Last week, 24-year-old Shaina Bell, of Ohio, faced an impossible choice. She had to go to work, but she didn’t have childcare for two of her three children. So, probably weighing the risk of losing her job, she left her 9-year-old and 2-year-old together in the hotel room that they were living in while she went to work at a pizza shop.
“I felt that she was old enough to be able to stay here with her sister for a few hours because my job is right down the street,” Bell told WKBN News.
Unfortunately, the risk that Bell took didn’t pan out. After someone notified the police about the kids being home alone, Bell was arrested and charged with two misdemeanors.
But that’s where the story turns positive — when Bell’s mother posted the story on GoFundMe, people donated more than $160,000 so that Bell won’t have to choose between providing for her kids and keeping them safe in the future. Bell says she’s hoping to buy a home with the money.
This story is complicated, because the choice to leave kids home alone is a tough one. But it highlights how the system fails moms and kids, especially those most in need. Moms should never have to choose between their jobs and the safety of their kids. And yet, since Bell was forced to make that choice, it’s nice to see people recognizing that she was between a rock and a hard place, and stepping up to support her.
Most moms haven’t been living in a hotel. But most of us can relate to being in a situation where we have to make the least bad decision. In those moments, you just hope that your judgement pays off… but unfortunately it doesn’t always work that way.
Sure, there are better solutions than helping just one family — we need child care credits, daycare with flexible hours, and communities that are there for moms with no one to call on. But for now, Bell and her children could have a more secure future because people recognized the tough place that moms are in.
“My kids bring me joy. They make me laugh. They’re my world,” Bell said. “I would never do anything to harm my kids. My kids are everything to me. That’s all I do is go to work and take care of my kids. That’s all I do.”
Bell’s situation caught the attention of some high profile people, who spoke about how this story is just one of millions of examples of parents forced to make impossible decisions. Pierre “Pee” Thomas, a music executive, donated $10,000 to Bell’s family, because the situation hit close to home.
“My mom used to have to do the same thing when we were young, not cause of abandonment issues, it’s because people can’t afford child care working at a pizza shop,” he wrote on Instagram. “She wasn’t hanging out at a club. She was at work.”
The story also caught the attention of lawmakers, including Arizona Representative Ruben Gallego, who tweeted, “Women are damned if they do or damned if they don’t. Stay at home with your kids and receive government assistance and you are a leach, go to work for poverty wages and can’t get consistent sitters and go to jail.”
Women are dammed if they do or damned if they don’t. Stay at home with your kids and receive government assistance and you are a leach, go to work for poverty wages and can’t get consistent sitters and go to jail. https://t.co/9NJxEPgCFs
— Ruben Gallego (@RubenGallego) February 15, 2021
Gallego also pointed out that this is the longest stretch of the federal government not raising the minimum wage.
On Sunday, Bell’s mom closed the GoFundMe. Hopefully, Bell now has the resources she needs to create more stability for her family. And hopefully our society will begin to recognize that moms and families need much more support than they’re currently getting.
“From the bottom of our hearts we not only appreciate the financial contributions, but also the outpouring of support in the form of kind words and understanding,” Bell’s mom wrote. “You all have such AMAZING, sweet Spirits and again we thank you so very much.”
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