I feel like I’ve fallen into the poverty trap and I don’t see a way out any time soon….
Here’s how the math works:
I’ve managed to find the cheapest possible place to live on the East side of the Seattle area, where a typical one bedroom one bedroom hole costs $1,400 per month. I found a lady who was originally going to rent her upstairs haven for a bed and breakfast couple on their honeymoon.....somehow she agreed to rent her place to me and my son. She originally wasn’t going to accept any kids. I asked her, “what changed your mind?” She replied incredulously, “I don’t know. I’m not religious, but I do believe things happen for a reason…” So there you have it. It is one GIGANTIC step towards crawling out of poverty. Rent will be $1,000 per month including utilities!!! (yes, I’m VERY excited about that!!!!!)
But here’s the problem. I’m a college educated woman with a LOT of skills. I could easily walk into a job making $15.00 an hour in the Seattle area…this seems like a lot does it not? Well let’s break it down. Let’s assume for a minute that I would work full-time at $15.00 an hour. I would no longer qualify for ANY government assistance. This is what it would then look like for me:
My gross annual salary would be $31,200, Net after taxes around 28,080. Divide that by 12 months in a year and you get $2,340. Ok, I guess we all my child support to this which is $100.00 per month.
Ok so 2,440 per month including child support….
Since all government benefits would go away with the exception of my child’s healthcare, (not mine)…this is what it looks like:
$1000 – Rent and utilities
$545 – Childcare (before and after school for my son)
$500 – Car (I do not have a car payment, so this is gas, insurance, and maintenance since I have an 11 year old vehicle).
Wait a minute! FUCK! You mean I work my ASS off 8 hours a day, and just the physical act of getting to and from work and having my kid in daycare and I’ve already spent $2045??? After all of that it means that I have $395 dollars a month left for food, a phone of some kind, clothes for my kid as he grows….not even starting to discuss any luxuries, like Netflix, or a gym membership, or healthcare for myself!!!!
Based on what my case manager told me I would need to make in order to live comfortably in this part of the country, I would need to make $25.00 an hour working full-time…and I only have ONE KID!!!!
This sort of existence is bleak at best, and life shortening at worst. I am one of the lucky ones. It feels funny saying that but it’s so true. I managed to get enough community resources to sustain me through my recovery and integration back into society after a difficult separation, escape from an abusive husband, and the aftermath of a post-break-up rebound gone wrong into sexual assault and stalking. I managed to get the help I needed to manage and deal with my depression, and PTSD, and learn how to cope with the loss of my husband (and my son’s father,) to be able to withstand the constant abuse (that we are still dealing with)….
And above and beyond all of this, I had the chance to return home, where I actually have more support and where I’m happiest…And I didn’t. You know why? Because despite the abusive jerk he can be, I still respect my son’s father and his role in my son’s life, and I still believe that even if he only sees him a couple of days out of every month, at least he sees him, and at least my son knows he’s there. We live in one of the most expensive parts of the country, and I’m thankful that somehow I’ve managed to live where my son can get the very best possible public school education honestly in probably the whole nation, and where his prospects for many great Universities will be of great benefit in the future….but to tell you the truth, it is NOT EASY! Every part of me wanted to move home where I have best friends who are like sisters to me. And just as quickly as the opportunities opened up to me, I shut the door on them, because I have a vision for my son and for myself. I KNOW that if I move my son back to gang-infested New Mexico he WILL get caught up into trouble. Maybe not for several years, but trouble will find him.
Despite what everyone tells me (and I do mean everyone) I have thought that a little boy needs his dad….After this weekend I’m not so sure. My son has always said he doesn’t want to see dad, but he’s gotten more and more vocal about it. This weekend he literally yelled at me saying, “I don’t want to see dad! I don’t like him!!!!!” I said, “Why don’t you like him!” He said, “Because he’s always mean to me and he always smacks me! And I don’t like it! And I don’t want to see him ever again!!!!”
Well it doesn’t get much clearer than that!
So I called my son’s father and told him what his son said. I asked him if he has been smacking him. He admitted to me of one time (which I already knew about) but swore that it was the “only time.” I tried to discuss the situation further and my son’s father got VERY defensive and said, “I don’t want to discuss this further. Bring him when HE wants to see me. I don’t want to talk about this anymore and I’m not in the mood to hear anything more that you have to say….”
If he had heard me out I was going to offer some insight that might have been helpful, but he shut me down before I could even speak. So I just said, “Ok, we’ll talk later then.” Then 2 minutes later he texts me with, “Sorry but I don’t want to have problems with you or him. I don’t feel good and I don’t want any trouble.” To which I replied, “Ok, get well and we’ll talk when you want to. That was yesterday afternoon and I haven’t heard from him since.
I’ve decided that I’m not staying here FOR his dad anymore. I’m staying here for myself and my son. My son goes to a great school, and I myself am in school. Maybe possibly with more education I’ll eventually crawl out of poverty. But honestly, for right now, the way I honestly feel is that breaking my back working my ass off is of no help to my son who needs me in the afternoons/evenings to spend time with him. I don’t have friends and family to help me. My mother is severely mentally ill and not competent to care for my son by herself except for cases of emergency. And my son’s father lives 20 miles away, has no care, and wouldn’t come help me even if I asked him to. So I’m going to finish school. In the mean-time I’m going to purposefully stay below the Federal Poverty Level….so that I don’t have to make AS much money. This will allow me to at least have the emotional energy I need to care for my son. I am in the last 2 months of my crime victim funding and I am honestly scared for what is to come in the new year. The safety net of my housing no longer being paid is really scary. It means I have to stand on my own two feet and make it somehow balancing between making just enough but not too much money to lose my benefits so that my son has at least one healthy parent. So I’m in the poverty trap….and I don’t know how to get out.