My husband has been working his way through college for many years now. Why so long? When we had our first baby, his company switched clients, which in turn changed the available work hours. He was now required to work when he was supposed to be in classes. My husband had a choice to be unemployed and go school (and somehow pay our bills), or quit school and work until we saved enough. It didn't take a lot of pondering. During this time in our life, we were barely scraping by as we tried paying off my student loans (and hospital bills from my son's birth) as quickly as possible. We had $100 a month for groceries, toilet paper, dish soap, and anything else necessary. One HUNDRED dollars. Everything else went towards bills. By the time we had our second child, we realized that we really needed food stamps, because $100 was NOT cutting it...especially with two young ones in diapers.
I am so grateful that while applying for food stamps, the case worker suggested that we also apply for Medicaid. We really didn't want to, because we didn't want to be beggars, but we decided that with free dental care for our children, and no co-pays for doctor visits, it would REALLY be beneficial. And it's a darn good thing we got it. When I was 30 weeks pregnant with my third child, I had experienced severe abdominal pain. I thought nothing of it (thinking I worked too hard at preparing dinner) until that night, I bled. I cried and cried, because I had already experienced the trauma of a miscarriage, and I did not want to experience one again...especially this far along. The next night, my water broke. I was taken by ambulance down to the McKay Dee hospital in Ogden (can you imagine THAT bill?). I was then told that I was to remain there, away from my entire family, the entire time until my baby was born. He wasn't due for another ten weeks. I felt alone, terrified, and hopeless. I remained in the hospital on bed rest for an entire month. Then, when my baby was born, he was taken to the NICU for two weeks. During that time, I stayed in on-site lodging, visiting my baby to nurse and hold him. When we finally returned home and we started getting the bills, I was horrified. It would have cost the same amount as a small house. Medicaid saved our lives.
So here we are, approaching our seventh anniversary, and my husband is STILL at his low-paying job. Why? He had found other employment with much higher salary, but when he injured both knees, tearing the ACL and miniscus on both, he needed a sit-down job. And this was what he had to resort to. So why are we renting a house, you might ask, and not a cheaper apartment? This house's rent is CHEAPER than an apartment. Why? Because the incredible landlords are the most selfless people ever to walk this planet. They are not out to make money, but to provide shelter. So why hasn't my husband graduated yet? If it weren't for his stupid anatomy class that is so difficult for him to pass (he's already taken it twice), he would be graduating this fall. But since it's a prerequisite for another class required for graduation, he must postpone graduation until he passes both classes, each different semesters. Until he graduates and finds an actual career, we're stuck here in a valley that offers mostly minimum wage jobs, living in a super affordable house, because frankly, we can't afford to move anywhere else where there might be a higher-paying job. While it may seem like we're destitute, we're not, because we have food on our table, and my children are healthy, because they are able to see the doctor, and my husband can go to work because he was able to get his knees repaired.
I just want to put it out there that I am so incredibly grateful to be living in such a great country that offers its people financial help. Had we been in living in another country, we'd be living in a cardboard box, and my children would have died from starvation. While there may be some who are abusing the system, it's not fair to criticize those of us who truly ARE in need. It's okay to be poor, and it's okay to accept help when it is offered. But it's not okay to judge in anger just because your table is full from the work of your own hands.