I think it’s safe to say that most all of us are presumptuous. This, basically, sets us up to trust that we have knowledge of a person/situation/circumstance prior to truly understanding the person/situation/circumstance.
“Look at that car, they must be broke.”
“Look at her dress, has she no shame?”
“Oh, I’m sure that was a terrible loss for you.”
Presumptions are safe-ish. And they’re truth-ish enough to be believable. But this is precisely what makes them dangerous.
We trust that they’re trustworthy and applicable to every person/situation/circumstance. Like the situation many women find themselves when they find themselves on welfare. Many of the women I work with.
Everyone–who isn’t on welfare–harbors presumptions surrounding welfare moms. Such presumptions are so rote, they could almost be a sing-a-long.
Welfare moms are lazy
Welfare moms are victims
Welfare moms keep breeding babies just to make more money.
All beliefs I harbored at one point or another. Until I was bitch-slapped by reality.
And in reality, welfare moms are some bad-ass mother fuckers.
Welfare moms have a lot of problems but being shrewd isn’t one of them. In fact, the problems that they have can be reduced to one: getting stuck.
Welfare moms get stuck. That’s their issue, althought “their issue” is quite presumptuous. Close to the truth but no cigar. Getting stuck is not their issue. How can it be?
They don’t control the amount of time it takes for their paperwork to be processed. Only to be denied assistance because they missed the deadline. They can’t supplement their income while they wait for child support that will never come. And should they decide to fight for child support, they can’t control the lawyer’s fee of $300 an hour just to fight for $400 a month.
Welfare moms get stuck because systems let them down. However, the majority of women to ever be considered “welfare moms” were let down long before they ever became moms.
Every single one of the welfare moms I work with have abuse and trauma in their background. And every single one of the welfare moms I work with were neglected by the systems entrusted to protect them.
Whether it was the family, law enforcement, the schools, or even the church, abuse and trauma would be reported but the child was made to blame. When the child is made to blame, shame is the result.
And for many people, shame can lead to misguided judgment and diminished self-worth. Not the winning formula for success and peace of mind. It’d be a success story to simply recover from that impact. A success the welfare mom experiences everyday.
In a sense, welfare moms are successful doing what most of us strive to do but never achieve: They change their station.
Nothing is lower than feeling hopelss, worthless, and directionless. But a welfare mom rarely feels helpless. She just does what she has to do without giving it a second thought. Pulling herself up by her bootstraps; yours; a ladder; education; or the string she’s being led by.
She doesn’t need team building retreats to know how to do this. Or days at the spa to remind her of her priorities. Shit, she doesn’t even need a car.
The only thing a welfare mom truly needs is to be recognized for being as shrewd as she is rather than presumed to be something she isn’t.
With this effort, rote presumptions might also recognize that sometimes the smartest men … aren’t always men.
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