Desperation. That is where Shanesha Taylor undoubtedly found herself last week when she left her children alone in a car so she could attend a job interview. I’ve seen support for Shanesha in the days since her arrest, and that compassion has warmed my heart. I’ve also seen a lot of finger-wagging, many a “how could she,” and doubt that she had no other options. These responses have saddened me. It’s easy to look at someone else’s situation and play Monday morning quarterback. You can revise someone’s life and say you’d have done this job training or received this college degree or not had kids or given them up or made sure their father stuck around or found family or friends to help out or do any number of things you’re positive would exempt you from ever having to make the decision to leave your young kids in a car with the windows cracked.
Perhaps some of those who have the answers, who know exactly what steps Shanesha Taylor and others like her could have taken to be in a different place, maybe they do know better. It’s possible those people did make all the right moves and will never find themselves homeless. I applaud them. I also think, with the exception of those with trust funds, it’s careless to say it could never happen to you. Life can shake anyone down, and without a safety net, any of us could be Shanesha Taylor. Until you have been there, deciding between leaving your children in a parked car for an hour or not taking the interview that could help move them out of that car and into a home, take a seat.
I cannot imagine what Shanesha Taylor must contend with each day. I do know what it is like being a single mother, struggling financially, and trying to find work to support your two children. If one or two events in my life shifted, I too would be homeless. I feel a strong connection to this story and to my fellow single mothers who face hardships no parent should ever have to. America claims to be the best. Our politicians often boast that we know better and do more than other countries. The U.S. swoops in to help other countries when a disaster strikes. There is a catastrophe right here at home and we need relief. America 2014: Parents are in financial duress, kids are going hungry, a homeless mother tries to get a job and ends up in jail. How do we reconcile that? How did we get to the place where that is acceptable?
I wish Shanesha Taylor never found herself and her family homeless. I wish she were never arrested. I wish our country had been motivated to help its mothers and children well before last week. It is my deepest hope however, that this will be the inspiration needed to mobilize all of us. Let Shanesha’s story be a call for change. Safe, available, and affordable child care would be a start. Raising the minimum wage would be another. We have programs that hire veterans, and I support those programs. How about a similar one geared toward mothers? We are vilified in many workplaces. People assume we won’t be dedicated, we will skip work in favor of our kids. We are raising the future, when we are doing it single-handedly, we often have no choice but to miss some work to care for our children. But you know what, few things are a better incentive for earning a paycheck than having kids to feed. We may need to leave early on Tuesday to go to our kid’s dentist appointment, but I guarantee many of us will take the work home, come in early, work extra hours, whatever it takes to get the work done. Moms know how to juggle tasks without breaking a sweat, we learn new skills quickly, adapt to unfamiliar situations, balance budgets, organize groups, master schedules–we are talented well beyond what a resume or bio may state.
Give us a shot. We need more daycare options, safe and clean ones that we can afford. We need resources for when our children are sick. We need employers who understand our needs and will be flexible at times. We need a wage that enables us to give our children a roof over their heads, food in their mouths, and clothes on their backs. When times are particularly difficult for us, we need WIC, SNAP, and other federal food and nutrition programs to remain fully funded and available. We need options for affordable housing and rental assistance. We must have better choices than the one Shanesha Taylor was faced with.
I support Shanesha Taylor because she is a fellow woman and single mother.
I support Shanesha Taylor because no family should ever be homeless.
I support Shanesha Taylor because jail time is never the appropriate response to a mother struggling and in need of support and resources.
I support Shanesha Taylor because taking children away from their mother only harms them.
I support Shanesha Taylor because no woman should feel such desperation.
I support Shanesha Taylor because there are too many other mothers out there faced with the same agonizing decisions and lack of choices.
Shanesha Taylor doesn’t belong in jail, the charges against her must be dropped, and she should be given assistance to provide her kids a better life. Please sign this petition asking the charges against Shanesha Taylor be dropped. Prison Culture has created this list of additional ways to lend your support. Also visit Justice For Shanesha for developments in her case.