W-2 has done more to devalue society's perception of Motherhood than any program to date. A woman who goes next door to babysit her neighbor's children is valued as a productive member of society; she is "employed." If she stays home and cares for her own, however, she is pegged as irresponsible and subject to social sanction. (Suburban stay-at-home moms are not subject to the same scrutiny.)
Frustrations of a Single Mom
An Open Letter to Gov. Tommy Thompson*
October 27, 1998
Dear Gov. Thompson:
It's 6:50 a.m. My son is under the hood of his car with a wrench, trying to figure out what's wrong. How frustrating this is for him! He's never had a course in auto mechanics or a dad to teach him auto repair. He has no money to take the car in. He already spent his last two checks from his part-time job on repairs for the "free" car someone gave him. He can't get more hours at work because he's trying to finish high school after the year he missed while undergoing chemotherapy and radiation.
It's frustrating for me, too, to watch. As a single mom, I can't change anything in his life or make things better. I can't give him a dad, a car, or the money for repairs. I can't even give him the know-how to fix this latest problem.
What's most frustrating is the fact that my son doesn't want the car running so he can joyride with his friends. He's up before 7 a.m. to fix it so he can get to his minimum-wage job, which is not on the bus line. He is responsible, independent, intelligent, hardworking -- and broke.
His dad's probably rolling over in bed right now, after an all-niter with either the TV or his latest fling. His several cars, late-model and paid-for, are parked outside his lakeview home -- all compliments of his dad's estate. Which shall he take out to eat this evening? If one doesn't start today, it will only be because it hasn't been driven in awhile. He won't be needing any of the vehicles for work. At 44, he hasn't had a job in at least 20 years. And that one lasted just a few weeks.
The sad truth is that if my son's grandfather were alive today, he would buy a car for my son -- because he actually wants to work -- and he'd tell his 44-year-old to "get a job."
Fact is, if my son's dad were not 1,000 miles away, he'd be too lazy to crawl out of bed at 6 a.m. to fix a car -- his son's, his own, or his neighbor's. So it's just as well they're distant.
Fact is, my son, somehow, will find a way to work. Or he'll find another job. And his dad, somehow, will find a way to evade his responsibilities. If the authorities find where he lives and attempt to collect the thousands he's behind in child support, his mom, executor of the estate, will simply buy him a different house in a distant neighborhood, in another county -- again. He'll change his phone number and get his mom to make a minimal payment on the child support arrears. He will not be jailed, or fined, or punished. Too many "real" criminals out there, for society to view this as a crime.
If you were anywhere within feeling range of my son's frustrations, however, you'd view this whole scenario as nothing less than exactly that: a crime.
You've obviously never been single, or a mother, or raised by a single mother. If you really cared about kids, and not just politics, taxes ($$$), or forging a name for yourself in the history of welfare reform, you'd let moms stay home with their children and find a way to make the FATHERS go to work! W-2 has done more to devalue society's perception of Motherhood than any program to date. A woman who goes next door to babysit for her neighbor's children is valued as a productive member of society; she is "employed." If she stays home and cares for her own, however, she is pegged as irresponsible and subject to social sanction. (Suburban stay-at-home moms are not subject to the same scrutiny.)
As my son commented, while still in grade school, "Everyone at school has FOUR parents, and I don't even get ONE!" (I was working two jobs, to make ends meet, picking him up at the babysitter after he'd already gone to sleep for the night, from my second job.) Single moms have twice the responsibility and half the help.
By saving tax dollars, W-2 might appear financially "successful," but its eventual effects on the family and society as a whole (educational systems, criminal justice system, etc.), will become more evident with time. Years from now, when all the frustrated teens of absent fathers are grown ... we will view the true fruit of W-2. Some things just cannot be measured in dollars and cents.