Marjorie was feeling under the weather today and she decided she would not go to school. She was having her menstruation and she always felt very weak and irritable on the first couple days in addition to the migraines she would get on top of that. She could hardly cope with the demands of her children and at times like these she wished her husband would crawl out from wherever he was hiding and come and rescue her.
As the demands piled on her she found herself losing her temper more and more at her children. She hit them many times only to remorse for days. Her oldest son suffered the consequence more than her other three other children.
Her she was at 36 with four children to feed with no job and all by herself. For the past four years she has been receiving welfare and the money was not enough and she did not how to cope she was at wits end to know what to do. All she wanted to do was to find a job so that she could look after her children by herself but there is no job and in order to qualify for daycare she has to be taking some course or the other. She hated school and hated learning English. She felt she knew enough but was forced to go to school to learn more English so that she could qualify for daycare and bus pass.
Her head ached many days from studying. Now there was a letter saying that she would not qualify for bus pass this month because she missed too many days of school. She felt diminished, like a child being punished for doing something wrong.
She picked up the phone and phoned her counsellor at the Welfare office. It was difficult getting through to her but Marjorie phone and phone until she got through.
“Why I no get money for bus pass this month”
“Because you missed many days. You have to go to school in order to get money for bus pass”
“But I am sick, how can I go to school”
“well you have to get a doctor’s certificate to say you are sick”
“For one day….you know sometimes you sick and you don’t have to seek a doctor all you need is to rest”
“Yes, I know… but you must follow the policy. I can’t help you if you don’t follow the rules”
“You think I’m chiled. I’m no chile. I am big…I have four children. I tell you I sick why don’t you believe me”
“There’s nothing I can do. It’s not me who make the rules. It is my job to follow the rules”.
“Yes, I know dat, but you can help me if you like. You can help me”.
“I’m sorry but I won’t be doing my job”
“Where I get money from for bus pass, tell me?”
“I’m sorry Marjorie but next time please get a doctor’s certificate then I will be able to help you”.
“This is all stupid…. just because I poor and don’t know good English”
“That’s not true Marjorie. You must abide by the rules”.
“Bye” Marjorie said wearily and hung up the phone. She felt like crying but she would not give the worker the satisfaction. She gritted her teeth and went back to bed.
When she arrived in Canada four years ago she was looking healthy and well covered. Today she looks gaunt and tired all the time. A smile is a rare thing. She stews her teeth a lot and always complain of a headache.
Unable to bear the frustration she phoned her other counsellor at the Immigrant Women’s Association and said how she was feeling depressed.
She explained her situation to the counsellor and asked if she could advocate on her behalf to the city welfare worker to get her bus pass.
“I am so fed up…headache these people and their rules. Everything you have to do here. They treat you like child. I am no child, I am big woman. Why dey don’t believe me when I say I no feel good. I am really hungry..how can I feel better when I hungry all de time.. de give me bad headache”
“I know but you see to make life easier you have to abide by the rules and regulations. Many times these people are not flexible and people just know to follow rules”
“I know it’s difficult for us but we have to learn to do things the way these people like or else we will face a lot of obstacles”.
“I need job, I don’t need the government money, I need to work to take care of my own children by myself”.
“It’s difficult you know. What are your skills, what kind of job you want to do?”
“Anything, I do anything…cleaning, washing dishes. I am just tired of going to school. I feel this is no real life, a dream”
“I know what you mean”
When Marj left the office she felt a little better having talked to someone, having someone listen to her as if she was an adult. She was tired of being treated like a child by the English teachers. Tired of their well-meaning but patronising manner. Sometimes Marj did not known how she felt or what was causing her frustration. All she knew that she was not feeling well. The days go by slowly. She dreamed a lot. She dreamed of the day she would speak, write and read English well enough to be able to take charge of her life without all the cultural interventions.