If I could assign “required reading” for adults on the planet, then I would put on the list Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, And A Mother’s Will To Survive by Stephanie Land. Buy it, read it, “get” it.
Stephanie writes about the days when she had a small child, no other reliable adult support, lived in a mold ridden apartment that made them sick, and worked as a maid. For me, as a woman who struggles a bit now and as a daughter of a mom who cleaned houses for 20 plus years on top of her day job, this book echoed through my whole being.
People need to know what it is like to be in Stephanie’s shoes. The juggle is intense. What might seem like the most common things become road blocks. For example, recently a woman asked me if she could use my computer to fill out and print a Section 8 form. When I said of course, her relief was visible. Her forehead, shoulders, and arms relaxed; measurable only in millimeters on the exhale, right in front of me.
If we really want to help people in poverty, then we need to help with things like printing and transportation. And we need to nix the judgemental and marketing manipulative attitudes.
Some people give others the stink-eye because someone who may appear to be poor has what looks like a smartphone. But let me tell you that phone likely does not do everything your phone does. That person may only pay for a certain number of minutes at a time. What may be your daily lifeline is a tool that comes and goes for them. Imagine how quickly you might run out of minutes with no money to get more. Over the summer, a woman called me to help her track the bus route progress. She had a phone but no internet. She was waiting at a bus stop and trying to get to the hospital to see her child. She talked me through how to use my phone to look up the live bus line.
And how about the environmental marketing that impacts people in poverty? If you go into Kroger in a fancy neighborhood, the alcohol may be in a separate side store or tucked in a pergola looking back section of the store. If you go into a Kroger in an area with higher poverty, then the alcohol is in front and often near the checkout like candy for the young and old to see all year long. Cigarettes and E-cigs? Where do you think the most vape shops are and the most colorful nicotine addictive luring posters?
If we really cared, mental health and self care learning options would be accessible at the unemployment office and government offices that give assistance. We could teach better options. We could make healthy resources easier to connect with. We could.
The prolonged brain strain begins to physically hurt. I know first hand the constant pressure of trying to pay bills with no way to save toward the inevitable broken appliance, car repair, etc. I must write down every little to-do item or I will forget. I think of this time in our lives as either go-to-work or shelter-in-place and allow time to pass until the next paycheck.
When Hubby needed help today he said, “No because it’s not fair to you.” I replied, “Thanks for the acknowledgement. And this is not fair to either one of us. We’re in this [ALS-21] together.”
People say you either get better or get bitter. I think that is true, but my brain hurting likely will not go away until we sell the house and start over. I cast vision daily in my mind of what it will look like when we are no longer slave to a mortgage after losing his income, and when we are in a more accessible location so I can stop worrying about how Hubby will make it up or down stairs.
My “getting better” is in the appreciation of many small things. I notice beauty around me. Every time there is hot water I am thankful. When I open the fridge door to cold food, I am delighted. Groceries are golden. When a friend bought me two tacos, I felt joy to ditch tuna and peanut butter on a long pre-paycheck week. I have hugged the washer and dryer in appreciation for their endurance. I marveled at this sunset Saturday night:
If you struggle, you are not alone. Stephanie Land reminds us of that.
What would you place on the required adult reading list?