Some people don’t understand why I chose to give birth four times. I know in many circles, it's more acceptable to have had four abortions than four children, but I believed that each of my babies deserved a chance to experience this life and give something unique and beautiful to this world.
I can concede that I've not been as discerning as I could have been in relationships — and at times, I was desperate for love in the men I've chosen.
However, what’s less evident to outsiders is that I've also spent years practicing abstinence, trying to sort out my core wounds and understand how I can be a better woman and mother.
I love wellness, but I sometimes feel like the world doesn’t understand what it’s like for those of us who are struggling to make ends meet. There’s a focus on self-actualization, which is difficult for those of us struggling to fulfill basic needs like food and shelter. (Think Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.)
Sure I'd love to buy 100 percent organic and practice yoga three times a week. But most days, I’m thinking about how I’m going to make my car payment or buy groceries or afford after-school activities for my kids. The wellness community often operates on the assumption that simple mind-shifts and affirmations alone will result in a better life, and that’s true — as long as your basic needs are met.
I didn’t anticipate struggling to make ends meet. I earned my master's of social work from Arizona State University in 2009, a career trajectory I thought was secure. That same year, I lost my best friend and co-parent, my mom, to cancer.
After being unable to find full-time employment or affordable childcare in Arizona, I moved back to my home state of Illinois.
After a year here, I found a full-time job. I made $43,000 a year, on which I was supposed to support a family of five.
For a while, I received a state child care subsidy, which brought the cost of child care down to about $600 per month from $2,000. But I still had to “rob Peter to pay Paul.”
I'd routinely pay bills in part or late in order to afford groceries. (Some nonessentials would simply go unpaid, resulting in my recent filing for Chapter 7 this summer.)
In 2011, my employer wasn't required to offer health insurance, but I qualified for Medicaid because of my family size. This coverage allowed my family to receive necessary physicals and needed urgent care without incurring massive amounts of medical debt.
In hindsight, social service work may not have been the best career field for a single mom — especially given the demanding positions, fluctuating agency budgets, lower wages, high stress, and job insecurity, but at the time I chose the field I thought I could really make a difference in the lives of the hurting and disenfranchised like myself.