I have always promised is to be honest and real. I say this to my teams at both of my stores, my friends, my daughter, and my family. There is a deep bonding that comes with honesty and a sense of wholeness that builds within you when you accept your truths, learn from them and share them with others. We have all done, said, and been through things in our life. Perhaps we weren’t proud of them, but ultimately if we learned a good lesson, then that’s what actually matters. So let’s talk about the W word:
Welfare is not a bad word. As much as we may have differing opinions about people on government assistance, this is not something we should be ashamed of, nor is it something that we should make others feel ashamed of.
I was on welfare. Twice.
The first time was after my daughter was born and I was on maternity leave. I was on WIC too. It was a load off my shoulders and so helpful. I was able to buy groceries and with WIC, I was able to get formula for my daughter (which I ended up not using, opting to get milk, fruits and veggies for breastfeeding instead), as well as other things to keep myself healthy.
The second time was before a biscuit saved my life. I was a broke, struggling single mother living in Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg area. Did I have an iPhone? Yep. It was paid for by my daughter’s father. He didn’t want me to be without a phone. Were my nails done? They suuuure were. A gift from a friend. Did I have a Michael Kors bag? I sure did. Another gift from a friend who knew I loved nice things but couldn’t afford them. Did I have a job? You bet your sweet booty I did. And guess what? I had five jobs while I was in school at night, trying desperately to survive and provide for my child, and I still couldn’t make ends meet, so I swallowed my pride and asked for help.
I suppose this is where you might say, “Well, why not better yourself by getting a degree? If you need more money, make it happen yourself, don’t ask others to cover for your mistakes.” Guess who has a college education? Guess who applied for over 500 jobs I would have been great at, but was rejected each time? This gal. And guess who swallowed her pride and worked jobs she absolutely hated just to try to make as much as she could?
We often preach to ask for help as mothers, so what makes it different if we ask the government for help and they provide it? Why is it shameful to ask for such assistance, but not shameful to ask family for money?
Welfare is not a bad word. I’m saying it again, hoping that it sinks in.
It was one of the most intense feelings I’ve ever felt, having to be on such assistance. I felt guilt, shame, and like I wasn’t good enough. But I was. I was doing my absolute best. And guess what y’all? It’s none of our business who is receiving assistance and who is not. Period.
Don’t talk about drug testing and people taking advantage because we do not know what is going on in other people’s homes. This is not our business, y’all. Our place is not to state opinions that will make other moms feel ashamed, but instead to agree to disagree, let it go, and take your opinions to the polls. That’s a private matter. Because guess who was totally pretending things were perfectly fine, but in reality they weren’t? Me. Guess who was living it up on social media, faking it to the world that I was fine and had more than $3.78 in my checking account? Me. And if I was pretending to the world that I was okay with my iPhone, nails, nice purse, and government assistance, then who’s to say others aren’t pretending too?
Who’s to say that there aren’t other moms yearning to share their truths and have someone who believes in them?
On the outside it might have looked like I was abusing the system with my iPhone, nails, nice purse, decent car, and smile. But guess what? I was in a hole, emotionally and financially, and was grateful for the government help during the difficult times. As soon as I was saved by a biscuit, I cancelled my funds. And guess what? My case worker asked, “Are you sure, Angelica? Don’t be a hero. Are you sure you and your family will be okay?”
I will forever talk about empowering women and mothers, providing a judgment free zone, and speaking my truths in the hopes of helping others learn, grow, and not feel like they are alone in this journey. That is why I share this today. Not for pity. Not for likes. Not for popularity. I’m all for sharing in another person’s journey and giving them someone to count on.
But by golly, we will never have the true bonds and friendships that we are yearning for if we don’t stop making others feel badly about their lives and the choices they make in order to survive.
By no means am I on a soapbox, yelling into a megaphone about higher minimum wage, or a livable wage, or free money to everyone. This is not the place for that. What I am telling everyone right now is this: welfare is not a bad word, so stop treating it like it is, and stop treating those on it as if they are irresponsible or deserve to be looked down upon.
Ready for another truth?
I was homeless. Before my daughter was born (I was not pregnant at the time), I was living out of my car while in night school and working at a local sandwich place. Do you know what saved me? It wasn’t the girls who made fun of me for sometimes wearing the same clothes or for always eating from said sandwich place because they fed me for free. It was two people. One of my teachers ready to move me in with his mom, and one of the students who’d heard that I was having a hard time, barely knew me, and felt a calling on her heart to help me. She was a mom and couldn’t imagine someone’s child being in such a place in life. She’s my daughter’s godmother, because who else would I choose other than the woman who saved me?
Maybe we should all think like this before we spread rumors, judge, or cast criticisms another person’s way. Think of the impact it could have on another person’s life if we simply looked at other people as someone else’s child and thought about how we’d feel if our child were in their shoes.
I share these truths to share perspective, in the hopes of helping others think about what they say and do, and how it may affect others, and to show that welfare isn’t bad. And neither are the people who are on it, regardless of their nail polish or whatever else we might see.