I was reading an excerpt of the book by Taraji P. Henson (Around the Way Girl: A Memoir) about her life as a single mom and it hit me hard. Harder than I imagined. I read and re-read the few sentences and I felt as if I wrote them myself. Needless to say it’s next on my “to read” list.
Taraji was married to what she calls her “forever man”, her first love, but over the years he eventually became physically abusive. It took guts, but she decided to leave him-which was a sound decision as it saved her and her son’s lives. Unfortunately this decision opened her up to many judgements by people who love to judge others in situations they know nothing about. All of a sudden she was a “baby mama”. People started assuming that if there was no diamond on her ring finger, she must have been an irresponsible lazy ass who got pregnant by accident… or on purpose, so she could live off the government, and the baby was either a mistake, a statistic or a paycheck.
Single moms have to muddle through a thick, gristly layer of stigma.
I had a friend once who heavily criticized seeing a man pushing a stroller in the middle of a weekday afternoon. “Why wasn’t he at work?” “Where is he going, doesn’t he have a car?”… the list of these judgemental questions went on for a good five minutes, I was appalled and, frankly, quite disgusted. When I told him that he didn’t know this man, and for all he knew he worked the night shift (not everyone works 9 to 5!) and perhaps he was just taking the baby for a stroll… maybe the child wasn’t even his for crying out loud! he shrugged and continued with his judgements. Ugh. Why do people have to judge people they don’t know like that? Is it something they do to make themselves feel superior?
I was also a single mom for a period of time between my divorce from Nicky’s dad and my re-marriage with Greg. I was single officially for 3 years, but separated and basically on my own for 3.5 years with a toddler with RDEB in tow. To say that that was the worst time of my life it’s an understatement.
Yes, I got the stares, the stigma. I got it all. And people judged. Of course.
I went to the Welfare office at one point after I lost my job and needed something to tie me over and it was a horrible trip. One I will never forget as long as I live. I was made to feel like a complete scumbag.
I feel profoundly sad when I hear anyone insult programs for people in need or the people that they serve because of a few bad apples. Yes, I am certain there are a few people that take advantage, but just because of these folks, we just cannot assume “everyone” is lazy, or “everyone” is scamming the system. Not everyone is a scumbag or “living off the government”. Generalizations are simply wrong and offensive, and generally ignore the realities of life. There are already people involved in catching anyone who is basically stealing from those really in need, and the latest reports show that fraud is at less than 1.5%. (Read an article about it from Time Magazine).
Demonizing the needy needs to stop.
How many times have you looked at a homeless person or someone on food stamps and come to the conclusion that they are worthless? This person could be a Vietnam Veteran, could be someone that had been abused, neglected, someone with a mental disorder or an untreated condition or simply a victim of circumstance? It matters not.
We judge and it’s wrong. It’s WRONG. We know nothing about this person, nothing. What my trip to the Welfare office taught me is that.
Love & Light,