We recently spent some time visiting my brother and sister-in-law and their baby twin girls. The girls were so tiny when they we born that the doctors worked with the parents to get a regimented routine of feeding and sleeping established. In addition, my sister-in-law felt it was important for her babies for her to breast feed, which turned into her pumping breast milk and bottle feeding them to keep her sanity. The girls are growing by leaps and bounds but are still small for their age. The parents have received much help from both sets of grandparents and during our visit, it occurred to me why they needed all the help. The schedule was a full time job. I am sure my sister-in-law would love to just do it all, but she was smart enough to be able to step back and recognize that she can do it better with help.
The help we need is not always an extra hand. Sometimes we need encouragement and moral support, and sometimes we need actual financial help. Before I was married, I was a single parent. I wasn't just a single parent, but I was an unwed, pregnant teenager. I had just turned 20 years old when I gave birth to Christian, and although I was technically not a teenage mother, a month of being 20 didn't change a whole lot. I needed a lot of help when I had Christian. Some was just emotional help and companionship from friends, but mostly I needed financial help. At the time I worked two part time jobs, seven days a week. I worked as many hours as I could get and I worked up until I gave birth. My doctor wanted to put me on bed rest but she knew I needed to work, so instead, she advised my to keep off my feet when I wasn't working. After I had Christian, I took my maximum weeks for maternity leave. I didn't have any income during that time, so I applied for welfare. Unfortunately, because I had saved $1,000 in my bank account (what I figured I would need to pay my rent during my leave), the state indicated that I had too much money so I wasn't eligible for welfare. They were able to provide me with food stamps, however, so that was one worry off my mind. I was also lucky enough to have medical assistance since I didn't have any other insurance options. As a result, I wasn't left with any large hospital or doctor bills. Once I went back to work, I learned about another assistance program that helped pay your daycare costs while you work or go to school. What a life saver! If I had not had that option, I would not have been able to afford to go back to work. The cost of daycare would have been most, if not all, of what I was earning.
I share these things with you, not because I am proud of needing government assistance programs, but to show you how we all need a little help now and again. So many people assume that recipients of these programs are people who don't want to work and just want to collect freebies. That is the farthest thing from the truth. Sure, there are those few people who take advantage of the system, but that is true in many things in the world. I wasn't on food stamps because I wanted to be, nor because I wanted to be humiliated at the grocery store by pulling out what looked like play money to pay for my groceries. It was so humiliating, I would go to the store during the slowest times, so fewer people might see how I was "paying." I didn't accept medical assistance because I wanted the doctor to treat my son and me as second class citizens, nor so he could make me feel like a tramp every time we came in for a well child visit. I didn't accept daycare assistance because I was trying to scam the system and wasn't willing to pay for my own daycare bill. I needed help! I accepted food stamps so we could eat AND I could pay the rent. I accepted medical assistance so that my son and I would be healthy. I accepted daycare assistance so that I could work and go back to school, and provide for my son. It wasn't easy for me to accept that I needed help in this way.
I saw a recent post on Facebook, which shows a newspaper clipping about not feeding the wildlife because they become dependent on free hand outs, and never learn to provide for themselves. It then goes on to compare this advice to people who receive government assistance....I'll let you draw the conclusion. Well, I can tell you this: I am not on government assistance any longer and haven't been for many years. I am not proud of the situation I was in, but I did what I had to do to take care of my family. I now have a successful career, a beautiful home, and all the blessings in the world, but I never would have gotten here, of I hadn't asked for a little help.
You may wonder what this has to do with step-families. Well, many of us were single parents before we entered into a step-family; some by divorce and some by other circumstances. When your first reaction might be to condemn someone for needing help of any kind, stop, take a step back, and lend a hand instead. It will make all the difference in the world, to you AND to them.