Being a mother is rough, and and when you’re a single mother trying to make ends meet, it’s even rougher. There were times in my life when I didn’t know how the bills were going to get paid, if my car was going to be repossessed or if I’d be able to afford a class trip my son wanted to take. And there were those times when one of those bills didn’t get paid, my car got repossessed and class trips were missed. Even today, as a full-time writer, the struggle is real.
I understand Shanesha Taylor’s story all too well.
Shanesha Taylor, a 35-year-old mother of a 2-year-old and 6-month-old, from Scottsdale, Ariz., was arrested on March 20. She now faces two felony counts of child abuse for leaving her children in the car while she interviewed for a job. Taylor was also homeless and living out of the car with her children.
In a world that not only looks down on single parents, but one that looks down on the poor, it was a shock to read the polarizing opinions about Shanesha, from describing her as a hoodrat to just another f–ked up single mother. I had to ask myself, when did compassion leave the hearts of so many people? Or was it ever there to begin with?
Raising two kids, being homeless and looking for a job, Shanesha is the face of many Americans today. Women are nearly two-thirds of minimum-wage workers (pdf) in the U.S., and among all homeless women, 60 percent have children under age 18. The face of homelessness and poverty is women and children.
Many people feel that Shanesha wouldn’t be in the predicament she’s in if she hadn’t had kids. Well, guess what, the kids are here, and in an attempt to provide them a better life, by finding a job so she won’t have to live in her car, she’s being punished.
So what was Shanesha supposed to do? Call the father of children? Many women who live in poverty and who are homeless are escaping abusive relationships. So who’s to say she’s not fleeing a toxic partnership? Oh, but wait, there are shelters. As someone who volunteers at a transitional shelter for women and children, I know that the waiting lists are sometimes months long. Also, perhaps you’ve heard the story of Relisha Rudd, the missing Washington, D.C., girl who was staying in a shelter with her mother and who has been missing for more than a month. Shelters aren’t the safest places to be.
I’m not saying all of this to make excuses for Taylor, but for her to sit behind bars only because she was trying to better herself, is not only unfair but goes to show that the system isn’t there to help, but to punish. That’s unless you’re a child rapist with the last name Dupont; then you only receive a slap on the wrist.
We can all scream and point fingers at Taylor. We can all yell, “she should have done this” or “she should have done that,” but until you’ve walked a mile in a person’s shoes, sometimes the best things to offer are sympathy and encouragement. Thankfully there were 2,426 people who sympathized with Taylor by donating to You Caring Fund, which is now inching toward $70,000.
I encourage everyone to find a women’s shelter, sit down and listen to the stories of women and children who are there. No one wants to be in that situation, but unfortunately in our country, the land of so-called opportunity, it’s a reality. I can only wish Shanesha Taylor the best and hope that with the help of those 2,426 contributors, she’s able to not only find her way out of the legal system, but also that she’s able to provide her children with a home.