I was a single mother because my husband died when our daughter was 8 months old. I was a disabled single mother because a childhood spinal injury had been repeatedly misdiagnosed. My disability was invisible, so a lot of people did not believe I had disabling pain in my spine. My daughter and I lived on Social Security Survivors Benefits, food stamps, housing assistance, and medical assistance. My husband died very young, so the benefits from his account were small.
A good number of people, groups, and organizations let me know that accepting any assistance meant taking money out of their pockets. For years I wrote letters to newspapers about poverty. One woman responded with an accusation of “…hiding behind your daughter and looking for free handouts.”
In this atmosphere, I failed another single mother. A tragedy happened in her family. I will give no details to protect her now the way I did not protect her then.
This single mother’s name came up while I was visiting two people I had been good friends with for a number of years. Feeling that the tragedy in this single mother’s life would only make my life as a single mother more difficult, I spoke eight hateful words about her.
The end of the friendship began immediately.
My girl growl backfired on me twice. The first backfire was the end of a friendship that was important to me. The second backfire is a continuing feeling of guilt for the way I failed another woman who was probably treated as badly as I was treated for being a single mother.
Paula M. Kramer
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