I want to start by stating that my 20 month old son is a monkey. A MON-KEY. You turn around for one second and he’s into something. For example, just last week he figured out how to lift the latch of the gate in our backyard and disappeared into the front yard. When I didn’t see him anywhere, I panicked and called 911. Just as I got someone on the other line, hubby found Chris on our neighbors steps. That was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced. You better believe we found a way to lock the gate the same day.
Two weeks later, my lil Chris locks himself in our bathroom. The lock in our bathroom is just a push button; very tempting to a toddler, especially once shutting the door. I tried a pen and then a bobby pin to open the lock but no luck, so I called 911 once again. A crew of firemen came (single ladies, take note) who were able to get him out. My five year old thought this was the coolest thing ever! We even got a picture with the firemen. My nerves were settled once I knew my baby was safe.
However, after the firemen left, events took a turn for the worst. The police were at my door with suspicions of negligence because of my two calls to 911 in less than a month. Their questions felt like an interigation, leaving me in utter shock of their accusations. They then informed me that they would be contacting social services. Social services? On ME?? I don’t remember the answers I gave them other than my stammering from disbelief from what was presently happening.
After inspecting my home and my fridge, they came to the consensus that I may be an “ok” mother. Our house, which happened to be clean (miracle), was apparently a good thing? What would have happened if my house hadn’t been clean? Would that have meant I don’t look after my children?
When the policemen left, I broke down. Maybe I was a bad parent? What would I do if Chris got himself into a predicament again? I certainly wouldn’t be phoning them. What if social services came and they didn’t believe me? What if my five year old said something “five-year-old-ish” to them?!
All I could think was; “This is not who I am!” I’m not one of “those” parents, are you kidding me?
Sheer panic, hopelessness and despair flood my soul that morning. Thank God for my neighbor who came over and brought me back to rationale. She told me if social services came for a meeting at my house, she would sit in the meeting with me. What a great neighbor! I’m so glad I actually know who lives next door or I would have felt so alone.
This experience caused me to instantly feel stereotyped. All day, I couldn’t shake the insecurity of my ability to be a good mom. I was on edge, watching my children’s every move, fearful of any action that would lead to the police being involved again (which is highly unlikely at any time on a normal day). I was afraid of drawing any attention to us. I felt vulnerable, exposed. I felt shame, even though I kept assuring myself I had no reason to. I didn’t want to tell anyone this happened for fear they would second guess me.
It’s no fun feeling labeled. It’s degrading and draining on the emotions. This experience opened my eyes again to the experience those living in poverty go through every moment of every day. They, too, are “normal people” who have just experienced less than desired circumstances that have led them to where we see them presently. Every day they war through the battlezone of stereotypes like “lazy”, “inadequate”, and “unworthy” to fight to survive. It goes even beyond surviving monetarily, but through the negative emotions being built up within them. “Maybe I AM inadequate?” Imagine battling that every moment? Does this help them rise above?
It’s important we don’t stereotype those living in poverty. Just as we don’t want labels, let’s return the favour but not only avoiding stereotypes, but seeking to understand the issues that create poverty… and come up solutions us mommas are known to come up with.