How to Help a Single-Parent Family Buy a Holiday Toy.

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Looking for new ways to give to those in need this holiday season? Beyond Baby Mamas can help, by connecting you to a single parent who needs help buying a gift for their child.

Whether you were raised in a one-income household, had a few financially tight holiday seasons as a child, or have ever struggled to meet the needs or fulfill the desires of a child in your life, you can imagine how hard it is for some families to make ends meet at this time of year.

We’ve asked single parents to fill out a request form, noting their child’s age (between 4 and 12 years old), as well as the gift their child wants most. We’re taking requests and making matches until Friday, December 12. If you have not been matched by Friday, December 12 at 8 PM EST, please be advised that it is likely because we have already fulfilled all qualifying requests.

Once you are matched with a family via email, please proceed to Amazon.com or ToysRUs.com and place an order using the name, email address and shipping address that we provide. Order as soon as possible so that the gift will arrive by Christmas Day.

Just fill out the form below to begin the process.

In order to contribute, please note the following:

  • Your contribution is a one-time purchase shipped directly to a parent in need.
  • Should you choose to contribute, your purchase will not be tax-deductible.
  • Beyond Baby Mamas will provide you with the name, contact email, and mailing address of the parent in need and can follow up with him or her directly to confirm receipt of your gift.
  • Beyond Baby Mamas will coordinate matches and facilitate contact. We cannot answer questions regarding package tracking or personal details about selected families.

Single Parents: Need Help With a Gift for Your Small Child? We Can Help!

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Read all details and fill out of the form below if you and your child qualify. Happy holidays!

Beyond Baby Mamas understands that the holidays can be a stressful, financially-prohibitive time for many parents living on one income, and no families that celebrate a gift-exchanging holiday this time of year should have to explain to their children that they can’t have what they most desire.

Beyond Baby Mamas would like to help 30 single-parent families afford toys for their children this Christmas — and you can help!

To apply for this year’s holiday campaign you must be:

  • a single parent with a child between the ages of 4 and 12.
  • in need of a gift that retails for $50 or less.
  • able to receive gifts via a valid U.S. mailing/shipping address (no P.O. boxes).

Beyond Baby Mamas will select families, based on their statement of need, the availability of the gift they’re requesting for online order, and their submission of the online request from below by no later than Friday, December 12, 2014 at 5PM EST.

All gifts must be sold via Amazon.com or ToysRUs.com so that our donors can easily order and ship them directly from the website to the shipping address the parent provides.

Parents: please check the availability of your child’s gift at Amazon.com or ToysRUs.com BEFORE submitting their online request form. 

Please note that Beyond Baby Mamas may not be able to match each requesting parent with a donor and reserves the right to deny requests that do not meet the requirements listed above.

Parents: please limit requests to one child per form. Or, if you are submitting requests for more than one child, the requested toy prices cannot exceed $50 total.

We Are the Ones We’ve Been Taught Not to Wait For: On Shanesha Taylor and Caring Communities.

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Last week, a black single mother dominated the national news cycle. In her mug shot, plastered above many a think-piece headline, Shanesha Taylor’s tear-soaked cheeks and emptied eyes were offered to the world as a kind of apology, a kind of explanation, a kind of platform. The reading and viewing public was all too happy to fill in the blanks. At first, she spoke to us only through the police who arrested her for leaving her sons, ages 2 and 6 months, in a hot car with the windows cracked in Scottsdale, Arizona. She left them for approximately 45 minutes, while she interviewed for a job. According to Sgt. Mark Clark of the Scottsdale Police: “She said she was homeless, she needed the job. Obviously, not getting the job. So it’s just a sad situation.”

This got the wheels of the commentariat grinding. Black single mothers are popular grist for the editorial mill; our circumstances spun in whichever ways suit the writer’s (and the public’s) politics. Shanesha Taylor, then, became the face of America’s public daycare problem, the soul of its limited housing and employment options for unpartnered parents. Her name seemed an instant folk ballad, invoked to woefully decry the ripple effects of poverty.

Outrage was leveled at lawmakers and at the criminal justice system, while Taylor’s case was used to educate readers about the brick walls single mothers face on their labyrinthine quest to improve their families’ quality of life.

We are used to the news cycle ending here, with most readers’ mournful tsk-tsking at circumstances they’ve either not had to face or have left far enough in their rearview to provide an insular distance. How sad for her, we’d say as newer and equally complicated stories crowded Taylor’s out of reportage. Society is cold and hard, we’d muse while reading about some other injustice.

But this case was different.

By now we all know about the YouCaring campaign, with an original funding goal of $9,000, that has raised over $85,000 to date, for Shanesha’s bail, pending legal battle to have her charges dropped, and housing and child care needs. While the initial local news coverage of Taylor’s case can be credited for alerting us to Taylor’s plight, it wasn’t the columnists who saved her. It was other single mothers and their advocates.

Before the first wave of think-pieces was even in full-swing, 24-year-old Amanda Bishop* took matters into her own hands and set up the YouCaring page. She’d never met Taylor before reading the news report, but she heard in Taylor’s story something she recognized. And she wasn’t alone. Comment after comment on the fundraising page reifies the cliff’s edge over which single parents so often find themselves peering. The most resonant sentiment there is: This could’ve been me.

Taylor is not the first mother to make risky parenting choices, particularly not those related to leaving her children unsupervised. In 1999, the national number of children left to “self-care” (defined by one research brief as unattended or in the care of an underage sibling) was 3,325,000. Of that number, 866,000 are between the ages of 6 and 9. Taylor’s children were significantly younger. At 2 and 6 months old, the idea of “self-care” simply isn’t applicable. In this way, Taylor’s decision was less calculated risk than unmitigated desperation, a desperation capable of impairing logic.

It is absolutely true that she shouldn’t have ever been criminalized for this act. But I’m late to weigh in here at Beyond Baby Mamas regarding her case because I suspect it’s more complex and individual than I know, more complex and individual than the public is engaging it.

I hesitate to develop a hard and fast “take” on Shanesha Taylor’s actions and how they fit into our larger discourse on poverty, public childcare options, and homelessness. In as much as I’m able to take any real stance here, I can say with certainty I don’t believe “child abuse” is an appropriate allegation. But I do believe “child endangerment” is. Were her children older– even as old as six and two (as I’d originally misread when this story was first reported), I’d be less likely to call it even that. A six-year-old left unsupervised for 45 minutes could at least be taught to feed and soothe a younger sibling and to crack open a door if the car got too hot. A two-year-old in a similar situation is helpless. He is not being actively abused, per se, but his life and that of his infant brother have been endangered.

Something very significant has broken down in a parent’s ability to reason when a job interview takes precedence over shade and air for her toddler and an infant. I think we should be more closely examining that breaking (and our society’s complicity in it).

The police who responded to a report of Shanesha Taylor’s children crying and sweating in her car would have better served her by ordering a medical/psychological evaluation for her. And rather than felony charges for “abuse,” she should have been offered pro-bono family counseling and/or parenting courses. These are things I still believe would benefit Taylor and her family.

In the meantime, here are the single mothers, rising to support her. Here are the advocates for low-income parents, doing their independent investigation of the facts in her case and in her post-jail progress. Here is the help single mothers in peril have been waiting for.

It turns out that help wasn’t found in editorial-writing or policy-passing. Many single parents learn early to keep their heads down, their challenges quiet, their desperate moments secret. We are taught that work must take precedence over everything else, that self-reliance may have to come at the expense of a sound mind or safety for our children. We are taught not to look up for help, once we’ve been denied it by people who attached accusations to their “No”s. Our government responds to our needs either by ignoring them, by reducing the limited aid it once offered to help us address them, or by allowing political candidates to make us the scapegoats in debates about the national deficit.

And so we get busy. Very busy. Busy enough to believe that we cannot be helped; we are our only recourse. We haven’t had time to wait to be proven wrong. As it turns out, we needn’t have looked any further than each other. Perhaps this is the start of a larger community care movement — and if it is, we have Shanesha Taylor and her generous supporters to thank for that.

 

* An earlier version of this piece erroneously identified Amanda Bishop as a single mother. She is not. 

Why ‘Doing Everything Right’ Doesn’t Insulate Women From Single Motherhood.

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Professor Jen Jamison, with her gorgeous three-year-old twins.

Where I began my story as a single mother was at a time in my life when I felt like I had done everything the right way and in the correct order. I graduated from high school at the age of 18, followed by a bachelor of science degree in chemistry at the age of 22 and a Ph.D. in chemistry at the age of 28. During my postdoctoral training, I met someone who I felt loved me, supported my dreams, and wanted me to support his dreams.

He was everything I thought I wanted. He did a lot to impress me and I did my best to reciprocate all of his efforts. We had a great time together.

This whirlwind romance was followed quickly by engagement, marriage, and pregnancy. That’s when the wheels came off the proverbial cart. All of sudden, instead of being loving and supportive, he became emotionally abusive and threatened and actually performed physical violence on numerous occasions. Instead of him showing me off to his friends, he would tell me I was nothing.

I thought about leaving the marriage, but I was also pregnant…with twins! I figured things would calm down after we graduated from the newlywed stage. I made a marital vow and I intended to keep it. I eventually became a shell of my former self; I was broken, humiliated, and mistreated frequently.

In October of 2010, my son and daughter were born at 33 weeks and stayed in the NICU for nearly a month. I also had a one-week hospital stay, which gave me time to decide to leave the marriage and formulate an exit strategy. I was laid off from my postdoctoral position around the time the babies were born. I had dreams of becoming a college professor and submitted applications to several schools around that same time. Since most universities do not hire until around August, I knew I would be unemployed for many months.

Here I was with no job, a new mother to twins, and a plan to fix my life. I was still married and living with my husband, and everything was manageable until the babies were released from the NICU to come home. Because they were preemies, I had to stick to a strict schedule of feeding them, which was every 2-3 hours, 24 hours per day. It was very difficult manage this with absolutely no help from anyone else.

I went to stay with my parents for a while so I could get help with the babies. While there, I got job interviews and continued to apply to other universities. My parents helped me by taking care of the babies while I was flying to other states for job interviews. I eventually narrowed my job offers down to two universities: one in the same city as my husband and the other in another state. Long after I signed the contract with the university in the other state, I informed my husband that I was leaving.

He kept most of my belongings, which were acquired long before I met him. I basically moved to another state with 9 month old twins and a few possessions in July of 2011. We moved into a duplex on the not-so-great side of town. I didn’t even have a television or cable. Despite living simply, being in my new place was great because I was able to begin to recover from all of the abuse.

When August of 2011 rolled around, I was so excited to begin working as a college professor. I loved my university, my colleagues, and my students. I was also nervous because I had no family nearby to help with my kids. I was so nervous about them getting sick and having to miss work that I expressed my concern to my boss. His response: “If you need to miss work, your colleagues will help cover your classes. Worst case scenario, if you can’t be there, cancel class! You are the professor, after all!” I was able to breathe again, to smile, to laugh, and to make friends. For the first time since 2010, I had a positive plan to move my little family forward, including home ownership.

I finally saved up enough money in 2012 to get a divorce. The whole process was pretty straightforward and I became a free woman on July 6th of 2012. I didn’t have time to cry or have any emotions because I knew that there was nothing to cry over. Also, I was too busy packing and getting ready to move into my brand-new home that was built from the ground up; I moved into my home on August 1, 2012. There was new furniture to buy and other first-world problems to solve such as finding a reputable lawn maintenance company.

These days, I am happy with myself and my accomplishments as a mother and career woman. I appreciate the fact that I have overcome some huge difficulties, yet I am still standing. I have raised my twins by myself since their release from the hospital; they are almost 3 ½ years old and my love for them continues to grow. I love that I have a job that seems custom made for me. Most importantly, I have learned to lean on God and trust His ability to make all things work together for my good. I assumed that since I did everything “right,” bad things weren’t supposed to happen to me.

While I do not wish single motherhood on anyone, I recognize that it can happen to anyone, regardless of race, education, or socioeconomic factors, for any reason. It doesn’t matter how one becomes a single mom; if it happens to you, you will have much greater concerns than who is judging you. Yes, the stereotypes are alive and well, and some people are not as graceful in keeping their opinions to themselves. I can’t control them any more than I could stop my ex-husband’s mistreatment of me. I just make sure I remind myself that being a single mom does not remove or diminish my desire to give my children the best upbringing that I can give them, which is the same desire held by other types of mothers for their children. Finally, I remind myself that I love my children and always will, which keeps me going when I become exhausted from taking on too much at work. Their hugs infuse me with energy and their smiles and giggles confirm that every ounce of labor, stress, and discomfort is completely worth it.

Jen Jamison is a mother of 3-year-old twins and a chemistry professor at a university in Arkansas. She is also a writer, a speaker, and an enthusiast for science education at the K-12 level.

For Potential Givers: A Feed-A-Single-Parent-Family Primer.

Since launching our holiday Feed-A-Single-Parent-Family holiday initiative yesterday, we’ve received overwhelming response, both from families in need and from generous supporters interested in donating. To streamline the process for the latter, here are some additional details and a separate form for those looking to give a grocery gift card to a family that could really use your support this holiday season:

  • Beyond Baby Mamas is a volunteer-run support community. Though we do have plans to transition into a fully-supported nonprofit organization in 2014, we are not currently one. Should you decide to help a family you do not know by donating a grocery gift card, your contribution cannot be claimed as a tax exemption.
  • Please complete the form below or email us beyondbabymamas at gmail dot com, providing ALL the information listed below.
  • We are, to the best of our ability, matching givers to families, based on family size and contribution amount. This is why it’s so useful for us to know how much you hope to contribute.
  • There is NO minimum contribution amount, provided the grocery store website for your family allows you to name your own amount. If you can only give a very small denomination, the family you’re assigned will receive your card, as well as other small denomination donors’, until he/she receives a sufficient amount.
  • Please allow 3-5 days to hear from Beyond Baby Mamas about your family.
  • Feel free to leave any other questions in our comments section below!

Thank you so much for your interest in helping a single-parent family in need!