Basically, I never did. Interestingly, there is a persistent rumor among the Outraged Lower Middle TeaParty Class that single moms, AKA "Welfare Queens" (THANK YOU Ronald fucking Reagan) are living it up on the shitty side of town, driving tricked -out Cadillacs, wearing excessive gold chains, going to the hair salon every week, and buying lobster to eat in front of their flat-screens while wearing expensive new clothes. While this will certainly fall on deaf ears (or blind eyes, as it were) for the loudest of the Outraged Lower Middle TeaParty Class, I am still compelled, once again, to attempt to inform the Outraged what it was, exactly, that I was doing with "their" money: yes, it is always "their" money - which, for the leech, I mean, welfare recipient, comes out to approximately $0.09 out of each federally taxed dollar. For some perspective: if you get $1500 gross per paycheck, are married, and claim, say, three allowances on your W4, then $68.70 is the federal withholding, which means six dollars and eighteen cents goes to these programs. Additionally, the Outraged also demand to know how on earth we, the leeches, managed to live so fly - in fact, the little remark I woke up to on facebook today, which prompted this post, went as follows (I'm leaving her name out; our mutual friend may share, or disregard, as she sees fit): "I'm ganna [sic] start asking people on welfare foodstamps single mothers and the unemployed how they always have money for new clothes phones shoes concerts vacations and bars all the time. If you have any idea how to accomplish paying the bills taking cares of all the kids needs buying all the groceries paying for gas in the cars and still having money for luxury items every week let me know cuz we need on that wagon. Just sayin." (yes. typed just as it was this morning; I'm far more fond of commas and sentence structure, I assure you).
First, a bit of background. I was a single mom from 2006-2009. While I was only unemployed for about four months after my son was born, I was more "under" employed for much of that time - because instead of "pulling myself up by the bootstraps" a'la the Libertarian battle cry, and landing a sweet full time factory job for fifteen bucks an hour, I chose to (gasp!) work part-time as a bartender and attend nursing school full time. I know, I know. How fucking dare I eschew honest, full-time employment in order to take more of YOUR hard-earned $0.09-of-every-federally-taxed dollar and flash my shit all over the local Walmart while attempting to better myself in school? I apologize. I had a fucking dream, yo. At any rate, I also was not receiving child support, as I'd seen far too many women trying to chase down asshole men for child support, while some of these dudes parachuted in and out of their child's life when they felt like playing daddy, and then whining to their friends out at bars that "that bitch" who was taking care of their kid never "let" him see the kid (conveniently leaving out that WOW! sometimes these moms have their own fucking schedules and obligations, and HOLY SHIT! sometimes pandering to the needs of a piece of shit who was little more than a child himself came a lot farther down the priority list than taking care of the needs of the child in question).
At any rate, I managed school, work, and home myself. My grocery budget was about $300 per month, and while it was certainly tempting to stock up on cheaper foods in order to stretch that further, I, having never cooked before in my life prior to having a child, made a concentrated effort to make "good" food choices. What does that mean? Well, while I did purchase beef, I can assure you it wasn't steak. I chose mid grade beef that wouldn't cook down into a puddle of fat and leave me with roughly half the amount of meat I started with. I chose mid-priced whole wheat bread, because even though yes, the white bread was less than a dollar, nutritionally I was getting more out of the fortified wheat. I bought quite a bit of chicken and learned about a thousand different ways to prepare it. I bought rice, fresh vegetables, decent cheese, fruits, lots of fresh milk, and yes, for myself, I bought some fucking coffee and soda - why? because I went to school all goddamn day, and if I wasn't working until midnight on one of my shifts I was sure as shit studying until midnight, because contrary to some opinions, nursing school is actually kind of fucking hard and I had to keep my grades up in order to remain in the program (and side-note, I graduated with a 3.84 at the top of my class; and that was parenting by myself, working 3-4 nights a week tending bar, then getting married and having a baby in the middle of my last semester and having my new husband back in Korea; fuck you very much). At any rate, I usually tried to do my grocery shopping very late at night, because I have to tell you, few things suck as much as the cashier silently eyeballing my purchases and then giving that little sneer when they see you pull out that blue Link card. And what's more awesome? Those cards never fucking work on the regular swipe machine, so then the cashier gets to say "IS THAT LINK? I'M GOING TO HAVE TO ENTER IT IN MYSELF" and then everyone in line behind you gets to start shifting around, muttering to themselves, and eyeballing what's in your bags. Although I do have to say, the whole three years I was living off "your" money, never once did I buy lobster. Tilapia? Yes. Lobster? No.
But let's move on to those luxury items! I know the anonymous young lady above was quite curious as to how us single mamas managed to party it up all the time, so here's a quick look at how I managed to look like a million bucks: first, the hair. I had pretty highlights in my hair, and as everyone knows, good hair care ain't cheap. However, what most people didn't bother to consider, is that there actually are decent people who will do your hair for trade. My aunt's mother is a stylist, and while she would have done my hair for free, continuing to refuse to take even a few dollars (because I tried, and she wouldn't accept it), she did let me clean up her shop for her every once in a while. So there's that.
There's also the small matter of a cell phone. I know, I know; poor folk shouldn't have phones at all. However, Virgin Mobile and Cricket (and later Alltel) actually have some decent phones with pay-as-you-go plans, and while the phones are fairly cheap knock-offs, some of them look a little too much like iPhones and Blackberrys for the Outraged Lower Middle Class. So the next time you see one of the leeches/Welfare Queens/undeserving poor tapping away on what looks like an iPhone, DEMAND to look at it and ask who their plan is through. Those are your tax dollars after all! My Blackberry lookalike came from Alltel, and about $35 a month would get me minimal text and talk credits, which were mostly used to communicate with my parents and childcare. I know. I had a lot of nerve.
Oh, let's talk about that childcare! Yep, my kid went to daycare. I utilized a program called Project Child, that offset the majority of childcare expenses while I was in school, and left a small copay for me. The other option was for me to not go to school, and either stay at home on my ass watching soap operas and eating expensive seafood, or start that full-time factory job, making me completely ineligible for Project Child, and having a third of my take-home go to childcare every month. Again, Outraged Lower Middle Class, I am sorry.
What else... oh, the clothes! Looking back at photos from those years, you'll notice that both my son and I dressed very nicely. I had jeans from Abercrombie and Gap, and my son was dressed in Gymboree, Old Navy, Polo, and Gap Kids. *cue the outrage* Well, first of all, I actually didn't have to buy a single article of clothing for Vlad for nearly a year. A lady who was friends with my aunt stopped by my house one morning (while I was still pregnant) and gave me every single bit of clothing her son had grown out of. These were very well-kept, name brand outfits. To say I was stunned and grateful would be an understatement. As for me, a couple times a month would find me digging through the bins and racks at the local consignment shops, and let me tell you, my perseverance paid off, because I could usually find nice name-brand khakis, jeans, and sweaters for less than five bucks each. Once Vlad grew out of the clothes he was given, I did the same for him, and as the shop ladies got to know me, they'd often put aside a few things for me, knowing I'd be in soon.
Now, I do have to say, I never did manage to go on vacation while I was living so "high on the hog". I suspect this is another "lobster" myth perpetuated by the Outraged Lower Middle Class, because I have known quite a few people on welfare, and never did see any of them take vacations either. *shrug*. I also didn't go out very often, but when I did, it was usually at the invitation of a girlfriend or one of my sisters, who knew I was on a budget. In a small town, a wine cooler will only cost about $1.25, and someone my size can get by on about three before calling it a night. Again, I do apologize for that $6 (yes, I tipped) out of "your" hard-earned $0.09-of-every-federally-taxed-dollar. Welfare Queens, unlike the Deserving Poor, should not be hanging out with their friends, outside their home, ever.
The concerts kinda stumped me. I did go to one concert. A girlfriend scored some cheap tickets, invited me to go, and allowed me to pay her over a period of weeks. Again, I didn't see any of my fellow Welfare Queens out at concerts every weekend, but maybe we just preferred different types of music? At any rate, I shouldn't have gone, I know. I had a lot of nerve.
Well I believe those are the salient points; however if any of the Outraged Lower Middle Class have additional inquiries about "their" money (because I know, you know HUNDREDS of leeches living like kings on that money!), please, email me (contact info tab) or message me on facebook. I'd love to discuss my personal finances, again, with you, ad nauseum, because it absolutely is your fucking business.
(and for those interested; as I mentioned, I graduated school, am now a registered nurse, and have started a pre-med track. I pay plenty in taxes, and I do so gratefully).