Have you ever made a bad decision because you thought you had no other options?
I read an article the other day about a young woman who was arrested and charged with child endangerment. Sadly, there are often stories like this but this one really caught my attention.
Shaina Bell, a 24 year old mother of three was arrested in Ohio after leaving her children alone in a motel room. She left them alone while she went to work at her job a Little Caesars. She wasn't out partying or hanging out with friends. She was working.
We hear stories all the time of bad parents who do awful things to their children. Stories of abuse or abandonment – but this isn't one of those. This woman was working and made what was likely a very hard decision.
I am not condoning leaving young children alone and unsupervised. Yes, that part was dangerous and not a good choice. BUT the point is that this young woman had to feel that it was her ONLY choice. She made a bad decision out of desperation. And I don't fully blame her for what she did.
Child care is the biggest expense that single mothers have.
As single mothers the largest expense that we typically struggle with is the cost of child care. When I was looking at going back to a regular office job it was going to cost me double the amount I paid in rent to put my kids in day care. I don't know many single parents that can afford that on their own.
Luckily I was able to figure out how to start working from home but I was lucky. Not everyone is able to do that. Not everyone knows how to do that. Some people have family or friends that can help them but not everyone. I imagine this young mother struggled with the thought of leaving her kids alone.
There are many people who are saying awful things about her because of the decision she made. Many of them have never been faced with a circumstance where they would need to make such a decision. They are lucky. As single mothers we often have to struggle with decisions like these.
Do we pay the light bill or the water bill and hope one or the other doesn't get turned off. If we pay this bill with a check will it float long enough before we get paid or will it bounce? How can I make ground beef and macaroni noodles last for a week?
Making bad decisions because we feel like we have no other choice…
Sometimes the decisions we have to make are harder than that. Sometimes we feel like we have to make bad decisions because we just don't have any other options. Like this young mother in Ohio. Also the mother who was in the news for leaving her kids in the car while she went in for a job interview. There are hundreds, if not thousands of stories like this.
Not having childcare is one of our biggest challenges. It is too expensive for single parents. Hell, it is too expensive for married couples! But if we don't have the money for day care we don't have a spouse we can lean on. We can't decide to stay home while the other person works to avoid child care costs.
So more often than not we end up on government assistance programs to help us with those expenses. Then we end up trapped in those programs that are supposed to help us. We also will often be demonized and stereotyped as leaches or drains on the economy.
So like Arizona Congressman Ruben Gallego tweeted – we are damned if we do and damned if we don't. If we don't take government assistance or can't get it – how do we work if we can't get child care? Well, we likely end up making a bad decision that we know isn't great. BUT we feel like it is the only thing we can do.
Before I started my own business I was fired from several jobs because I wasn't able to make it in to work. A sitter would not show up or one of my kids was really sick. Not all jobs or bosses are understanding. Some will fire you on the spot just for calling in.
So what are we supposed to do?
If we know that we will likely lose our jobs if we call in but we don't have a sitter? We are faced with a difficult decision. If we lose our jobs how long will it be before we can find another? How will we pay our bills? Put food on the table? Especially right now in the midst of COVID – we are lucky to even HAVE the job we do.
So this young mother made a bad decision because she likely felt it was the only one she had. Too many of us know what that is like. Have you ever had to make a bad decision because you didn't have any other options?
*There is a silver lining to her story though. A GoFundMe account was started up to help her find a place to live so she didn't have to live in a motel anymore. And hopefully it will help her secure some child care for the next little while. I hope it is enough to put her family on the path to self sufficiency.