Every Monday, I do the Ed & Greg Show on Wild 105.5. A few weeks back, between segments, the boys told me that Hawai‘i has the highest rate of single mothers in America. While my half-assed attempt to verify the statement didn’t produce anything solid, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were true. How many of us can say that we don’t know a single mom who’s struggling to make it?
I’ve been a single mom in the past, although it was rather short-lived and I was lucky enough to have parents that financially supported my daughter and I when things were hairy. But I know of a lot of women that are left to do it on their own; to some, the day-to-day grind is overwhelming.
A lot of people immediately think negative thoughts when they hear the term, “single mom,” but the reality is that any woman with kids could become “single” at the drop of a hat. Relationships, even the most solid-seeming marriages, don’t always work out. Sure, some women aren’t too bright and put themselves and their children into crappy situations, but not all single moms got pregnant as teens, abuse the welfare system or give birth to meth babies.
In fact, when it comes to welfare and single moms the system is totally screwed up.
A good friend of mine is living the perfect example. Her husband, the kind of guy that can quite literally charm the pants right off you, turned out to be a real schmuck in the spouse department. One day he decided that he just wasn’t coming home because—surprise!—he had found someone who “understands him” more than she ever could.
And that was that. No child support, no nothing.
So what does my friend do? She works her ass off to make ends meet and then she goes home and feeds, bathes and puts the kids to bed only to wake up and do it all over again. Welfare would help, but unfortunately she makes 11 bucks a month more than the cut-off limit.
To keep up with the bills, my friend took a second job cocktailing, which has made things easier financially, but put other worries on her plate. She sleeps less, sees her kids less and may lose the child care and medical insurance benefits the kids qualify for because her income went up.
She is not even close to being alone.
“We know very well that many who work at the edge of poverty fall between the cracks of health insurance plans, earning too much to qualify for Medicaid and too little to buy private coverage,” Pulitzer Prize-winning author David K. Shipler wrote in his exhaustively researched 2004 book The Working Poor. “Meanwhile, government policies operate at cross-purposes by ratcheting up the work requirement imposed on welfare mothers without raising funds for child care. We don’t even do what we know how to do.”
“Seriously,” my friend said, “the benefits are worth more than I make in a month with the second job.”
So what’s a girl to do? Quit the second job and keep the benefits? Or keep the job, lose the benefits and risk getting further behind? It seems like the system is designed to keep people in the financial position that they’re at for eternity.
We sat on the couch in her house, discussing the ass-backwardness of it all while her kids ran around screaming like banshees, jumped off couches and threw booger-inducing tantrums over absolutely nothing.
“I should’ve just become a hooker,” my friend mused while wiping up an over-turned sippy cup. “Then at least I would’ve been paid for sex.”
She’s forgetting the best part. Prostitution is totally under the table.
Starr Begley is not an Irish hippie like many of you may presume. MTW