Thursday, September 22, 2011

49% Of a Mother

Relief line in San Antonio, TX, 1939. Photographer: Russell Lee
Times are hard.  Have you heard?  Our economic climate has been compared to the Great Depression of the 1930’s.  Our family is beyond living paycheck to paycheck.  With S’s support and the encouragement of our peers I applied for some assistance to help us purchase food for the children and ourselves.  Food Stamps.  In Illinois this is called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and otherwise more familiarly known as “The LINK Card.”

The application process alone requires a large swallowing of pride and ego not to mention a fairly high IQ score.  The application was not difficult to complete, but it was lengthy, and the process was not easy by any means… And I am a college educated woman with resources like a car, a telephone, a computer and printer, and internet service.  At one point in the application process I felt fortunate for having a home address.
"Migrant Mother" feeding herself and her children frozen vegetables and killed birds. Photographer: Dorothea Lange

Why did S and I choose to request food assistance?

We care about our health and the health of our children.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the top 3 leading causes of death in Illinois and in our nation are heart disease, cancer, and stroke (in that respective order).  According to the World Health Organization (WHO) these are nutrition-related chronic diseases (NCDs) along with obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, and dental diseases.  Eating poorly and not getting enough physical activity is killing us.

I used to think it was cheaper to buy “real food” instead of processed foods and cook at home.  I used to think if one absolutely “had to” utilize a fast food restaurant they could simply make a healthier choice in the menu items of salads and grilled items. 

I was wrong.

The grilled sandwiches and salads at fast food restaurants are more expensive and still often laden with mayo, cheese, or high fat dressings.  Sometimes it really is cheaper to order off the dollar menu, than to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at the store.  Canned vegetables and fruits are less expensive and less nutritionally dense than fresh, not to mention the TASTE factor.  Often times when people tell me that they don’t like a particular vegetable, I ask how they prepare it.  If it involves a can opener or defrosting – that’s the first problem. 

An overwhelmed an overworked parent simply does not have the TIME to exercise.  I promise you.  This is not an excuse.  I have 3 jobs and I am in graduate school and I sometimes don’t feel like I have time to walk my dog.  That is my only physical activity. 

I have gone to the store with $20.  Because I only had $20.  It is a lot cheaper to buy a box dinner, a pound of ground beef, a gallon of milk, a can of peaches, a loaf of white bread, and call it DINNER.

That “dinner” that I just bought for around $20 at a Shop-n-Save is highly processed, high in saturated fats; offers little to no fiber; and is laden in things like preservatives, corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, MSG, food coloring… I could go on.  It has been proven that a low fiber, high fat diet increases ones risk for all of the NCDs that I above mentioned.  The poor are dying.  

"Migrant Mother" Photographer: Dorothea Lange
This summer S and I planted a modest garden, shopped at local farmer’s markets, and went further into credit card debt to purchase health, nutritionally whole, foods for our family.  We spent time educating ourselves about what we are putting into our bodies.  We sat down with the kids at meal time and talked about food, nutrition, health.  My daughter L knows what cholesterol is and my daughter M knows about diabetes.  The kids see S and I working on our new venture,, and understand that we are trying to help others learn about eating to live (instead of living to eat) as well.

Today I had my interview with a state appointed case worker to discuss my application and I was informed that the children don’t “count” in my household because according to … according to… paperwork I guess… they reside with us 49% of the time.

I swallowed my heartache down deep to the place my pride was buried earlier this week.  I choked a little on my tears.  I forgot all of my words to the eloquent speech I had prepared in advance to defend my application.  I meekly said, “I withdraw my application.”

And I fucking thanked her.

Once again, I felt like I was told I was half a mother because I have half-time custody.  Conversely,  I argue that  if a divorced father had "as much" custody...visitation... whatever... with his children.... this would be deemed as exceptional fathering by our societal standards.  I promise you.  

I have chosen to share custody with their father for the benefit of the children so that they may have as much equal and adequate time with both of us.  Who am I kidding?  Nothing is adequate.  Nothing is equal.

As it has been pointed out to me today, by my state appointed case worker... I'm only 49% a part of their lives.  Photo credits can be found here...

1 comment:

Lisa said...

I've been eating like crap all week, and I totally feel it. I'm so excited that a simple thing like mushrooms are on sale for .49 at Aldis this week, I plan on getting 6 boxes! It really really sucks that you cannot get assistance because they do some stupid calculation. I'm on assistance and will frankly tell you that yes eating healthy is very expensive and that even our allotted amount we get a month doesn't cover all our food. If it wasn't for M buying a quarter of beef, deer hunting and now buying a pig every year, there's no way we would be able to eat how we do. Sigh. All I can say is try again in another month, or let me help you with your application. :)