I read the headline “This Mom arrested for leaving her kids to go work at Little Caesars” and my heart sank. Her job is listed as if somehow it’s inferior. How dare she leave her kids to go to “that” job? Immediate judgement is placed. Many would stop reading there. Decide who she is, what kind of mother she is; assume she is neglectful.
But, we don’t know Shaina Bell. From the many articles that were written about her, I know she is a single mom. I know that she was charged with two counts of endangering children, a misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of six months in jail and fines up to $1,000 in her home state of Ohio. I don’t know her. I don’t know her story.
Mothers need help, not judgement
But, I’ve seen her mugshot. When I look at it I see a desperate mom trying to provide for her children. One who probably works the evening shift because that is what she is offered. I see a mom, broken. I see a mom who needs help. Who needs love. Who needs people to support her.
But what did she get? A charge of child endangerment and a fine. A fine that she likely can’t pay. A fine that is only going to put her farther behind.
Here is a mom struggling and we have all failed her.
This mom wasn’t out partying. She was working. And yes, for this particular mom a gofundme page was started. Celebrities have come to her rescue. She isn’t the only mom out there in this circumstance. Many others in this same situation.
Struggling moms – I see you
The struggle has always been there for parents that are lower or middle class, but that burden is felt most by single moms. The pandemic has made this worse. And childcare is so expensive. Hours do not always cover the shifts available to low income mothers.
These parents are left with no options.
Childcare is a huge barrier to employment. I live in an area with a low cost of living and for my three children to all attend daycare for one school year, the cost would be over $19,500. If I was a year round employee, that price tag would have been higher. I would be basically working for insurance. I was lucky enough to find a preschool for two of my kids and save $5,000. But I was lucky.
My husband and I both have decent jobs. We are middle class, but childcare has been a financial struggle for us. I can only imagine that struggle for those with just one income.
A no-win situation
I’m reminded of a single mom I worked with. When offered a raise at her yearly review, she cried. She cried and begged to not get the raise. Sounds crazy, right? But here was the thing: she needed childcare to work. She qualified for some assistance to bring the cost down. Even with that assistance she was financially strapped. That raise would have put her over the limit to receive that assistance. A $2,000 raise for this teacher would financially destroy her. Read that again.
Even something as simple as diapers can be a barrier for mom. Diapers are expensive. Centers can’t use cloth diapers. If a child doesn’t have diapers, they can’t come. If you need diapers to start daycare, but you need a job to buy diapers but can’t work a job until the baby is in a daycare…what do you do?
Sick kid, no daycare and mom can’t go to work. Time off and sick time are rarely offered when you start a low income job. If you call off a few times, you lose your job. Being fired from one job is an obstacle to getting another.
Since the pandemic, moms who were doing well are now unemployed because their kids are at home doing virtual school. Their chance to get ahead is gone.
The layers to this, the situations, they go on and on.
A system set up for failure
How many other moms are out there trying but the system is set up for them to fail?
It’s so easy to judge them. So easy to say “I would never do that.” When your option is to be homeless or leave your kids to go to work, there is no perfect choice. I highly doubt she wanted to leave her kids alone.
You can see the anguish in her face. And there are thousands more just like her. Dealing with situations that are impossible.
We so often fail to see them. We look down on them. We degrade their jobs. We have removed ourselves from any chance of understanding their situation. We have walked away from the possibility of helping them. Of demonstrating God’s love.
I don’t have a perfect solution for this. I am not sure there is one. We can’t gofundme every struggling mom. But, I know that there are things that can be done to help.
Let’s help her out
First off, instead of punishing these women, arresting them, taking their kids away; how about we help them to find resources in their community that may be available to them?
Donate to local charities that provide support for parents.
Advocate for paid maternity leave.
And if you know a mom who is struggling-help. Any way you can. Maybe it’s not financially. Maybe it’s offering to help babysit. Or bringing her a cooked meal.
Donate diapers to diaper drives.
Donate school supplies.
Bring these women to church. Help them find a community that will be able to provide them the love and support they are lacking in their lives.
We have to stop punishing people for being poor. We are told to care for the poor. We need to do better. Love your neighbor as yourself. We need to love better. We are all called to love and help others. Not only the “others” of our choosing, but those placed in our path.