I just say this as a warning, because we all think it can’t happen to us. Because we live in a nice area, in a nice town, in a nice house, with things and stuff and whatnots.
It can happen to you.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. My six figure job wasn’t supposed to go away, and we were not supposed to be living off a supplemental income. We were supposed to be getting a new boiler and upgraded plumbing and perhaps paying off my maternity leave. We were going to head to California to visit with family and friends. I was one week away from buying tickets.
Instead, I am trying my best to keep my head above water.
My children don’t know because they are too little, and my husband doesn’t quite understand because he believes it will just work itself out. He doesn’t get that I am the one that is working it out.
This past week I have spent about 20 hours registering/applying and verifying information for us to go onto food assistance benefits. SNAP and WIC.
I am now someone who has taken assistance from the government beyond unemployment. And I can’t tell anyone about it. Because I am embarrassed. Because I see the Facebook posts every day commenting on the state of welfare, and who takes that assistance and what do they really buy with it.
I can tell you, my family cannot live on $3.87 a day per person per meal. We just can’t. SNAP is not meant for that, it is meant to be supplemental. However, my husband’s paycheck goes to everything else we need to survive. Not food.
Make no mistake, I make the same judgement too. I’m privileged. I went to a great four year college. I live in Fairfield County. I have two cars. I have my kids in daycare. I have highlights!
And it is all a facade.
I look for a position 10-12 hours a day. Chirpily marketing myself on LinkedIn, posting great family photos on Facebook, re-Tweeting inspirations. I make calls and have to take a deep breath and hold a smile while I talk so I don’t sound sad or depressed or angry. I respond to jobs, reach out to recruiters, talk on the phone all day, pulling myself up one hurtle from another. Sounding fantastic, happy, perky, and inspirational. I am so excited to talk to you, let me help you. Let me be a part of your life. Let me.
Let me find a position that will take me off of SNAP and off of WIC and off of energy assistance because someone really less fortunate than I am deserves it. Because I don’t deserve it. I somehow screwed up and am here.
During my severance, I got my salary which was awesome, and we cut a couple expenses. Then unemployment and we cut some more. Then the tax return was really high, so we got to breathe a bit, then I sold some stock shares from a former company.
We are looking at one mortgage payment away from we can’t afford to live in this house. We’ve opened up credit cards and transferred balances. I’ve put all my former 401K’s into a pile and started figuring out what we need to take out with huge penalties to survive for the rest of the year. I have asked for a bridge loan from my folks to just keep our phones on so we can keep up appearances.
A couple weeks ago, our car tire blew. $250. Normally, that’s a non issue. $250 would be a weekend of expenses; dinners out, cocktails and maybe a movie. $250 now is a chunk of change.
It can happen to you.