A day for mothers

By Margaret Ramirez of Sandy, Oregon who describes herself as "a low income single mom on public assistance and a hopeful investigator/journalist and righter of wrongs."

I have lost basic civil liberties and rights to privacy, unwarranted search and seizure, freedom of speech and autonomy.

I am required to report and provide verification for every intimate detail of my private life.

I am subject to random drug testing, and must submit a urine sample on demand.

I can be investigated at any time and for any reason without probable cause. A surprise home 'visit' can be conducted in which my 'environment' is inspected and, of course, judged. Not even the contents of my refrigerator are sacred.

My doctor, landlord, my children's schools and my neighbors have all been interviewed to verify information the authorities have deemed suspect.

I have to put in 30 hours per week of assigned, unpaid service in the community, and am required to participate in mental health and alcohol and drug services, as well.

So... Who Am I?

Am I a convicted criminal, out on probation, parole or perhaps work release?
Am I a meth or heroin addict in treatment or rehab?
Am I an abusive or neglectful parent attempting to regain custody of my children in foster care?

Although it's true all these people usually have to comply with these requirements, I am not one of them.

The truth is, I didn't break any laws and have never been arrested in my life. I rarely drink alcohol and I don't abuse drugs or my children. Rather, I have worked hard to raise and provide for my kids, and have struggled to keep my family together on my own and with very little support ' financial or otherwise.

So, are you able to guess yet what I did to deserve all this?

It's because I belong to a largely gender-based subset of a particular socio-economic class.

In other words, I'm a low income mother.
In still other words... I'm a welfare mom.

My crime is that I believed in 'til death do us part' and 'I'll always be there for you and the kids'. My crime is that I counted on the propaganda published in the glossy Child Support pamphlet. My crime is that I trusted the illusion of security and stability fabricated by my former employer. My crime is that I never realized that in America, middle-class white girls like me can lose it all. My crime is that I did not abandon my children or my commitment to them.

Personal responsibility? Don't get me started. Especially in this age of pass-the-buck politics and 'they-did-it-too' excuses, it's truly abhorrent to keep beating up on low-income women struggling to raise their children right against all odds.

Motherhood used to be honored and revered in this country. The Oregonian stated that 1 in 3 men had gotten into a fistfight when they were young with a kid who insulted their mom. Welfare reform is an insult to mothers everywhere. It values motherhood and personal responsibility only if they're accompanied by enough money; otherwise they're a crime.

After you call the florist for the prerequisite Mother's Day arrangement for your own mom, why not make a call to your congressional representatives and tell them to lighten up on welfare reform - for someone else's mom (she probably doesn't have a phone). Tell them to restore the social safety net that was designed especially to support motherhood.

Happy Mother's Day to EVERY mom out there. Even those sleeping under the bridges.

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    Great article! This is all so true.

    I must say that the one issue that gets me the most frustrated when it comes to Democrats is support for low-income people/families.

    As a member of a household that isn't much above the poverty level (we're at about the 134% level), I can completely understand how frustrating it can be.

    I've seen the party and its candidate ignore this section of the population way too often. They want to talk about the middle class, but not the poor. The poor get brought up when the right-wing is bashed, but rarely when it comes to policy.

    I've asked some if they could live off $400/month for gas, car insurance, electricity (on an apartment that runs $70+/month), food (for 2 adults and a toddler), diapers, regular doctor visits (for a toddler as well as re-occuring health problems for adult), etc. I have yet to get a response from any of them.

    We would have a better chance of affording to live each month if we didn't have health insurance to worry about ($170 now, about to go up to more than $210 in a few weeks). However, you have to go six months without coverage before you can even get any assistance in paying it. How many families with a child and/or an adult with health problems can do that?

    During the selection process for national delegates last year, I asked the Kerry campaign why they didn't require a certain number of people who were below middle class to be delegates, just as they had certain races or with homosexuals. I was told by the campaign that those people couldn't afford to go anyway.

    That shouldn't be the attitude when it comes to the poor.

  • DA (unverified)

    Jenni S.,

    Will DFO's Summit, in later May, seek to engage low-income input & participation or even leadership?


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    My answer to that would be yes. We're hoping to give people the training they need to start with in order to run for office, get involved, etc. And we're doing it at a really low rate.

    It hasn't exactly been easy in the past for people with low incomes, but a passion for change, to get the training they need. Much of what I've learned has been in spite of, not because of, the system.

    And I'd imagine that if someone came forward who wanted to come, and couldn't afford it, that we could work it out.

    We encourage input, involvement, and leadership from everyone. We understand that not everyone has the money (or ability) to come to every meeting, come to expensive events, etc. And I'd love to see some more people like myself participating and leading within DFO. There is a lot of really important work that can be done from home. That means you don't have to worry about child care, gas, etc.

    I'd encourage anyone who is low-income, and wants to get involved, to get a hold of me. Probably the best way to put in my contact info, and not get too many spammers, is to tell them to go to http://www.democracyfororegon.com/user/32

    They'll need to register on the site first, but they can then send me a private message.

  • Trey (unverified)

    The "role" of mothers in society has always illustrated to me the bankruptcy of conservative political and religious thought.

    When speaking of the financially poor, conservatives rail that the responsible thing to do is to go out and get one or more jobs. Yes, a "welfare mother" will be a "good" mother only by work, work, work.

    Yet, when speaking of the financially well off, conservatives argue the EXACT opposite. "Working Women" destroy the tether of the nuclear family and are one of the greatest causes of the failure of "family values". So, in this specific instance, mothers are urged to NOT work, well not work outside the home.

    What a lovely contradiction!

  • Tood Birch (unverified)

    Tell them to restore the social safety net that was designed especially to support motherhood.

    You mean fatherhood? Forget it, sister. The American welfare-warfare state has been doing its best to undermine that indispensable cultural institution and fundamental social obligation for decades.

  • Todd Birch (unverified)

    (Of course, what do I know: I have trouble spelling my own name sometimes.)

  • Anthony (unverified)

    Why is no support forthcoming from the kids' father?

    The state's requirements do seem onerous, perhaps too much so, but some controls are necessary since such aid is so commonly abused.

    I think Trey finds contradiction where there might not be any. Sure, it's best for mothers to stay home with their children, but one's family's welfare is still one's own responsibility.

    Perhaps is Margaret Ramirez's husband were more conservative she wouldn't be in the jam she is. If you want to find a bankruptcy of values, look not ath conservative political and religious thought, but rather at a swine who abandons his family.

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    This isn't just a situation that divorced mothers find themselves in. Widows with children are also in this situation. So are married women who were working to help their family make ends meet but have been laid off.

    Once again, many people here are completely glossing over the purpose behind this commentary.

    "Welfare" is not commonly abused. It's estimated that only a few percent of people abuse the system. Many of those who are abusing the system are doing so because the income limits set forth right now are ridiculous. They'll not report cash they've received from off jobs or that they got a small reduction in their rent for renewing their lease.

    Unless you've had to get these services, you probably don't realize how different things are than they were 2 decades ago. Welfare is basically gone. You can get TANF (Temporary Aid for Needy Families) if you have an income that is extremely low (usually the max. income limit is something like a few hundred bucks a month). Then there is food stamps, which is only a pittance.

    Right now, the safety net for families is almost non-existant. With so many people out of work, we need that safety net badly.

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