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Poverty Equals Too Many Kids

alec vanderboom

This video about rural poverty from the NY Times is so hard for me to watch. It's set in Missouri, but the same video could be shot two minutes from my house. These are the kids I went to High School with twenty years ago. These are the kids I see on the street in my town, but I don't know them. Their Moms don't come to the Library, or Church, or the Rec League, or the new Cupcake Shop. I don't have a chance to easily mingle and exchange smiles with these kids.

I see the chaos in Sarah's home and it hurts my heart. The piles of laundry on the sofa. Playing a broken piano in an old barn. Using a chair for a tire swing.

I hear the Mom of seven complain "I've got kids always on me." I get it and I don't get it. I live so close to this--we've got laundry, and new kittens, and lots of kids--but I don't have this life.

It's so hard to hear "My Mom has too many kids"--because its not the kids that are the problem. It's not even a strict income test of "poverty".

It's depression. It's isolation. It's hopelessness. It's neglect.

I so get how easy it is to be depressed when your a Mom. There are bills. There's post-partum depression. Who the heck can keep a marriage together without miraculous help from God? Marriage is hard on some days. There are all these kids with unique needs, and with each baby you're restarting the game as a total novice.

There's some overlap there. At the same time, Motherhood doesn't equal Depression. Poverty doesn't equal neglect.

It's hard to separate the two--because being poor, or low income, or bohemian, or whatever name you give it takes a lot of mental energy. It's easy to see how poverty can often exacerbate mental illness. There is an important fact here.

Yet it is so hard to listen to these liberal thinkers on NPR and writers for the New York Times who have this bias that child neglect is caused by some external factor. Limit the number of kids!

It's hard for me to see these videos and know that it's not just a money problem. It's isolation. There is a social shaming that is so strong, its ridiculous.

When we talk about "poverty" I believe we are talking about "isolation." If you had the same income, but you are a farmer, or an artist, or an entrepreneur, or a minister--your family situation feels different. There's not that sense of hopelessness in your house.

I see this stuff on the internet and my heart hurts. I know that being a young, single Mom in this situation is super, duper hard. At the same time, I look at some of the joy in this family and think, "I've visited Middle Class families where the emotional pain is even worse." There is hope for every family, but there are no guarantees.

I have a responsibility to live out my vocation well. After watching this video, I'm going to smile more when I shop at Aldi. I going to give more to Catholic Charities. I'm going to take an extra minute to hug my four year old when I do her hair this morning. I'll be doing it all while I'm praying for that Mom of a pregnant teenager who is missing her front teeth. God bless all of us Mothers, every one.