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Food Stamps, Toilets, and a Mother’s Fight for Survival

Food Stamps, Toilets, and a Mother’s Fight for Survival

Watching another single mom struggle didn’t sound fun to me

If you’ve been on Netflix the past month or so, you’ve probably seen the series Maidfloating around. Actually, it was in the top 10 things people are watching for quite a while. It took some time and a bit of convincing for me to watch though. I’d read the description: after fleeing an abusive relationship, a young mother finds a job cleaning houses as she fights to provide for her child and build them a better a future. I didn’t know how watching a single mom fight for her survival would make me feel. 

It sounded like something that might just trigger me, and I wasn’t ready for it. After listening to Coffee Convos Podcast one morning at work though and hearing Kail Lowry (who’s also a single mom) talk about it, I decided to give it a go. Maybe it’d actually be therapeutic or something.

One episode in and I was hooked. 

Though our circumstances weren’t exactly the same,  I definitely related to Alex (mom’s name in the show). I laughed, I cried, I rooted for her, and even winced at some of her decisions. But overall I saw what she went through and felt a connection to her story. So when I found out the show was actually based off of Stephanie Land’s book, I had to read it. And for the past two weeks via Audible, that’s what I did.

Snakeskin and duck juice

As I listened to Stephanie tell her story my feelings were all over the place. At times I felt she could be doing more, and then other times I wanted to tell her to give herself a break. I understood so much of her decisions because I’ve had to make similar ones myself. The fact of the matter is, that just like me, she did what she had to do to take care of her daughter.

Stephanie worked hard as a maid, making next to nothing. She scrubbed vomit off of toilets, cleaned out refrigerators with who knows what in them, and cleared clutter from hoarders houses. At one house in particular, she took several days to help move piles of clothes and trash out of the house. One day when she finally reached the floor, she found mouse droppings and shedded snake skin. There were food items in the house that were over 10 years expired. The family who lived there was also living in poverty, so Stephanie charged even less than normal.

While listening to the countless house cleaning horror stories, (and let me tell you there were a lot) I couldn’t help but think of the duck farm. It was my first job after having my daughter and I worked in this large open room with dead ducks everywhere. In one station the ducks came in on hooks only to drop down a shaft and come smacking into more dead ducks. The speed at which they slid down caused duck juice splashed in my eyes and mouth. At another station I had to stuff gizzards into their lifeless bodies and another, shove them into a plastic bag. I lasted a whole month until my appendix burst and I had to have emergency surgery. 

It couldn’t have been better timing.

Government Assistance

Throughout her book, Stephanie talks a lot about the financial aid she received. I can’t pretend to remember everything she applied for or was able to take advantage of, but chapter 5 is literally titled: Seven Different Kinds of Government Assistance. She shared about her experience with SNAP, WIC, and rental assistance, and it wasn’t pretty.

The complications with WIC were sometimes so frustrating that she would forgo getting the items altogether. With WIC you’re given vouchers that are only good for certain kinds of milk, cereal, etc. Sometimes the cashiers would get huffy and puffy when she grabbed the wrong item. Entitled people would stand behind her in line and yell after her, “you’re welcome!” when she used her EBT card. Can you imagine? As if a single mom isn’t already beating herself up for enough each day. 

And I know some small minded person might say, “well just get a better paying job, try harder.” Which makes me almost laugh because I honestly feel like most people couldn’t do what she did to survive.

I was on Facebook today when I was reminded of one of the worst moments I’ve had since becoming a single mom. It was 7 years ago to the day that I walked into my local Martin’s Supermarket with my 6 month old to get groceries. It wasn’t until I filled up my cart and got through the checkout that I discovered I didn’t have enough money on my food stamp card to pay for my things. Needless to say, I was mortified. Frustrated and on the brink of tears, I was frantically trying to decide what to put back when the woman behind me offered to pay for my things and I lost it. I Kim Kardashian cried in front of a group of strangers because I had no idea what I was doing. 

The takeaway

The thing about being a parent is that there’s no manual. You just have to figure it out. When you’re a single parent though, there’s so much more that comes with it. Stephanie had to endure living in a shelter, disgusting work conditions, and an abusive relationship. Somehow still she was able to keep a roof over her daughter’s head and food in her little belly. 

She did what she had to do to until she could do better for them both. Although her circumstances were less than ideal, she was able to move to Missoula, MT to attend college and pursue writing. And it all led her to writing a book, that was turned into a series on Netflix. I’m sure never in her wildest dreams could she have imagine that!

As I watched the series, and listened to the book, I was reminded of how much I’ve made it through myself. There were countless times I sat in my car crying thinking, “I can’t do this.” Even though I’ve had my own struggles, part of me was kind of judging myself as I listened to what Stephanie went through. I found myself thinking, “well you never had to go through that.” And it’s true. I haven’t suffered all of the same hardships that she did. But I’ve come to realize that it’s okay for us to be proud of how far we’ve come in our own lives. I still have so far to go but thinking back on where I started helps me believe I can continue to grow.  

Here’s where I tell you to go read the book

There’s so much more I could share from her book, I mean I could honestly go on and on. But I’d encourage you to read it for yourself. If you aren’t a reader, watching the series on Netflix would be fine. You’ll see Stephanie battling with herself to leave an unloving relationship or stay for the security of it all. You’ll feel her pain and guilt as she recovers from a horrific accident that involved her daughter. But most of all you’ll get a completely honest look into the life of someone who was trying to figure it out. 

You’ll never know the pain, the stress, or the struggle of being a single mom (or dad) unless you are one. Maid does a good job though at giving you a peek inside our world. It might make you stop and think the next time you feel the urge to judge someone on food stamps. Or maybe you’ll find a new appreciation for someone in your life that is a single parent. We all come from different walks of life and we all go through things. This book will help you have more compassion for people different than you.

From one single mom to another

If you are a single mom, I highly suggest you take the time to read this story. Regardless of whether you’ve gone through the same things as Stephanie or not it will encourage you to keep going. In fact after I finished it I was reminded of something my mom always used to say to me when I would call her crying. She’d say, “One day 6 months from now you’ll look back on this and think, ‘that wasn’t so bad!'” Just like Stephanie, you can get through the hard times. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be more to come, but all you can do is take it one day at a time. Just don’t give up on yourself, give yourself a break when things get rough, and show yourself some love.

If you’re feeling like you need some encouragement, or just want to connect with someone who gets it, my DM’s on Instagram are always open! In my last blog, How Becoming a Single Mom Truly Saved My Life I share a little more of my story. It’s true that becoming a single mom brings on a lot of stress and added responsibilities. But it can also be a major motivating factor in becoming your best self, and that’s what my daughter has been for me.

One thought on “Food Stamps, Toilets, and a Mother’s Fight for Survival

  1. Incredibly written & so relatable. Being raised by a single mom, I experienced these struggles as a child and I watched my mom work her butt off to provide for us. I actually watched this series with my mom and it had us in our feels reminiscing. Single moms are really superheroes out here.

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