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Navigating Life as a Single Mom with Physical and Mental Health Challenges

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

Born and raised in Memphis, Ms. April M and her 13-year-old son have lived in the Shelby County community for their entire lives. Although being a single mom is a significant part of April’s life, she is also very involved in her faith and is a talented writer and poet. In addition to the obstacles that she faces as a single mother, April lives with serious physical and mental health conditions. As she explains, “In 2004 when I first got diagnosed with PTSD, I did not know what I was facing. Later, I learned more. It was scary. Being a single mother while I fight for my mental and physical health is very hard.”

April financially supports her household with her monthly disability benefit, which can be hard to budget to cover monthly expenses for two people. Budgeting her income to make sure that her son has everything he needs-- including new clothes, materials for school, and healthy food—is a central concern for April. As a result, nutrition programs like free school meals and the SNAP program have been a lifeline for their family, especially during a time of historic inflation. Without SNAP, it would be hard to buy healthy and fresh foods for her family. As April explains, “Raising children requires good nutrition, not only for the health benefits, but also because these are the foods that my son loves-- especially fresh fruits like bananas and watermelon.”

As essential as the SNAP program is for April’s family, she explains that she often faces barriers trying to access DHS workers and important information about the program. Since the pandemic, all SNAP offices have been closed for walk in visits and phone hold times have significantly increased. For example, when April applied for replacement SNAP for the $150 worth of frozen and refrigerated food that she lost in the Shelby County ice storms this February, she waited on hold for nearly 2 hours trying to contact someone about her application.

In response to these barriers, April is a fierce advocate for strengthening and improving the nutrition programs, especially SNAP. For April, writing about and sharing her story are important parts of her advocacy because the feeling “that you’re the only one out there is very heavy,” as she describes. She also is dedicated to racial equity within public benefits programs, including but not limited to SNAP, school meals, and Tenncare. Below is an original poem written by April, describing some of her experiences with SNAP and other public benefits programs:

Sometimes I wonder if Tennessee really does care

It feels like as the years go by it’s like are they even there

The past 2 to 3 years life has turned around

Barely surviving but when reaching out it’s like they don’t hear our sound

Waiting on hold for hours at a time

Telling you whatever just to get you off the line

I feel guilty for bothering but I’m just wanting to eat

I need to feed my son but I get the silent treat

I know sometimes things are wild,

But it’s all good, it’s only for a while

We must pray and stick together,

I promise you my son it’s me and you forever

The very next day hoping for better news

So, I go on chat support and now I’m told another set of rules

The rep says, “I’m sorry I can’t pull up your case”

Then I’m wondering why ask for my information and send me on another chase

This is crucial what else do you need

The power went out for three days as you see

I feel like giving up because I’m getting nowhere

But what kept me going is knowing that Tennessee Justice does care

I uploaded my application online that night

The next day a representative said, “nope that’s not right”

I asked, “what do you mean it says online”

He said, “you must go down to the office at this time”

I then called to check the status of a new replacement card

She was so disrespectful the conversation I ended because it was hard

I dropped to my knees and began to cry my tears

It’s been too much hurt because your tone caused fears

Tennessee wake up we are all in pain

Please give us respect, as we do the same

Written by April M. 2022

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