Single mothers. We have it tough. What do you do when you are suddenly single again and have more than one mouth to feed? Most first reactions I always received were; “well, why doesn’t the father pay?” People need to understand that all men are not good men. All fathers and not good fathers. The one I dealt with lied on his own tax returns to show he was broke, leaving me penniless and left to forge on my own. I did not have the money to fight him in a long and extremely expensive legal battle. So, what do we do in a tragic situation? There are many out there. First off, don’t panic. Hold your head high. You have to be the sane one. Your children look to you for answers, for guidance and for stability. The odds are that we will not be living in the lap of luxury, but there are ways to get by and get what you really need for you and your kids. Swallow your pride. Ask for help. That is what it is there for. No, I am not speaking of begging for money or doing anything above the law. There are programs out there designed to help us.
A week after my own separation, I found myself in a very long line, on Valentine’s Day, at my county’s department of social services. I was applying for food stamps. I swallowed my pride and it was worth it. I had not worked in 7 years. I had no home. I had moved my children and I in with my aging parents. I was on my own with little ones looking to me for all the answers. Their world rests on my shoulders. Food stamps, or EBT, is a program in the United States that offers money, given on a card, that looks and acts like a credit card. If you qualify, you will receive an allotted amount each month to help pay for food. This only covers food and the amount you receive is based on the number of children you have and your own income. You must recertify every 6 months. Which means, filling out paperwork and providing pay stubs to prove you are still eligible.
I did more research. I found a program called WIC: women, infants and children. It is a wonderful program available for pregnant mothers, infants and children through age 5. WIC will provide you with printed coupons, listing specific foods you will receive. You receive a book that lists brands that are covered. It is super specific, can be a pain, BUT; will provide you with: milk, bread, eggs, cereal, beans, tortillas, cheese, vegetables, and peanut butter. If your child is an infant it will provide formula and baby food. They teach breastfeeding skills and encourage it. They will tailor your coupons based on your needs. I can’t stress how wonderful this program has been for me. You will have to bring your child to their office. They check your child’s weight and height and iron levels. It’s just an all-around positive program.
The most important thing is: you will have to find a job. You just have to. There is no way around it. You must be pulling in income to receive government assistance. Even though many people say that it is a free handout: it is not. You must have income. Find a job. Do whatever you can. Part-time, full-time; what ever you can manage. After I received EBT and WIC, and I had started working part time (my parents helped with child care), I was able to find a low cost apartment for my small children and I to live. It was not fancy. It was old and in a less than desirable neighborhood. I didn’t care. It was mine. My own kitchen, my own place. I was doing it.
There are even more programs out there to help. Medicaid: insurance for children and single mothers. However, you must be well below the poverty level to receive adult medicaid for yourself. I did not qualify, but my children did. There are Section 8 housing options available to those who need a home and can’t afford it. There are programs available to single parents who need help paying for day care, and programs that help pay to heat your home. Keep trying. Do research! Look up your local county health department of social services and see what is available. If those from another country are reading this: research your own local programs, because they are out there! Government programs are overrun with people, and the employees are worked beyond belief. If you are denied, try again. There were instances where I was denied, then I applied once more only to be accepted. Keep your paperwork: pay-stubs, social security numbers etc. in one place so that you can be organized and ready if needed.
I would like to clear up a huge misconception most people have about government help. You must have a job to receive help. With no income, you will NOT receive help from the government. There is also no such thing anymore as welfare. That is a now defunct program and has been since the 1990’s. I hear people talk about it, make fun of it; and the truth is, it doesn’t even exist. It hurts my heart to hear people mock assistance. The truth is: they themselves have not lived through it and are extremely uneducated on the subject. There is a program called work first. I went to the 2 hour long presentation to receive information at my darkest hour. Work first is the only available program in our country that gives money to people of need. The stipulation is that you must be constantly searching for a job, provide proof; and the amount they give you is not worth the trouble. The max amount they will give is only about $200 a month.
I found myself suddenly single with toddlers to raise and feed on my own. I didn’t panic. I stayed calm and did research. I had to jump through many hoops to receive assistance. Paperwork, mailing forms, phone calls, emails, etc. They do not make it easy. It is hard work! Do not give up. I never ever thought I would be someone who needed help, but you know what? Things change. You must adapt. Be strong, hold your head high. You can do it.