me recently that broke my heart. She said, “Mom, we were poor.” We were, but I had hoped she hadn’t noticed.

Why? Why was I so ashamed that we were poor? I worked. I worked my ass off. But, I was still poor, as in so poor that I had to bargain with all of the people who showed up to shut off my stuff. I was so poor that a friend had to buy my daughter’s prom dress. I was so poor that I couldn’t imagine a life outside of shut off notices and never being able to even afford anything as basic as clothing or shoes.

I was poor.

And I was working two jobs. With a Bachelor’s degree.

I’m not a socialist. I admire people who figured it out. But as someone who has worked my ass off, I know that we need to figure more out. We need to do better.

If I want healthcare, it will cost me close to $800 a month, with a $4000 deductible. So, yeah, I decided to skip healthcare and pray that I’m good.

There are millions like me. There are millions not as fortunate as me.

We need to do better. For them. For us. Because we are the richest country in the world. We have too many kids who go hungry. We have too many adults who go hungry. And outside of hunger, people need healthcare and lights and cable and basically a lot of stuff. So, not from a socialist point of view, but from a humanist point of view.

We need to do better. I have worked my ass off. I’m still poor.

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