Today (well, yesterday) my family has been blessed beyond measure (for the Bible tells me so).
Today I get to get to tear up my WIC checks!
For those of you who may not know what WIC (Women Infants & Children) checks are, they are government issued checks for certain healthy grocery staples each month for families with pregnant moms and/or children under 5.
They provide milk, cheese, eggs, vegetables, peanut butter, tuna fish, cereals, and bags of dry beans.
Since I have always been (well) employed, I did not qualify until I became pregnant with my youngest.
Between three under five, a job switch for a better opportunity (and a slight pay cut), our WIC checks became a necessity each month to feed our young family.
Growing up in a family where government assistance, of any kind, was seen less than acceptable, I kept this a secret from my family (although maybe they suspected anyways) and felt miserable about it for the first couple months, even though there were months that the milk provided (and downed by my boys) came only from here. I saw it as a necessary “evil” and that it was all I could do, as I honestly was eligible, as an extension of care for my family.
I spoke with some mentors, miserable, as I told them my secret.
I wondered, if by using the checks, I was sinning.
If I was not allowing God to provide.
If I had too little faith for God to provide for my family.
They answered with the same love that they offer again and again to my family.
“Kaitlin,” they said matter-of-factly, “If you got sick, and you took medicine, are you “not trusting God?” Are you “without faith?””
A huge weight was off my shoulders.
Of course not!
I believe that God is all-powerful, but I believe in our God-given ability to help ourselves as well.
The next two years there were months where we didn’t need any of the checks.
There were months we did.
So, my purpose of this blog, as I leave this chapter of my life behind (AMEN), is to remind you all, the next time you’re standing behind a mommy at the check-out line with WIC checks, a little about her.
Because it was me the day before yesterday.
Sometimes that mommy is just like me.
#1. She (or her husband) has a full time job. With benefits.
She can’t just “get a job.” She has one. Period. It’s still not quite enough in this economy. Yes, she made a “choice” to have children, but is that really your business? Try and start that conversation with me. I dare you.
#2. She has a smart phone.
Nothing makes my blood BOIL faster than the "memes" that condescendingly picture a girl at the check-out with a smart phone and food stamps (let’s be honest, WIC checks are glorified food stamps).
She has a smart phone. For the first year of my WIC experience that smart phone was a company phone. Because I had a job.
For the second year, I had a smart phone. Because I had a job. And kids. And a husband. This isn’t rocket science people.
You try going to the store and asking for a non-smart phone. They have charges for not having a smart phone. Sure, they don’t call them “Charges for Not Having a Smart Phone.” But seriously, it’s the same price. AND, if you want to be able to call your regional, be a contactable human being (necessary when you have a job (have I said that enough?)), you need a phone. And probably a smart one.
#3. Why doesn’t she / or the stay-at-home parent work?
Have you SEEN daycare prices today?! Oh, and assistance for that, yeah, if you have a job you don’t qualify. Even if you’re flipping burgers. It’s a shame.
We have been since blessed with a job for my husband (and a schedule) that will allow for the children to be in daycare only 2-days a week now. If we had to pay for full time day care, I wouldn’t be writing this blog, because we’d still be using/qualifying for WIC.
#4. SHE is annoyed with how long it takes her to get through the check-out line
TRUST ME. We get how long its taking. We get that each check (for like 3 items) has to be a separate transaction, and that the staff usually is WAY undertrained on how to process them.
We get it.
We’re really sorry.
We’re WAY more uncomfortable than you.
Please don’t scowl or sigh or roll your eyes or aggressively switch lanes while doing all three.
AND, another fun fact, sometimes the mommy at the check-out stand ISN’T me.
Did you know that (at least in California) if you are a foster mommy and/or daddy of a child under 5 you automatically qualify for checks for those children?
Think of THAT next time you internally sigh at the mommy in nice clothing in front of you using WIC checks.
She just might be buying an extra gallon of milk and some cheese to feed the child with PTSD from years of infantile abuse that she has chosen to welcome into her home. Into her family.
Now, here’s what YOU can do!
#1 (and this one is SO EASY): Smile.
That’s right; just smile. Don’t switch lines when she pulls out her checks.
Talk to her baby. Tell her how cute her baby is.
Tell her what a patient mommy she must be! (this actually happened to me last week and it MADE MY DAY!)
Tell her you remember how tough it was being a young mommy when milk wasn’t $5.50 a gallon.
#2. This is my dream.
My dream is, in many years, to be behind a mommy (or, God willing, many mommies!) and as she pulls out her WIC checks and presents them to the cashier, I hand her a $20.00 bill, and I tell her to save that check for later in the month.
She won’t take it, so you’ll probably have to hand it to the cashier.
You guys this discussion isn’t about “who deserves what.”
Or maybe it is.
We mommies, all of us, deserve to be treated like humans.
Just like any other mommy in the check-out line.
We’re all in the trenches.
And, you know nothing about her.
SO, please, the next time you’re in Raley’s, please remember this.
We are so uncomfortable up there.
We know what you think of us.
Please change that. We are desperately trying to change our situation.
God will provide for us. We know that.
But right now, we need to get milk in the fridge and into our babies’ bellies.
And no amount of scowling will stop us from doing that.
But a knowing smile, will go, believe me, MILES.
Yes, there are people who abuse these systems.
But sometimes, and I would argue more often than not, they are mommies just like me and families just like us.