When an “Issue” Has a Face: Mothers Need Solutions Not Soundbites: DNC 2012

Written by Hollis Raley, Momocrats

From a distance she looked awfully young. As I pulled closer I noticed that her hair was long and dirty blond, but clean and well cared for. Her clothes were dated but the faded knee length jean skirt and light pink t-shirt were clean and neat. She fiddled with the gold necklace at her throat and nervously folded and unfolded her sign. Finally she smoothed down her hair with resolve and unfolded the sign, holding it to the oncoming traffic. My impression was of discomfort. She was clearly new to standing in D.C. intersections asking for money. This was hard for her. I slowed my car early for the yellow light, bringing an impatient honk from behind me.

As I stopped next to her, I looked at her face and saw that she wasnít a girl. She may have been my age, just south of 40, but her faded blue eyes were older. I pulled out my wallet, buzzed my window down and handed her all of my cash. It wasnít much; I wish it had been more.

As she took the money, I said, ďPlease take care of yourself.Ē

She glanced at the car seats in the back of my car, looked at me with welling eyes and said, ďGod bless you, mama. I have three little girls of my own.Ē I met her gaze in silence, feeling for a moment the weight of her responsibility and I felt my own eyes sting with tears.

A car horn blared from behind. I startled and pulled through the intersection.

For the entire three hour ride home I thought about her. I wished Iíd done more, been able to offer more, said something more. I thought about how scary it would be as a parent to have nothing and still be responsible for 3 small lives. I thought about what it would take to drive me out into a busy intersection to beg for money. And I wondered why, in a country of such great wealth, anyone should have to.

When I arrived home, I went to my boysí room and watched them sleep, snuggled together with too many stuffed animals, their foreheads damp as I kissed them. And I thought about how lucky I am, with a lovely home, an excellent education, relatively good health, and plenty of money in the bank. Yes, my husband and I will never have quite enough, but we donít have to live from paycheck to paycheck. We donít have to worry about whether we can buy food or clothes for the boys. We donít have to worry about whether we can take them to the doctor when theyíre sick because of the excellent health insurance my husbandís company helps subsidize. We donít have to worry about whether or not we can pay for childcare so that we can work. Weíve been incredibly lucky in our lives, our parents, and our health. We donít live in fear, but so many parents do.

As the Republican National Convention wrapped up in Tampa last week, I was reminded of that woman from the DC intersection when Mitt Romney spoke so admiringly of his wife:

[Ann] was heroic. Five boys, with our families a long way away. I had to travel a lot for my job then and Iíd call and try to offer support. But every mom knows that doesnít help get the homework done or the kids out the door to school. I knew that her job as a mom was harder than mine. And I knew without question, that her job as a mom was a lot more important than mine.

Iím sure Governor Romney meant only admiration, but the thought that came to me, and to many mother like me, was ďHow patronizing!Ē Once I moved beyond that though, I was even more disturbed. For all of his admiration for his wife and for mothers, Romney hasnít proffered any policies that might actually help mothers.† I mean mothers who donít have trust funds or billionaire husbands; mothers who canít choose to stay home and raise children; mothers who donít just worry about homework and orderly bedtimes. What about the moms doing an even harder job Ė putting food on the table and keeping a roof over their heads?

When I gave that D.C. mother the cash I had in my wallet I was frustrated by how little I could do on my own. Iím frustrated by how little any of us can do on our own. But together, we can help parents who lose a job or canít work because theyíre sick. We can offer health insurance so that all mothers can afford it, not just the ones who find the right job. We can make sure that mothers donít have to worry about how to feed their children, or buy them clothes, or put a roof over their heads.

We can make sure that no mother ever has to stand in an intersection and beg for money.

Our government can help us do together what we canít do alone. Unfortunately, we donít live in the world of Julia yet and politicians like Romney and Ryan want to make sure that we never do. So today, as I head off to Charlotte for the Democratic National Convention, I know that Iíll be thinking of that D.C. mother, folding and unfolding her sign for her kids. And I hope that this week Iíll be hearing real solutions for parents, not just patronizing soundbites.

This post was originally published by Momocrats.


Related Stories:

4 Things To Watch For At The Democratic Convention

What Paul Ryan’s Lies Say About His Views of Women Voters

Pay Off Child Abusers and Still Get Invited To The DNC


Photo: Franco Follini/flickr


Wendy Schroeder
Wendy Schroeder5 years ago

I find all the poor with signs on the street distrubing. Yes, some may be lying and have a home yet some of them would work if only they could find something. Let's hope Romney doesn't get in or it will only get worse. He doesn't care about the poor.

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill5 years ago

This is why my husband and I support CBN and other Christian organizations. They take my little bit of money and combine it with the little bits from others to help people all over the world. CBN does many great things like digging wells for those without clean drinking water, helping flood and earthquake victims, building homes for those who need them...

Marianne B.
Marianne B5 years ago

This heart breaking story is just a drop in the bucket of all the women who have to do whatever it takes to survive. Thanks for sharing.

Berny p.
Berny p5 years ago

Relying on government to take care of us is like relying on the fox to take care of the chickens!


JT Smith5 years ago

[... continued] I have another friend with spinabifida, hydrocephalus, a complete spatial deficit (think zero depth perception and magnify it to ALL directions), and a host of other medical problems that's left her confined to a wheelchair for life. She's already outlived her initial prognosis by 32 years! She's also one of the best people I know. She WANTS to work. She would love to be able to get and hold a job. And she's tried to. Her physical limitations have prevented it thus far. She's having to rely on that safety net just for sheer survival! Without it, she'd be homeless or worse dead.

People like you who always see everything in strict black and white desperately need to get out more and actually meet real people without trying to pass judgement on them. Try getting to actually KNOW them and their situation before running your mouth. I know this because, unfortunately, I used to be one of them. My little brother and those friends I mentioned have long since disabused me of those notions.

JT Smith5 years ago

Steve R, those government services you mentioned are what we in the real world refer to as a "safety net." I'm the first to grant that there are those who abuse the system for their own greed. That's true of EVERY system at EVERY level within a society. Look at Mitt Romney and the actions of Bain Capital. Same thing only on a larger scale and "higher class."

The safety net is there to give us a hand getting back on our feet. One friend of mine is a single mom who's turning her life around and working her arse off. She has a job and is in the process of putting herself through school. NONE of that would be realistically feasible for her without government assistance. The government isn't simply giving her a free ride. She has to meet specific requirements (including actually working) in order to receive the help. She's also a recovering drug addict, and in the 6 years I've known her, she's made amazing progress. She, like so many, needed help and is getting it. She's not just sitting on her ass doing nothing.

I have another friend with spinabifida, hydrocephalus, a complete spatial deficit (think zero depth perception and magnify it to ALL directions), and a host of other medical problems that's left her confined to a wheelchair for life. She's already outlived her initial prognosis by 32 years! She's also one of the best people I know. She WANTS to work. She would love to be able to get and hold a job. And she's tried to. Her physical limitations have

Lauren A.
Lauren A5 years ago

Really wonderfully written and insightful article, thank you.

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle5 years ago

I feel exactly the same as Hollis, the author of this article. I give to every person who stands on the street with a sign, and feel an especial empathy with women -- they are so vulnerable on the street. My family tells me that there are institutions for that, and that I'm wasting my money, that I don't know what he/she will spend it on -- I don't care. I don't judge, don't make a determination of whether this or that person is worthy. The fact that I have enough, that I had a good brain to earn a good living during my working days, that I have a roof and walls to keep the rain out, make me sure that anyone on the street, has less than I, and has had to tuck their dignity way inside to do this.

I just watched the second night of the DNC, and the message is clear that we are our sisters and brothers, keepers. The two political parties couldn't be more different, and I choose to stand with the one that is inclusive of all people.

helpful friend
christina webb5 years ago

Theres a saying. the early bird catches the worm. She was out fishing, her sign the worm, and yes not everyone like to give.
You might hate her more than some white collar criminal in an office who siphons money off of a big company. Does that matter?
I like people who try, even begging is better than stealing.
If Jhonny Appleseed was the president we'd have gardens on street corners for those who are hungary, but instead large cities spend thousands on landscaping fruitless bushes.

Steve R.
Steve R5 years ago

"Our government can help us do together what we can’t do alone"....

Which government would that be? The one borrowing $4 billion a day from China?

What's going to happen when China cuts up our credit card and we can't send out those welfare checks?

Relying on government to take care of us is like relying on the fox to take care of the chickens!

How's it working out for us huh?

Millions and millions more on food stamps, section 8 housing, Medicaid and God knows what - yet this woman in DC still begs on the street corner.

Why? Surely the government should be taking care of her......? Where is the great spender-in-chief and his "leaders" like Steny Hoyer in congress, who thinks the way to fix the economy is to give more food stamps and unemployment benefits?

No really - not jobs - not dignity in being able to fend for yourself! More food stamps and more unemployment benefits!

Realize that a nation dependent on government to take care of it is a nation that can be manipulated and enslaved.

The war on poverty has failed......