Mothers’ Day: Hogwash for Millions of Moms

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Moms don’t plan to give birth while staying in a homeless shelter. Photo by Diane Nilan

In honor of Mothers’ Day, I offer my Mom’s (Ellie) favorite phrase, shiv-a-git.

She privately uttered bad words; her favorite was shit, but beyond family she tried to be, ahem, polite by scrambling letters, a ploy that deceived no one. My Mom, Ellie, died 5 years ago on May 13, which coincidently will be Mothers’ Day this year. This post is in honor of all she means to me.

Ellie anguished over the brutal realities of millions of moms with kids who struggle with housing instability and/or homelessness as described in this Rewire.News story:

Homelessness and housing instability are urgent issues affecting pregnant and new parents that warrant the attention of policymakers and care providers in the United States. However, they are often overlooked in public conversations about maternal and infant health outcomes.

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One of Ellie’s picture-perfect, delectable apple pies. Photo by Diane Nilan

My 3-decades of work with families experiencing homelessness painfully confirm the brutal reality facing families, typically single moms, when they lack adequate resources.

If you’ve got the stomach for real, painful stories from women who struggled with homelessness, here’s a link (free on YouTube) to our feature-length documentary, on the edge: Family Homelessness in America, which ran on PBS affiliates on Mothers’ Day 2010.

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Mom-baby moment in a NC shelter. Photo by Diane Nilan

How did we go from Moms and apple pie to kicking moms and babies to the street? Have we lost sight of the value of moms? Do we think single moms caring for children are not worthy of help because they’re without the sperm donor?

HUD Secretary Ben Carson recently listened as Shakila Boyd poured out her heart about her escaping homelessness thanks to (Obama era) HUD programs.

Carson’s response: “Number one: finish high school. Number two: get married. Number three: wait until you get married to have children. Just those three things, and you’re two percent less likely to live in poverty.”

Dr. Carson should stick to brain surgery.

“Many poor women opt not to marry the poor men in their lives, for instance, to avoid bringing more economic chaos into their homes. And the poor women who do marry tend to have unstable marriages — often to ill effect. One study, for instance, found that single mothers who married and later divorced were worse off economically than those who did not marry at all.”

  • Wait to get married to have kids. Tell the sperm donors to wait.

The Pro-Life segment of society jump on the pro-marriage bandwagon. One of my sheroes, Joan Chittister, a Benedictine Sister from Erie, PA, counters their narrow thinking with tough and true words:

The fact is that suffering built into the system for many will finally erode the lives of us all. Our pretty cities will become gated communities in flight from the detritus of injustice.

The fact is that the immorality of gross social injustice will eventually, surely, affect all our lives. It will eventually destroy life on every level everywhere. Life, you see, is not something that must simply be created; it is also something that must be sustained or it erodes and collapses and goes to seed. The responsibility for all life belongs to all of us who hold more resources than we need, who collect more resources than we should, who hug resources to our breast while the little ones go to their death in our midst. While all we do is stand by and cry about it.

To no surprise, the rising disregard of impoverished women and families can be traced to our philander-in-chief and his white male opportunists, aka the extremist Congressmen wanting to control women’s bodies. Professor Ruth Ben-Ghiat, in this Mashable article, astutely points out, “Trump, she says, has created a ‘culture of threat’ through his behavior and language — and he’s given Republicans ‘carte blanche’ to carry out measures they’ve been yearning to implement for a decade.”

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Illinois’ capitol dome in the distance, where lawmakers make/break policies to help families. Photo by Diane Nilan

Sure, you can get your mom flowers or another inadequate symbol of your love and affection. But if you really want to honor motherhood, especially those struggling to survive and escape homelessness, (my organization) HEAR US suggests:

  • Show and share our short Yay Babies! and other HEAR US videos.
  • Volunteer at a local program on a regular basis to help families with small babies.
  • Here’s a great little guide to 60 ways to help homeless kids.
  • Advocate for improved services and affordable housing for families.
  • Host a gathering to share information and show the short HEAR US video, Littlest Nomads, about homeless babies/toddlers.
  • Use your network! Invite schools, scout troops, civic organizations, faith communities, etc. to support your local programs that help homeless families.
  • Make sure you VOTE! for candidates who understand that moms and kids need help, not punitive policies. Here’s a selection of campaigns aimed at protecting women/kids.
  • Share this post if you’re so inclined.

Ellie, always the opportunist, would encourage me to design and sell t-shirts and mugs bearing her message “I shiv-a-git.” Hmmmm. Only 30 days till Mothers’ Day. I better get busy!

Founder/pres. HEAR US Inc., gives voice & visibility to homeless families & youth, ran shelters, advocate, filmmaker, author, 15 yrs. on US backroads.

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