I was raised by a single mom who fearlessly rejected government “help.” She showed me what grit and hard work could achieve without the imposition of government barriers.
She was, once upon a time, a “militant” feminist who voted for Jimmy Carter and idolized Phil Donahue in her teens and early 20s. My mom the liberal feminist married a Cuban immigrant, had a child (me), and soon a change of heart. She found that having a child gave her a new perspective on life and a new philosophy.
By the time I was 4 years old, my parents had split and my mother was raising me on her own. Like many single mothers, she struggled to obtain child support checks, struggled to find a job that could support the two of us and struggled to acquire the child care necessary for her to work three jobs at a time.
That’s right — my mom rejected the notion that the only way she could get by was with government assistance. The programs in place to “help” were, in fact, not very helpful. So instead of relying on welfare and food stamps, she was determined to make her own way and be an example to me of old-fashioned self-reliance and true feminism. She was driven, despite her circumstances, to show me what a strong woman could accomplish.
We endured tough times, to be sure. There was a season when we lived in an apartment with no furniture, but we always had a roof over our heads. What I remember more vividly than where we lived or what I slept on is that my mom worked so hard for us and still came home every night and devoted hours to reading with me and reciting stories that I’d tell her to write down in a Lisa Frank notebook.
I recall, too, the help that came from priests in our church, friends and family who came alongside us when we needed support — financially and otherwise. School vouchers and scholarship programs did not exist at the time, so when my mom was forced to choose between a public school where I’d been learning nothing and a private Catholic school down the street, she made the sacrifice of working even more to give me that opportunity. And the priests were kind enough to help us with some of the tuition so that I could obtain a quality education.
Eventually my mom received a big break and was offered a job processing insurance information for a group of radiologists. This was by far the best and most stable job she ever had, and she loved working there. She finally was earning enough to pay for rent, health insurance and preschool for me. And we enjoyed the luxury of eating more than bologna sandwiches. Our lifestyle completely changed, and it was all due to my mother’s determination, her desire to make a better life for us and to show me that it can be done through hard work and, well, grit.
Today my mom is a political consultant and volunteer. I know that her ideals mean more than just politics. She is devoted to promoting limited government, personal responsibility and independence. And these values that she instilled in me have inspired me to devote my life to championing them as well.
My mom is truly my hero. She didn’t just tell me; she showed me what a life is like free from government intrusion, filled with a sense of accomplishment, self-reliance and the confidence that you’ve passed these invaluable principles to another generation. I hope this is something I do well for my own children someday.
Demi Dowdy is communications coordinator at the Civitas Institute in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she coordinates all media relations for the state’s leading conservative think tank. Previously, Dowdy worked in PR and media relations for various organizations in Washington, D.C., including Concerned Women for America.