When I was on Welfare… 

The other day, my youngest daughter needed to go get a few shots to keep her up to date on her immunizations and while she is nineteen, she wanted me to keep her company.  We had to go to the local health department, where we used to go to another building in an adjacent town in our county for a clinic. It had been years since I had been inside this building. 

When I was 20 and pregnant with my first child, my husband at the time thought it was a good idea to change jobs late pregnancy which suddenly meant I had no medical insurance.  My obstetrician was ready to boot me as I was now uninsured.  And imagine, that marriage didn’t work out.  He only had to work three more months rather than taking a job that paid much less and the insurance wouldn’t cover the pregnancy.  So there I was, sitting in the same chairs I sat in today staring at the same tile floor (though more worn and scuffed today).  Except I was dying inside of embarrasment and shame.  I came from a family that looked down on those who used government assistance unless you were elderly or disabled.  You worked for your living, not take handouts. My husband was sitting next to me, just happy as could be.  He didn’t care that I was ashamed, he looked at it as something he didn’t have to provide.  That’s what you get for marry a narcissist.  

I spent the entire appointment looking at the floor because I was so ashamed.  I didn’t want to face the case worker.  I couldn’t tell you what she looked like today.  I walked out with Medicaid, food stamps (which I used in the next city) and WIC.  Though I was grateful that I wouldn’t have to give up my osbtetrician or have the baby at home because I didn’t have medical coverage, inside I was angry at my husband for putting me through this and the shame carried with me for many years after.  

When we got together, my first husband promised me the world and delivered me to pick up my welfare benefits.  This is why I have taught my daughters to be self-sufficient, get their education, follow their instincts and if it sounds too good to be true, it is.  We had two more children and the marriage ended.  Years of dealing with someone who couldnt’ even show up for his daughter’s kindergarten graduation and other self-centered behaviors took their toll.  As did the infidelity.  I was tired of getting calls from other women giving me bad news that finally stopped surprising me.  My second marriage wasn’t any better.  I was so beat down from the first, that this guy latched on, took me six years to marry him and five to divorce him.  We didn’t have kids together so that was easier to cut ties.  However, he was emotionally abusive to everyone in our home.  I finally woke up and got rid of him.  

Except this time, I didn’t lose my home and all my possessions except for my girls, their beds and our clothes.  (My first husband sold about everything he could so I didn’t get it – he’s a peach isn’t he?)   I planned ahead, paid off bills, bought a reliable car, planned my budget and got a good attorney.  He left with what he came with and I had never been so happy in my life.  Relieved when that monster moved out.  I could support myself, I wasn’t going to need assistance and I had my own medical insurance through my employer.  It felt good to have that control, that plan and to be able to do it on my own.  This time I was smart about it.  The first time I was railroaded because he threatened to fight for custody so I gave him whatever he wanted.  However, I still won.  I got our daughters.  

As I sat there today, I wasn’t ashamed or embarrassed that when I was 20, I needed assistance or that I lived in a crappy 1960’s single wide trailer that was just one step above a cardboard box.  This experience is part of who I am today.  Adversity teaches you to be more compassionate to people, to be less judgmental than if I had never had to accept welfare at all.  I don’t look at someone in line at the grocery store who has well what used to be food stamps is now a debit type card and judge them harshly.   They could be just going through a bad time.  Granted there are always those who take advantage of these programs, but I bet the majority don’t.  Instead of thinking they are lazy, I pray for them.  It could be a single mom who’s child(s) father doesn’t pay support or they got laid off of work.  I figure God will deal with those who are taking advantage of other’s goodness. 

Just a few weeks ago, my husband and I bought a brand new truck.  It’s the kind of expensive vehicle that I would have never imagined myself owning before.  And honestly, if we weren’t a dual income household and I was on my own, I still couldn’t afford it but I could afford the more scaled down version.  My husband now is the antithesis of a narcissist.  He wants me to have nice things that I never had and he takes care of me in a way that sometimes feels very foreign to me.  Driving my new truck that first week, I was in a bit of a daze.  I felt like I was in a dream, that I would wake up and my carriage would be a pumpkin again.  Actually some of the cars I’ve had, a pumpkin would have been a step up.   But the bottom line is, anything is possible.  One day you might be on welfare and the next day you might be driving a new truck that heats and cools your butt.  If only it would do laundry, I’d be set.  Or cook.  

Don’t give up.  Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed if you are going through a rough time and you have to ask for help.  Don’t let a rough time define you.  Realize that these times in your life are what make you a stronger more empathetic person.  You can relate to so many more people as you travel through life. Adversity is a gift, though at the time it feels like hell.  It teaches you to be less judgmental and that you can survive things you never thought you could.  

Your today doesn’t not have to be your tomorrow.  And this too shall pass…  And all that stuff they like to say.  

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One thought on “When I was on Welfare… 

  1. Thank you. It’s hard to be judged.

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