After talking with a friend over the weekend and friend this morning about a mom with twins with Autism who continues to work full time even though it is becoming more a challenge for her than ever before since her divorce, it dawned on me that people might not understand why some moms do not work a traditional job like being a nurse, a CNA, or anything that takes them out of the home full time. Both conversations seemed to be confirmation that I needed to make this post. I would love to say that it is a choice that we make that we often can afford to make, but in my situation and in other people’s situations, they can not afford to work outside the home or on a job that they can not work during school hours (school hours being 7am-2pm). An non-traditional job is described in my work as a job that can often be done from home as well as requiring a certain skill set, motivation, and ability to stay on task without needing to be micromanaged.
As a single parent, I wish that I could say that there was another adult in my home that could balance the demands of parenthood, but that person does not exist in my world. It’s just the children and I. I have two children on the autism spectrum that at any moment could have an issue where they need medical attention. One child suffers from bouts of unexplained tachycardia and one that has unexplained bouts of a disease called lack of reasoning, sorry, ADHD and impulse control issues, it is impossible for me to ask an employer to employ me full time knowing that some days will have to be spent at a doctor’s office. Heck, I see our pediatrician’s office so much; I have threatened to get a job there. Then there is the cost of childcare. With childcare running anywhere from $80-160 or more a week, a parent like myself would have to work just to get the paycheck to often afford childcare. Then with special needs children you have to find a day care that can take your child in and be able to meet all of your child’s needs or in our community what we call level of care. Now if you by luck of the draw do qualify for an ABC voucher, you could be asked to pay upwards of $70 a week. That is still steep in many households.
Gone are the days when you had extended family that could assist you in taking care of your child. That is how I grew up. My grandmother lived no more than 20 steps from my home and I would have meals with her, my grandfather, and my uncle and she would be the person that would get me off the bus when I arrived home from school. The extended family of today has changed where you have grandparents that live hours away or over in the next town as opposed to right next door. The times have changed and we are still struggling to catch up.
As much as I would love to paint a rosy picture about what single parents endure today without the support of the non-custodial parent, but sadly, there are too many parents that have children and walk away leaving parents like myself, male and female to figure it out. In my case, I have an excellent team now that works with my children through the week from our PCA to the ABA therapist that come in to work with my daughter to help her with her impulsive ways as well as with social skills, I can get some work here in the home done and if I need to be away from home when they are due to arrive on the bus, they are there to assist me. I never take their assistance for granted because it is genuinely a Godsend.
But not all momma’s and daddy’s have a team of people that help brace them up when they have things going on. They have to schedule their work around doctor’s visits, sick days are used when their child is sick, and they have to come home and fix meals, and clean the house while their children get dressed for bed leaving sometimes little time for themselves. We become exhausted often and to be honest, some days, when I am really exhausted from traveling to Columbia and sometimes as far as Charleston, SC with my children, it is tiring to even breath. We do what we have to do to get by.
So for those that think that parents like myself are just lazy, we aren’t. These are the signs of the times. The nuclear family began to change years ago. The close nit family model that existed when I was a child is no longer there. Often today, many people do not know their neighbors or they don’t have time to meet their neighbors to just say hello and introduce themselves let alone say “Hey, if I’m not here one day, can you look out for my kids?” The way my childhood existed where everyone knew you were your parents child, that is gone. So at the end of the day I will say, I do not choose to work a Non-traditional job because I cannot adapt to one, I choose it because at the end of the day, the life that I lead would be unfair to any employer, would be unfair to my children when their needs far outweigh mine on many days, and I would have no other adult to share in the parental duties of my home. But I will say that working a non-traditional job allows me to advocate not only for my children, but for others like my children, for people like me that struggle, and for people poorer than me that feel that they don’t have a voice. I pack a lot of work, paid and unpaid into a 12-hour day.
So next time you see a mom at a bus stop looking as though she has been in her pajamas all day, think about what she may be enduring. Think about the fact that she may save all of her good clothes for when she has to go out for work, looking for work, or for appointments. Also think about the fact that that mom may be depressed enough to not be able to get dressed because no matter what she does, she is still stuck unable to work outside of the home because she has no support. Single moms happen in all sorts of ways, via death of a spouse, via the end of a relationship, divorce, or other factors, but at the end of the day, the choices that we make will define us as parents.
Now when I look at my three little ones, I hear the statistics about children in single parent households and the achievement gap. My son is a straight B student, my oldest daughter is a straight B student, and my youngest daughter consistently every year is the top in her class with straight A’s. We work hard before and after school going over study guides and skills to ensure that they have them. This is what I am able to do working a non-traditional job. Do I wish I were back to the days when I worked 40 hours a week somewhere? Of course, but in that time frame, there was so much that needed to be done in my home and community that I was too tired to do.
I’m not saying have sympathy for parents like me, but have empathy for parents like myself. We do the best physically we can for our children to ensure that they do not repeat what we endured and they have better lives.