Gratitude: What I Learned About Motherhood and Life While On Public Assistance

Before I became a single mom, I cut up all my credit cards except one.  Thanks to God and the Queen (whose face is printed on the Cayman Islands dollars I earned overseas), I could afford to get out of debt and live on one of the world’s most beautiful beaches.  When I got the government job, I bought myself a congratulatory present–a $350 pair of Chanel sunglasses that I feared I would lose.  I didn’t spend money frivolously though.  I donated to charities, helped friends and family members and built a nice nest egg.  I later took a pay cut to return to the United States and pursue a long-term relationship and what turned out to be a short-term teaching career.  Still, I made enough to pay my bills and buy something pretty every once and awhile.

When I became pregnant, I moved in with my sister with a suitcase not a paycheck. I quit my job, cashed out my pensions and stepped out on faith. Someone suggested signing up for assistance—something I never imagined I would have to do. I also assumed I wouldn’t qualify. At first, my ego prevented me from picking up the phone. Then, I put myself aside and put my family first. I didn’t want to be a financial burden to my sister and her two children, and I wanted to provide the best life possible to my daughter. I filled out an application and surprisingly was approved for WIC—a program which provides supplemental food, health care referrals and nutrition education, food stamps and medical insurance. Although I am no longer receiving these benefits, I won’t cut up my ACCESS card.  Here’s why…

1.  The Card Reminds Me to Trust in God

My father is a king, which therefore makes me a princess. A princess will always have a roof over her head and food on her table. I must cast my cares onto the Lord and not stress about finances, even on days when I bounce checks.  I live in a nice neighborhood with a park and several amenities. God always provides more than what I can afford!

 2.  The Card Reminds Me to Practice Humility

Everyone weathers a storm.  It doesn’t matter what degree you obtained, what car you drive or what house you reside in.  At some point in your life, a crisis crashes down. Since tough times don’t discriminate, my father always taught me to treat the CEO and the custodian the same. I am not better than someone else, just because I am an educated, middle-class mom.

 3.  The Card Reminds Me to be Thankful

Every day around the world, 24,000 people die directly from hunger or hunger related diseases. Many of these deaths involve children. I am thankful that I will never go hungry.

 4.  The Card Makes Me More Compassionate

I realize that there is always someone out there who is worse off than me. I must show compassion in more than just words but with charitable acts, such as donating clothes, time and money to those less fortunate.

 5.  The Card Reminds Me That I Have a Bright & Prosperous Future

I am blessed and highly favored!  Fortunately, I only received public assistance for ten months. I now have a good job and a great blog, which was created when I was out-of-work.  Recently, my blog landed on Startup Nation’s coveted list of the top 100 home-based businesses. DFTM was #49!

Despite what you are going though, it is only temporary.  A rainbow appears after every storm!  How have you turned a burden into a blessing?

Heather Hopson once hosted a television show in the Cayman Islands. Today, she’s back home writing a different kind of story as a new mom for her blog,  Diary of a First Time Mom. Heather is also a regular contributor for Kidville’s Voices from the Ville and Black and Married with Kids, where she pens “The Single Life” column. Follow her motherhood journey on Twitter @dearmomdiary.


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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. Wow. Quite a story. I hope you take the knowledge of what you’ve built with you into all future endeavors. I’m finding faith in God means also faith in myself–that I’ll “get it”, do what’s necessary and reap the benefits. It’s all good.

  2. Yes! I was watching a ministry this morning that talked about faithfulness and rewards. We have to trust God, and sometimes that hard to do when you don’t understand something that’s going on in your life. But I find that when I release worry and focus on my child and God’s word, he handles the rest!

  3. I don’t really understand this article. Did you lose your job or quit your job? Why would you leave a job while pregnant if it forced you to go on public assistance? In my opinion those funds should be used for people who have no other options not people who quit their jobs.

    • Nina,

      I quit my job–relocated to my home state. If you would like to read that story, please click on the story hyperlinked to the word Cayman Islands:) Fortunately, the funds are used for various reason.

    • Nina,

      It may not really matter why the writer found herself dependent upon the system…it matters that she learned from the experience not to judge, to feel compassion, and to always share. I used to feel the way you do about public assistance, but I found myself in a similar situation when I quit a great paying job once I found that the company was committing fraud and I refused to condone or help cover it up. I didn’t bounce back as quickly as I thought I would, and ended up applying for unemployment benefits…I came from a background of lack, and felt I had educated myself above the fray…it took this to bring it all back home to me.

      • Kudos to you Rhonda! That shows a lot of character to give up money in order to keep your self-respect. We pay into a system that unfortunately has been abused. But this is what assistance is for–a helping hand in a time of need. When I lived abroad, the CI government did not have a long-term welfare system. Citizens could receive temporary benefits. This led to a very productive society and there were a lot of training programs that armed people with the skills they needed to succeed.

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