I Went To Bed Hungry Last Night

I went to bed hungry last night. It’s not uncommon for me, but it never gets any easier. I tossed and turned, hummed a little song to get my mind off of the fact that my stomach hurt, and debated brushing my teeth again, thinking that maybe I could fool my body into thinking that I was eating. I live in a nice house, about 2,000 square feet, kitchen, living room, dining room, family room, three bedrooms, an office and a separate library. My kids are often dressed in Gap and Gymboree, myself usually in Abercrombie and Hollister. I have an android phone, and I drive a nice car. My daughter goes to a great private daycare.

And yet, I go to bed hungry a lot of nights. I run, for miles, to save on gas. I keep the air conditioning and heat off to save money.  There are a lot of things we go without, but no one would ever know.

And because no one knows, I am relentlessly judged.

I don’t owe anybody an explanation. I don’t need to give reason’s, I don’t need to explain my story, but what I really don’t need, is the judgmental eyes that look me and my children up and down when I swipe my food stamps card in the checkout lane. That, I almost can’t handle anymore.

What I want to do is tell them my story. Tell them that 21 months ago my husband abandoned our family. That he literally just did not come home one day leaving me, a 28 year old stay at home mother alone with a seven month old and a three year old with special needs, an empty bank account, and that we don’t know where he is. What I want to tell them is that I had no education to fall back on for reasons that were out of my hands, and that because of my abusive childhood, I have no family to take me in. I want them to know that I’m trying. I’m cleaning houses, breaking my back day in and day out trying to make ends meet, but after taxes, I’m still only bringing home $275 a week.

I want to look into their judgmental eyes and tell them that my son is wearing clothes from the Gap that were handed down to us from some wealthy neighbors. Or that my daughters dress came out of a hefty bag that was left on our front porch, as so (blessedly) often happens. I want to tell them that the Abercrombie clothes that I am wearing came from my best friends teenage daughter, items that she has outgrown and was kind enough to pass on to me, but that I don’t have any socks on because I can’t afford them right now.

When they spot my phone and give me a rude look, I want to tell them that it was $200 to upgrade my phone, and it saves me from having to spend $60 a month in home internet, which I can’t afford. Still though, since I have to be able to pay bills, run my small cleaning business online, and keep up with legal matters via email, so the phone was my best option. I want them to know that the screen is cracked, has been for 6 months, and that I have no way of replacing it.

When they see me loading my food stamp groceries into my car, I want to be able to tell them, to scream across the parking lot at them, that my church paid for my car so that I was able take the steps I need towards being independent, which started with being able to get to work. I want them to know that even though I am grateful beyond words, it stings my heart to know that I am a charity case.

I want them to know all of the sacrifices that my family and I have made in the last year. Like the time I sold nearly ALL of my kids toys to be able to pay the mortgage, or the fact that I spent the entire winter without a jacket because I couldn’t afford one. I want them to know how much my heart breaks every time I say no to my children, and that while it is a good learning lesson, it should not be the only thing that they hear. I want them to have been able to see the look on my daughters face when I told her that that because of an unexpected legal bill, she wasn’t going to the summer camp that I had saved 14 months for, and that she had worked hard to earn on the giant behavior reward chart that we had made. I want them to know how she cried and asked why, and how my heart shattered into a million little pieces as I sobbed in the car where she couldn’t hear me.

I want them to know the humiliation that I felt when my friends threw my kids a birthday party, knowing that if they didn’t, my kids weren’t having one. I want them to know how uncomfortable I was when I hosted my annual Christmas gift wrapping party and tried to play it off as if this year, I had beat everyone to the punch and wrapped most of my gifts already, and the moment I realized that they knew. THEY KNEW. And how grateful and mortified I was when toys and gifts started showing up on my front porch in a near constant stream, all labeled “from Santa.” They knew. They always do.  And how this year, I can already feel my throat tightening up when I think about Christmas. My daughter wants Barbies, my son a firetruck, and unless we are blessed again this year, Santa will be skipping our house.

I want them to know how ashamed I am that my friends take care of me, bringing us dinner, and groceries at the end of the month when they know our resources run low. How boxes of paper towels, Kleenex, and toilet paper are donated by caring friends. I am fully aware at how blessed I am, but it is embarrassing to know that everyone around me knows that I am unable to survive on my own.

I want them to know how many hours my kids and I have been forced to stand in line at the food pantry, simultaneously mortified and praying that they don’t run out of diapers.

I want them to know that I fought tooth and nail to modify my mortgage under a crisis loan that makes my payment less than an apartment, so please don’t judge me because I live in a nice place. Would you be happier if there was another foreclosure on the market?

I want them to know that the daycare school my daughter goes too, is paid for by someone who see’s the potential in her, and is blessing us by providing her with something that I can’t. While I am grateful with every fiber of my being, my heart is heavy every time I am reminded that I cannot provide my daughter with the opportunities that others can.

I want them to know that I never put myself first. That I let the kids eat until they are full and then *if* there is anything left over, I eat too. But lately that hasn’t been happening.

I want them to know that under my hand me down Abercrombie clothes, I bear the scars of an abusive upbringing, and the trauma’s of an abusive marriage, that I don’t always know what I am doing, but that I am doing the best that I can.

I want them to know that I am a grown woman, who is ashamed to be so completely dependent on the welfare of others. That I am keenly aware that without them, we would not make it. That hard as I try, I fail my children on a daily basis, and that it is left up to the people around me to provide them with the things that I can’t, that I should, and that I fail at doing.

I want them to know that I used to be one of them, “financially normal.” That I volunteered at the food pantry once a month, and at the animal shelter every single Saturday. That I was a nanny for a family with a critically ill child, and when they couldn’t afford to pay me, I still showed up day after day to hook up feeding tubes and clean his tracheotomy. That I have been on missions trips all over the country, even named my daughter after my first one. That I helped build a youth center in New Orleans to keep kids off the street, and when it was washed away, I flew down to help with the hurricane Katrina rebuild. I used to be the volunteer, and now when I look in the mirror, I see the same broken face that I saw on all the people that I used to help.

I want them to know that I give what I can. I am not just a taker, I am not trying to suck society dry. That I offered to give my best friends infant daughter a part of my liver, that even when I have nothing to offer anyone except myself, that they are welcome to take it, and that I am happy to give it.

But I can’t tell them that. In the 4 seconds it takes me to swipe my food stamp card, they judge me, and I can’t possibly defend myself.

They look at me, and they judge me. The old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover” has long fallen by the wayside. I need them to keep their judgmental glances to themselves and allow me to pick up whatever dignity I have left, and haul my heavy, weary, heart out the door.

I want them to know that while I look ok, that while it appears that all is well, that it is not. That we are not.

I want them to know that I am an abandoned wife, a forgotten child. A mother who’s heart breaks for her children and all they have lost. That I am hungry from the core of my soul.

That I am more than just the person using food stamps. That I am a person struggling to survive.

I just want to be seen.

REALLY seen.

But all you see is my food stamp card.

And you ignore the fact that I am there.

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  • Anonymous
    December 12, 2013 at 8:03 pm

    I'm amazed. You are such a strong and amazing woman, you have been through so much yet you keep on fighting long after most others would have given up. You are an inspiration to me and while my life hasn't been easy and while I have been so close to giving up on it many times, reading your words makes me think twice. I can get through the hard times and I can have faith that it will get better. Thank you so much and I wish you the best, for you and your kids.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      December 12, 2013 at 4:24 am

      Thank you! Don’t ever give up, even when the fight doesn’t seem worth it and the end result seems dismal, don’t ever give up. You may just have gotten the broken piece in a really shitty game of life, but your piece matters, you matter, and what you do with your life will make a difference!

  • Anonymous
    December 23, 2013 at 11:10 pm

    Stumbled on to this blog from xojane and have been reading lots of it…Thanks for the reality check. Thanks for the reminder that looks may be deceiving. Thanks for the reminder that something as simple as socks are a luxury if you don't have them. Thanks for inspiring me to do more to help others.I admire your drive and dedication, and wish you and your kids so much happiness.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      December 23, 2013 at 4:25 am

      That means the world to me, thank you so much for taking the time to write that!!

  • Anonymous
    December 24, 2013 at 4:06 am

    I was just thinking the same thing . I stumbled on your blog from xojane also and this post really opened my eyes again. I am guilty of judging at times and don't stop to think about the things you have mentioned and reminding us to keep doing good for others with nothing in return. One day we may be in a pickle ourselves. keep your head up and doing what you do everyday. Thanks for the reminder. And keep being the strong woman you are and doing the best you can for your children. Your a great example of an amazing momma and human being despite the circumstances you have been given.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      December 23, 2013 at 4:25 am

      Thank you so much 🙂 Everyone gets a little judgmental at times, myself included sadly. Thank you for being open minded!

  • Anonymous
    December 24, 2013 at 4:15 am

    Hey, there. Found your blog through xojane. Your story is inspirational. I would be interested in sending you some support this holiday season. Do you have P.O box?

    • NotMyShametoBear
      December 23, 2013 at 4:25 am

      Aw, you are TOO sweet!!! I do not have a P.O. box, but thank you so much for asking!! You put a big smile on my heart, and that is worth its weight in gold to me 🙂 Thank you, and Merry Christmas!!!

  • Anonymous
    December 24, 2013 at 4:46 am

    Sorry to hear that! Not sure sure of another anonymous way to send support. Merry Christmas! Wishing you and your kiddos a lovely holiday.

  • Anonymous
    December 24, 2013 at 4:48 am

    Sorry to hear that! I can't think of another way to send support anonymously. Wishing you and your kiddos a Merry Christmas!

    • NotMyShametoBear
      December 23, 2013 at 4:25 am

      That’s ok, feel free to pay it forward to someone else!! Keep your eyes on my blog, I will be doing fundraisers for not for profits on the near future, the donations to go directly to the organizations I’m helping, if you are interested in the future 🙂

      • NotMyShametoBear
        December 23, 2013 at 4:26 am

        Sorry for the typo’s, its been a long day!

  • Anonymous
    December 24, 2013 at 4:53 am

    Will do!

  • Anonymous
    December 24, 2013 at 6:09 am

    You are so strong my heart goes out to you. You should open up an account I and I know others would be happy to help you and your family. Don't be embarrassed you've been dealt bad cards in life and from what I read and gathered about you, you would do the same for others. You are an inspirational woman.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      December 24, 2013 at 4:26 am

      Others have been so amazing, I bet they would help! I get a little scared that my message might get lost in the mix if I start accepting money, and it is so important to me to spread awareness and break the silence. I know my blog has a lot of silly stuff on it (bc no one wants to read depressing stuff all the time lol!!), but I’m really hoping it reaches other survivors. 🙂 People are so skeptical of frauds these days, I fear I would be ripped apart and the message lost

  • Anonymous
    December 24, 2013 at 6:10 am

    I also want to add that you're an amazing mother

    • NotMyShametoBear
      December 24, 2013 at 4:26 am

      Well that just makes my day!

  • Anonymous
    December 25, 2013 at 9:27 am

    I'm sitting on my bed all the way across the world in west Africa because i'm too lazy to go cook and bawling my eyes out for you. I admire your strength. You know something, I've read possibly worse stories. My imagination dreams up the most extremes..negative and positive. So this unfortunately makes me somewhat difficult to affect emotionally or get impressed despite being an empath. I just realized why i'm reacting to your story in the way I am. You have a gift that just may bail you out financially. You are an AMAZING writer…not in the pro way..but in a raw..deep from the heart unchecked kind of way. Stay true to that..accept help if and when you can or want. I know the feeling of not wanting to be a charity case. I'm from a financially well off family..but there are days I literally have no money for transportation or feeding. Simply because at my age(27)..I feel funny asking anyone for money. It took me the longest time to find what I really wanted to do with my life and I'm only just starting to make some money off that . So what gets seen.. the designer goods..flashy car from family members. .makes when im broke hard to say. So I smile and keep it moving. I see a bestseller book in your near future..stay true to your self. Keep doing your best. And don't give room to people to tear your story apart especially if/when you start accepting donations. Wishing you and your kids all the best in the world.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      December 25, 2013 at 4:26 am

      Wow, thank you so very much!! Thank you for taking the time to write all of that out, it meant the world to me! I am in the process of writing a book, I hope I can live up to the hopes you have for me 🙂

      Its good to know that someone else understands that looks can be deceiving when it comes to financial stability, and putting aside your pride is hard!! I wish you nothing but the best.

      Sending warm Christmas wishes and lots of hugs to you in West Africa!!!

  • Anonymous
    December 26, 2013 at 6:51 am

    For the past five years, I have been through some very hard times. To make a long story short, I've been through unemployment, underemployment, depression, a medical emergency which nearly killed me, lots of debt, and a move to a new city. Just when my life finally seemed to be getting better, this spring I was diagnosed with cancer. Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Stage III. I'm better now, but IMHO, I'm lucky to be alive.To survive while I was going through chemotherapy and was unable to work regularly, I got financial help from my church, my cancer center, and my local food bank. I needed to take some short medical leaves while receiving and recovering from chemo. Unfortunately, my (now former) employer did not pay me during those leaves. Like you, I did not like having to have someone else pay my phone bill and pay for some much-needed car repairs. Like you, I want to be the person who donates to my church to pay someone else's rent. I didn't like reading the item in my church bulletin about how they recently paid the rent for someone in need and knowing that someone was me. Even though they didn't really say it was me.Like you, I have used a food stamp card. “Bridge Card,” they call them in my state. When I've used it, I've feared others around me are judging me and what I've bought.You have an Android phone. I have an iPhone. Forgive me, world; I know you think we poor people shouldn't have iPhones. I bought my iPhone4 about three and a half years ago at a moment of weakness when I foolishly thought I had some money. Finally, I want to tell you this. When I had to go through chemotherapy and then had to accept charity, I developed an attitude: I will do what I have to do. If that meant I had to stand in food bank lines, ask for help paying my bills, or sit in a chair for hours while I was hooked up to an IV of toxic drugs, then I was going to do it.It sounds like you've developed the same attitude. Good for you.Keep on doing what you have to do. And keep on writing about it all.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      December 26, 2013 at 4:27 am

      Thank you for taking the time to write that out. It’s great to know that someone understands. I will be praying for you. I hope that you are doing better, and I’m sending you a great big hug! Stay strong!!! I’m here if you need to talk 🙂

  • Whitney
    January 2, 2014 at 3:27 am

    I found you through stumbleupon and I am just amazed by you. You are doing an amazing job with what you have and should not be ashamed. I'm sure someday you will be entirely self sufficient again and your children will see what amazing things you were able to do for them. Where are you located? I know it's not much but my boyfriend could easily fix the broken screen on your phone.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      January 2, 2014 at 4:27 am

      I think you might be my first stumbleupon person. At least the first one that commented. I was wondering how that site even worked! Glad you have found your way here 🙂

      Thank you so much for your sweet offer 🙂 I am truly moved by your sweet heart 🙂 I think my attorney would be a bit mad at me though for telling anyone where I live, since we are trying to keep me anonymous for my children’s protection. Thank you though hun. I hope you visit here often.

      Keep your kind heart going, the world needs more people like you in it!

  • Anonymous
    January 2, 2014 at 11:41 pm

    You should set up a way to donate to you, even if it is just a link separate from your blog. I would donate ad from the comments many others would too. Don't think of it as charity think of it as life paying you back for all the awful things you've been through. Hope you and your children are well. (also found this via xojane)

    • NotMyShametoBear
      January 2, 2014 at 4:27 am

      Aw, thanks 🙂 I will definitely think about it! I get nervous that if I start taking donations, the message will be lost. I already have someone spamming hating all over my blog that I must be a scammer since I would like to remain anonymous for my children. I’d hate to add fuel to the fire 🙁 Why can’t we all just get along lol.

      Either way, I am so happy you are here, you make my heart happy!

  • Spider - Man
    January 4, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    Your experience reminds me of my own. Your strength reminds me of my own mother's. You are teaching me such valuable life lessons.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      January 4, 2014 at 4:28 am

      Well that is quite the compliment. From Spider-Man no less. lol!! Thank you 🙂

  • Lilian
    January 7, 2014 at 1:22 am

    In my family we think in a very specific way about how people think about us: “are you paying for this for me? because IF you are, MAYBE you can have an opinion. But if you aren't, you can't.”So, next time someone looks to you and starts judging you, ask if they wanna pay for you if they don't like they way you are doing it.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      January 6, 2014 at 4:28 am

      I wish I was as bold as you. I need to polish up my suit of armor 🙂

  • Anonymous
    January 11, 2014 at 12:51 am

    I just wanted to say that I'm appalled that people look down on people for using food stamps. What the heck is that all about. Thanks Republican politicians for hating people who need help. Thanks a bunch.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      January 10, 2014 at 4:28 am

      Yep, it sucks 🙁

  • SapphireLady1970
    January 25, 2014 at 2:39 am

    I had to comment…I came across you on another blog saw your comment with your blog URL and started at the beginning..my heart breaks first what you have been through and you sharing your journey is brave therapeutic and awesome..you go ahead and swipe that card and feed your family the hell with those ignorant people because if they needed it you can bet they would use it.. ugh it irritates me how people judge and assume..when it comes to our children we did what we gotta do! Now I am off to read more! Rock on girl!

    • NotMyShametoBear
      January 24, 2014 at 4:28 am

      Welcome to the blog! Thank you 🙂
      Its definitely been a process to learn to hold my head up high, and I’m still working on it, but getting there. Hence the name of my blog 🙂
      So glad you have joined the journey!! I hope you subscribe and stick around 🙂

  • Anonymous
    April 26, 2014 at 10:00 pm

    Hi Eden,What about keeping some rice or potatoes, and perhaps even pasta, on hand as food for yourself. Even if it's just plain. I did it when I moved out on my own 20 years ago. anything like me, you make the best stuff for the kids, and whatever for yourself. But you need fuel…hey I need fuel, otherwise I'm too tired to take care of my children.And as for those who are judging you with your food stamps, pardon my language, and I really don't like to talk this way, but…fuck'em. I would love food stamps right now! We are just one step closer to being worse off than we are, and someone who thinks they're totally immune to all of that, are really conceited.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      April 26, 2014 at 4:29 am

      It seems like when I eat straight starches like that my natural blood sugar levels spike up real fast and then crash and I feel worse than before 🙁 Its not a bad idea to find some cheap staples to keep on hand though. Thanks!

      Love the second paragraph 🙂

  • Anonymous
    April 27, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    Ooooh, well that's so unfortunate, because it's such a cheap way to keep nourished…there must be another way we can find (that's inexpensive) to keep you fed. I don't like to see a Mom go hungry.Nathaliexoxoxox

  • Sao Luo Bo
    December 16, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    With every article I read, my heart is contorted. I didn't know things could be this bad for a citizen in US. I mean it is your country, and they are so powerful so rich. Why can't they just provide basics to you and others like you?

  • Laurie
    September 10, 2018 at 7:34 pm

    I've been reading your blog for a couple of years, and it's perfect. Great blend of strength, humility, determination, and a whole lot of the good kind of crazy! If I wasn't killing time today, I wouldn't have gone back to the beginning looking for the post of you in a grocery store freezer LOL! However, I'm glad I did, because I find myself again struggling with the same feelings you express in this post. Even down to the car provided by the church. And keeping the game face on. Thank you for reminding me that it's only a day, or a year, or whatever. It's not forever and it does not define me.

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