I can’t afford to be honest

mouth-shut
Truth is, I am actually Geena Davis, playing the role of Barbara Maitland.

There are aspects of my life that are considered to be morally wrong under dominant narratives. I am living off my student loans and am unmarried. I have an invisible disability and a past that many people seem to file under ‘white trash.’ My daughter has ADHD, but since there is such a crusade to discredit this diagnoses a lot of the time I hear whispers, if not to my face, comments about how I am a bad mother. There are things that I shouldn’t hide, and since I go back and forth between ‘playing the game’ and using my stories to bring light to social issues, I find that I sometimes police myself.

A big thing I go back and forth on is how upfront I am about the abuse I lived through with my daughter’s father. On one hand, I want to speak up because a huge reason domestic violence is so prevalent is because people are forced to stay silent. I am in a position now where I am safe to speak about it. I am white and in university so people seem to listen to me more now than when I was Oshawa ‘white trash.’* I am aware that my privileges afford me credibility, as sickeningly problematic as that is. I am also in a position where I feel I am able to discuss this abuse with an articulation I previously did not have as I was still on the mend emotionally. My support system is also stronger these days. On the other hand, things are not finalized legally and the stronger a hold my ex has on my family, the more danger this imposes.

Everything is a different kind of risk when a little one is involved, where do I draw the line between what is right and what is dangerous to her? When she is late for school because of my own illness, I don’t feel comfortable disclosing this reason with the office while getting a late slip. If I am mentally ‘unwell’ how can I possibly parent? This is the same reason why I referred to the food bank as the ‘free store’ while using it. I was terrified that if her school found out we were using a food bank, or if her dad found out, children’s aid would be called. That is wrong, and ridiculous, but it is true. In an article I have cited before, ‘Free-Range Parenting is a Privilege for the White and Affluent‘ writer and mother Stephanie Land says, “I am white, but because I am poor, the thought of police entering my life for any reason makes me fearful.” This quote speaks to me. I have been failed by police and children’s aid so often in the past, and though things have been easier lately in this regard, it is because of the effort I put into performing middle class in certain situations. For example, we’re white, so ill fitting clothing is alternative and eccentric, not necessarily poor – again, so fucked up and indisputably racist. It is all about survival.

My daughter is eight now and we haven’t used the food bank in a couple of years. We are more comfortable now in a as-long-as-nothing-goes-wrong kind of way; and in a, let’s face it, while I am living primarily off student loans and grants kind of way. I have since told her what it is and I get sad I ever called it a store in the first place. Having had to use the food bank ourselves, she understands poverty and the need to engage in fighting against it for others. She is good about donating what we don’t use or need. This all sounds really nice on paper, and we could be Liberal poster children, but in life, this is frowned upon. Poverty is still equated to deviance. And though I can try to perform ‘appropriately’ when forced to, there are still times when she will talk in public about how daddy’s roommate stole bedding from a hotel. And though I am not ‘daddy’s roommate’ I am still the woman who had a child with a guy whose roommate will do that kind of thing, and mother blaming is a national pastime.

I police myself, and I hate it. I regret doing so at times and I regret when I don’t at others.

I am sure I have fucked up and will continue to do so. So will all of you in life, but I, for whatever reason, have dedicated a blog to my art of mothering fuck ups so it is all very public. It looks like I’m not all that good at policing myself as I hit ‘Publish’ after every confession.

*I do not use white trash as an insult but am using the term as I was called this so many times from co-workers, community members, and various authority figures in order to dismiss my experiences of violence.

I write other stuff too! Check out HillaryDiMenna.com

 

2 thoughts on “I can’t afford to be honest”

  1. You’re an excellent person and mother in real life, as anyone who knows you can clearly see. Sorry to hear of these difficulties you’ve worked so hard to overcome, you deserve an easier life but you’ve made it work and it’s amazing and important that you’ve been able to speak out and share these experiences here. I’m sure many can relate and appreciate it! Best wishes to you and the little one!

  2. You’re fantastic. So eloquent and fluid in your choice of words. I’ve known you and your story for a long time, and am a long time silent reader. I appreciate, especially for the normalcy of mental illness stigma, your publications. It’s cruel for anyone to continue to punish those whom are trying to better themselves. Keep on keeping on, sista. We love you!

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