A divorced mother’s manifesto

When I was married, I was a housewife. Just a housewife, as many would say. I cooked. I cleaned. I cared for miniature people. And I loved it. I’m good at it.

When my husband left me (the first time), I was devastated. Our son was only a few months old. I moved back to my parents’ house with 4 children, worsening post-partum depression, and a general attitude of fuck it all, this will never get better. He came back half a year later. We tried to make it work. My PPD went away. He became more abusive. I lost the baby weight. I developed a feeling that I didn’t need to take his shit. That’s when he left – again, and permanently.

I got a job. A good one. I have no degree, just years of experience working with his business. My mother watched my children when I was at work, in exchange for contribution to household expenses. Things were good. I loved it. I was good at it.

Then my mother died quite unexpectedly and I had to quit my job. No one to watch the kids. No money saved up to pay for that first month of daycare. Things weren’t looking so good, but I moved forward.

I’m now bootstrapping a business. I have no childcare. My work is juggled around the kids and other side businesses. I’m succeeding, slowly but surely. Hiccups along the way prevent complete success. And there is no help when the hiccups come.

And, thus, we come to the manifesto.

——

When a determined woman is left by her partner, abandoned with the children, she has nowhere to turn. Often these women end up on some kind of welfare, and typically more than one, always dancing on the fine line of total success and complete failure. An extra $50 per month can be the difference between $100 worth of food benefits and none at all.

Often these women have marketable skills – so marketable that they would not require assistance at all if they could simply get there. But the system is not designed to give a hand up. It’s designed to give a handout. It’s not designed to help a woman go from nothing to success. It’s designed to take a woman from nothing to a little more than nothing.

In looking for childcare, I’ve been told I can make $12 per hour and still get assistance. Twelve dollars. That is marginal. That is living on the brink. I have the potential to make far more. However, to do that, I must have capital to pay the first month’s daycare fees. I must play a careful balancing act to coordinate everything in perfect order so that nothing falls through.

That’s all. Daycare. The thing standing between many single mothers and total success is someone to watch their kids while they work. And it’s not even the someone to watch them – it’s usually someone to watch them for a few weeks until they get their first paycheck and can begin paying.

When a woman walks into her “welfare” office and says, “I have a job offer for $100,000 per year. I need daycare for this month, until I get my first full check.” what is she told? She is told, “You will make too much to qualify” or sometimes, “We’ll put you on the waiting list.” That woman – that brilliant, talented, valuable woman – must then turn down a job that will bring her family from the brink of disaster to a complete success. That will get her off SNAP, off WIC, off Medicaid, off subsidized housing.

I propose a system where mothers are empowered. Don’t tell her you will pay for daycare if she gets a job making less than a certain amount per month. That limits her success. It tells her you are only interested in helping her become marginal. Tell her you will pay for daycare for 60 to 90 days. Give her time to rapidly meet her potential, to get over the hump, to come out on the other side in such a better place that you will most likely never hear from her again.

This system is not a one-size-fits-all. Some women will need consistent daycare help based on need. Some women need foodstamps, housing and other benefits. But many women just need a program that gives them room to breathe and get started, so they are not fighting an uphill battle, day in and day out.

Dear government,

We are not women who need to be given fish.

We are not women who need to be taught to fish.

We are women who need to borrow your fishing pole until we’ve earned enough selling fish we catch ourselves to buy our own equipment.

Consider us a business investment. We are resourceful women. We are underutilized economic resources. Invest in us. Let us help fix the economy rather than draining resources.

———-

Props to some inspiration from Crazy Dumbsaint’s post here.

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