Monthly Archives: September 2013

I Confess: I’m Prejudiced (and ashamed of it)

I was at the grocery store one day and got in line behind a woman I recognized as the mom of a girl in my son’s kindergarten class. She had a pile of produce in front of her, and the cashier was holding a few Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) checks, which I realized are food stamps. The cashier told me to go to another check stand, because “this is gonna take awhile.”

Later, I remembered that the woman and her husband had just had their third child. They had a girl, a boy, and just had another girl. I suddenly realized that I judged them for choosing to have another child when they already needed food stamps to feed their family. I thought, “We don’t give people money to buy a Mercedes they can’t afford, why do pay for them to have more children they can’t afford?”

I’ve always thought of public assistance as something that’s temporary, that helps people when they lose their job or have some unexpected medical expense. I didn’t think people would use it as part of their “family planning.”

Personally, I think if my husband and I couldn’t afford to have children, we would choose not to. But in reality, I’ve never had to make that choice. My husband makes enough that I don’t even need to work outside the home.

It bothers me that I’m prejudiced against people who take public assistance. To me, prejudice is based on ignorance. I feel like there’s some information and definitely personal experience that I’m missing about what it’s like to live in this country and not have enough.

Intellectually, I understand that there are people who have low-paying jobs or no job at all, that many people don’t have enough medical coverage, even if they are employed, but most of the husbands I know work in high-tech, and most of the moms stay at home.

On the one hand, of course it’s none of my business how other people plan for their families. On the other hand, my husband and I pay taxes that fund public assistance programs.

I’ve lived in the San Francisco Bay Area all of my life, and I’ve always considered myself pretty liberal, but in this case, I feel like I’m being really harsh, cold, and elitist, and I don’t want to be that way.

I do support the government providing public works, medical insurance for low-income families, public schools, etc. but I wonder, once a family has two kids already, is it really good to keep paying for more children? Why do I feel like two kids are okay, but not more than that? I don’t know exactly, but I can see how families want their first child to have a sibling, and I’ve heard of “replacement fertility,” where adults have just enough babies to replace themselves.

A few of my friends have three children. Many of them have two children of the same sex and try again to see if they can have a child of the opposite sex. It seems unfair to deny this to low-income families, but it still seems a bit odd to me.

I know that there are many problems with the enormous gap between the “haves” and “have-nots” in this country. I don’t like that gap. I think every person should be able to make a living wage, have adequate medical coverage, live in a safe neighborhood, and have a comfortable home. I guess the fact that we haven’t made any of that a reality is why we need public assistance in the first place.

"Nexus / Miguel Ugalde / stock.xchng"

“Nexus / Miguel Ugalde / stock.xchng”

I still feel sheltered and naïve about how families live on or below the poverty line. I feel guilty that I’ve never had to deal with that as a parent.

What light can you shed on receiving public assistance, whether you’ve personally taken it or know someone who has?

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This Week’s Reminder: You CANNOT Be Replaced

September 8 – 14, 2013 is National Suicide Prevention Week. The Bloggess and Kevin Breel both wrote their thoughts about it.

Kevin Breel calls on all of us to honestly answer, “Am I okay?” He pleads for us to be open and honest with our friends and family instead of hiding behind, “I’m fine, everything’s fine.”

It’s important to take a moment to breathe and be real about what we’re feeling. Not everyone feels depressed or suicidal, but it’s easy for us to pay so much attention to getting things done that we don’t pause to check on how we’re doing, to notice if we’re feeling overwhelmed or frustrated. It’s dangerous to bottle up those feelings over time.

The Bloggess provides phone numbers for suicide hotlines, and writes that they’ve saved her from self-harm on multiple occasions. To Write Love on Her Arms is asking people to share why they cannot be replaced. She posted her reasons.

Here are mine.

130910iCantBeReplacedBecause

I have considered suicide a few times in my life. I count myself lucky that I had loving, supportive people who helped me, but it took me speaking up to let them know I needed help.

Some of you might feel alone. Consider though, that you are at least some of the following. You are someone’s:

  • child
  • parent
  • sibling
  • friend
  • neighbor
  • co-worker
  • customer
  • boss

The first time I thought about committing suicide, I kept imagining my funeral. I figured the only person who would show up was my mother. Since I’ve accepted my depression and learned healthy coping skills, I’ve made a lot more friends. Now when I’m feeling really down, I think of all the people who would show up to my funeral today, and I think, “I can’t do that to them. I can’t take away my life and the part of me that touches their lives. That’s not right.”

You matter. To someone. To your community. You matter to me, even if we’ve never met in person. You have something to contribute, and I want you to hang in there so you can and so the rest of us can witness and benefit from it.

If you or anyone you know shows any of the following warning signs, please get help. You can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to find out what resources are available in your area.

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or isolating themselves
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

It bears repeating: YOU CANNOT BE REPLACED.

Please share below some of the many reasons you cannot be replaced.

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