Over the last few months, we’ve told you about the story of 35-year-old Shanesha Taylor. The summarized version of the story is that Taylor left two of her three children (the other, a 9-year-old daughter, was reportedly at school during the whole thing) in her vehicle in a parking lot while she attended a job interview. This whole situation occurred in Scottsdale, Ariz., so that means it was very hot, and temperatures in the car shot up. Two women walking past the car heard crying and found the two kids in the hot car with the window’s cracked. Police were called, and when they came, Taylor returned from her interview and was arrested. She told them that she left her kids there because she had no one to watch them and was homeless. Aside from having her story make national news, she was charged with two counts of felony child abuse and lost custody of all three of her kids. And as for that job she risked everything to interview for, Taylor claims that she was actually offered a position at the insurance company, but we know that such an opportunity has now eluded her because of her legal issues.
Since her story broke back in March, police have said that Taylor actually had part-time employment, and even had a home address listed, causing some to think that she was duping everyone. However, in her first real interview, Taylor spoke to the New York Times about why she made the dangerous decision she did, how her life took a downturn with the recession and what she wants for herself and her family in the future.
According to Taylor, she struggled in 2008 after quitting a job as a mortgage loan officer for a brief time. She spent her savings and wound up juggling part-time customer service gigs that paid a lot less.
“I had to downgrade to an apartment; it got difficult paying day care, apartment, car payments, insurance — all the basic needs in life.”
So she tried to enroll full time in a community college in 2010 and her mother and stepfather occasionally helped to watch Taylor’s oldest daughter while she went to school to be more successful in the job market. But despite early obstacles, Taylor became pregnant with her first son with a man named Antoine Duncan, and that made things more difficult. It’s unclear what Duncan had going on with his employment and finances, but after losing her apartment, the couple lived in a motel and Taylor eventually went back to work, doing customer service work for $12.35 an hour to help make ends meet. But as for her schooling, Taylor’s student loan debt became so much of a load that she stopped going to community college in 2012.
Things got worse. Her work hours were cut, a child-care subsidy she was receiving was cut and she became pregnant with her third child–another baby boy with Duncan. But this time, Taylor stayed with her three kids at the home of her mother and stepfather. After she was fired because she had to leave work early to go on bed rest while pregnant, Taylor tried to pick up part-time work as an office aide for about $8 an hour, but with few hours per week.
After that, Taylor claims that “family matters” caused issues with her and her parents, so she left on her own, and stayed with friends or relatives who could take her and the kids for a short time. But she did admit that sometimes they all had to sleep in her car. As for Mr. Duncan, Taylor said they fell out because of monetary strains:
“We don’t communicate well sometimes, and that’s pretty much it. Finances had a lot to do with it. You know, not being able to make ends meet sometimes strains a relationship.”
So she was on her own. Taylor says the prospect of making enough to finally be in a good place financially caused her to make the decision she did to leave her kids in the car on that fateful day. With her parents at work and the babysitter she was hoping would help falling through, she took the kids with her. She said that she wanted and needed that insurance job badly.
“Thirty-nine thousand the first year, $65,000 the second year, $89,000 the third year. And the fourth year, with proper work, I could have had my own agency.
I felt like this was my opportunity to basically improve life for all of us, and the one key part of it is now not available, so what do I do now? That was my only thought: ‘What do I do now? What do I do now?’ That was kind of what started the whole chain of events that day.”
Taylor acknowledges that she made a big mistake, and said it was hard to explain to her daughter why she had to be in jail. “I had to explain to her, well, I did something wrong, that’s why I had to go.” But Taylor has received a lot of support, particularly from complete strangers who feel like she’s being punished too harshly. That includes Amanda Bishop, the woman who started that YouCaring fundraiser for Taylor, which raised $114,775. Taylor says she’s grateful for the support, including the financial support, and while it could help her provide better for her kids, it doesn’t change the fact that she doesn’t have them at this time.
“People ask me all the time, ‘Are you happier now?’ They feel that I should be over the moon. When, truth be told, I stay inside and I cry because I don’t have my children.”
And not surprisingly, Mr. Duncan has come back around…Taylor says they are working things out (and doing couple’s counseling) so they can be together and provide a stable situation for their kids in the future.
“This is one of those eye-opening situations that makes you feel like there are some things that are bigger than yourself, so sometimes you have to learn to communicate in order to make life better. Because, I mean, I understand that a two-parent household is better than a one-parent household, and they love their dad to death; it’s ‘Daddy’ all day. So it’s letting go of your own notions of how things are supposed to go.”
She told the New York Times her hopes for the future, and if those felony charges don’t land her in jail, she’s hoping for the best, including returning to school:
“Ten dollars an hour is basically going to keep me broke, keep me dependent on food stamps and Medicare and things like that. I don’t want to live like that forever. I want to get out and do something bigger and better and be self-sustaining.”
What do you think of what Ms. Taylor had to say in the New York Times interview? Does it make you look at her situation in a different light?