The journey of Alex as she escapes her domestic abuse partner and attempts to create a new life for her and her daughter has captivated audiences worldwide. Throughout the first season, I was moved to tears, and I found myself rooting for and invested in this virtual stranger.
Here’s the problem with Maid that I haven’t been able to shake since watching the show. In the story, Alex becomes the heroine.
We watch her struggle, return to her abusive partner, slip into depression, and then finally break free. She battles her child’s father in the court system and eventually can move away to start a new life.
I absolutely loved the way they portrayed Alex slipping into a deep depression. How she still manages to find enough resolved to get up and take her child on bear hunts and ensure she feels loved.
However, I’m grappling with the fact that life often looks different for moms fleeing domestic violence. As a seasoned foster mama, I know that Alex’s daughter could have ended up in foster care. It’s shocking to me that she didn’t. In which case, Alex wouldn’t have been the heroine. The foster mom would have been.
We have a broken system. But maybe this system isn’t just broken for kids; maybe it’s also broken for biological families.
You see, I’ve been on a mission to help foster and adoptive parents understand the trauma that their kids have experienced by coming into care and then parent from that new awareness.
I was recently praised inside my foster parent support group for inviting my foster daughter’s biological mom to dance class. I offered to pick her up and drive her so she could watch her daughter do dance lessons. The group’s reaction dumbfounded me. And then I realized it was because I was the exception, not the rule. Because most foster parents look down on birth families and don’t think it’s ‘their job’ to help them get back on their feet.
Fixing A Broken System
Where did our foster care system go so off course? Why are foster parents seen as heroes while biological families are villains? And could Maid be a good step in bringing about the needed change?
Imagine with me what it could be like if we supported moms like Alex instead of taking their children away.
Listen, as an adoptive mama myself, I’m not anti-adoption. At least I didn’t think I was. But recently, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and soul-searching, and I grapple with the answers I’m finding.
Why, while watching Maid, did I view Alex as the heroine and root for her to succeed? Yet, when I had children in my care whose mom was living in a women’s shelter, I wanted her kids to stay in my care even though I hadn’t yet met her? Looking back at that placement, I wish I had gotten a chance to meet that mama and help her get back on her feet. I often wonder where those kids are and how their life might have been different if I had stepped in to help.
A line from the show that stands out for me is, ‘I’m on eight types of government assistance, and I still can’t afford my own apartment.’ What is wrong with our system? And more importantly, how do we bring about necessary change?
Here are some lessons we can take away from Maid:
- We need to stop the stigma around social assistance. It’s 2021, folks. We should know by now not to judge those who need or have the courage the ask for help. Let’s do better. Way better. When my friend left her abusive relationship, an older man from our church saw her serving tables and loudly mocked how much harder it was to work for her own money after she left her husband. My friend handled it way more graciously than I would have. If you don’t know someone’s situation, you don’t say anything. End of story.
- Breaking generational patterns is hard work. Maid so beautifully portrayed Alex and her mom’s relationship. Alex wanted a better life for herself and her daughter. She chose the hard path to create a better future. It was such a beautiful portrayal of what so many foster kids face. How do I love someone who hurt me? How do I choose a better life when all I’ve ever known is hardship and struggle?
- Moms who end up on assistance aren’t bad moms. I wanted to reach through the TV and hug Alex for this. The love that she had for her daughter knew no bounds. We so often believe that struggling birth families don’t love their kids. And even worse, the children think that too. They internalize what happened to them and place the blame squarely on their shoulders. They need to hear from us that their parents love them, that they wanted them to stay, and that they wanted to do what was best for them. Birth parents love their children.
There’s this thought that has been rumbling around in my brain, desperate to get out. I receive government assistance because I adopted a sibling group. While I’m so grateful for the monthly stipend, I can’t help but wonder if my children’s birth parents could have turned their lives around with that monthly allowance. Could their family have stayed together with a bit more support? Could the trauma my kids experienced and the loss they still feel have been avoided?
What if we humanized the mothers and fathers of our kids? It’s easier for me to sit up here in my glasshouse with the comforts my life has afforded me and cast judgment on them for their life choices than it is for me to get down in the nitty-gritty of a broken system.
I’m tired of saying the system is broken without thinking about how to change it.
I’m tired of saying social service workers are overworked without finding a way to change that.
I’m tired of families being ripped apart and trauma being inflicted on kids because that’s how we’ve always done it.
I wonder what it will take to bring real change.
I wonder what it will take to end stigmas and invest in mental health.
I wonder what it will take for birth families to become the hero in their stories.
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Erin Bouchard from Arkona, ON. You can follow their journey on Instagram, Facebook, and their website. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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