Moms Who Let Their Kids Beg Know Exactly What They Are Doing

Mom Moment 7

PanhandlerShe sits crossed-legged on the floor of the DC subway station not every day—probably two or three times a week—but always with this woeful expression painted across her face. She’s exhausted, you can tell, but it might be something else too. Maybe she’s strung out or trying to get strung out, maybe she’s malnourished, maybe life has just beaten the spirit out of her eyes and made her skin seem like it itself is too downtrodden to stay in position. She holds a sign scrawled across a small piece of cardboard that I’ve never really read.

That’s largely because she has two young girls, ostensibly her daughters, begging passersby for money. It is heart-wrenching and I go through this internal moral conflict every time I see them. 

When they first started posting up by the entrance to the Metro, I would give them change if I had it. I’m one of those people who use a debit card to buy something as small as a 99 cent candy bar at the 7-Eleven, so I usually don’t have more than a few random quarters and nickels in my wallet. DC is plentiful with homeless people begging at intersections, bus stops, and street corners, so between them and the folks hustling for their respective charities and pleading for donations, my silver gets spread pretty thin across the city.

I admittedly suffer from a bleeding heart and have the hardest time packing away my sympathy. As a result, I am a prime, grade A target for every hustler and panhandler in the area. But this mother-and-child outfit sticks out in my mind.

I don’t know the circumstances of this woman’s life. Clearly, I’ve never taken the time to have a conversation with her—I’ve always been running either to the office or away from it to get home—and I’m sure, as detached as she looks, she wouldn’t want to much be bothered with the investigative probing of a stranger anyway. But I do put myself in her situation and wonder if I would be willing to allow my children, especially my daughters, to hustle money from the flurry of anonymous people walking by.

Does it teach them how to be survivors or educate them about the wages of struggle? What will they grow up to be like? What kind of ethics and values will they embrace? Will they think this is the norm?

I’m not judging her. At least I don’t think I am. I’ve never been homeless or so down and out that I’ve had to depend on the charity of people I don’t know to feed my child, thank God. I’m definitely grateful for that. But I’m silently analyzing her and her decision—and those of mothers like her—to put their children on the frontlines and volunteer them for the job. It’s so hard to say no to those big, pleading eyes and little voices asking for money I don’t have. I suspect that’s why they’re the ones doing the asking.  

Today, I’m challenging myself to talk to her the next time I see her, if only to ask if there’s anything I can offer besides dropping a few coins in the palms of her girls’ hands. There’s got to be something more I can do, mother to mother.

Are you swayed or appalled by children panhandling with their parents?


Image via Robert Tewart/Flickr

family, kid health, safety

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PRIMA487 PRIMA487

I find it appalling that a parent would put their child in that situation. Its pimping your kid.

wamom223 wamom223

I find it appalling.  I also get really pissed if a woman is standing there holding a sign saying she needs money because she is pregnant and homeless while smoking a cigarette.  I live in a town that just banned this and people can think what they want but we did the right thing.  All the sudden we had people pan handling from every corner and after a while we started to notice they weren't homeless.  One guy I saw was my sister's neighbor and he made more money than she did.  We knew he had a good job because he drove a company truck with their logo all over it. There are many great organizations that would help get that woman and her children off the streets.  If nothing else she needs to do whats best for her children and give them to someone who can take care of them.

nonmember avatar edmlisa

I believe that it is illegal to use children for panhandling. Social Services or DCFS should be all over that.

Jespren Jespren

It's a hard one for me, because if you really are in a position to need to panhandle you got to know the kids will help. But I also have lived in a city so know for it's generosity people come from all over the country to panhandle there and a good spot will net you $20 an hour, so it"s hard not to feel a bit cynical and like the kids are just getting 'pimped" .

nonmember avatar kaerae

Being poor doesn't make you a bad parent, but having your kids be the ones to try to fix it DOES make you a crappy parent. In my opinion, kids should not even know if their family is on food stamps or free school lunches. They will label themselves and live down to that label and it simply is not fair. There are not rich kids and poor kids, only rich and poor parents, and kids should not have the burden of knowing exactly how dire the situation is. These girls should be taken away from their "parent" not because she is down an out, but because she has no idea that it is HER problem to fix or seek help for, and not her daughters'. In the meantime, if it were me, I would bring the girls bag lunches, and one for mom as well, and keep reporting until someone stepped in.

WCURi... WCURiverRat

You seriously think taking these girls away from their mother is going to make anything better? They'll just end up in a foster home. No matter how bad things are for them, I'm sure the family would prefer to stay together and be poor than to be torn apart and still be poor.

WCURi... WCURiverRat

You seriously think taking these girls away from their mother is going to make anything better? They'll just end up in a foster home. No matter how bad things are for them, I'm sure the family would prefer to stay together and be poor than to be torn apart and still be poor.

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