In search of .....a living wage
We learned to schedule our showers and doing dishes so that there was always enough hot water to meet our needs, and we learned to budget - a strict budget. We both kept out $50 dollars a week from our checks to pay for things like gas for our cars, and personal items we may need...including clothing and nights out with our friends. The rest went into one account to pay all the bills...rent, phone, cable, electric, car insurance for each of our vehicles, and food. A first lesson in truly being an adult.
Our apartment was furnished in hand me downs from friends and family along with what I could find at garage sales and thrift stores. A simple life but we were making ends meat and able to even take little get-aways once or twice a year....even if they were just weekend camping trips, it was still an accomplishment that we were able to afford them.
Soon we both got raises....I switched jobs and he advanced in his. This also meant that we were able to move from the little dingy apartment in a building that was loud and roaches could be spotted in the hallways and corridors(but never in my apartment -I made sure of that! So did three cats!). We moved to a larger apartment, in a more affluent neighborhood, on a quiet side street that was lined with trees. We were able to purchase new furniture on credit that we were able to quickly pay off. Life was flourishing - I was now making 9 dollars per hour, and he was up to 9.50. It was time to get married and start that family we had talked about. The year was 1991 - in the two and a half years we had been together we had made all the right steps in living that American Dream and becoming that family with 2 kids, a house ...white picket fence...yearly vacations and bbq's with our neighbors.
The dream was shattered......
I really don't have the energy to repeat here in this post the drama that has occurred - if you've been following my blog, then you already know....if not, well then you have something to do on a lazy Sunday as you can read some of my past posts to understand...
But now back to the reality that life happened...
Today I find myself searching out jobs that offer a living wage for a single divorced mom raising two young men without a dime of child support - this is not an easy task to say the least.
My partial unemployment will be exhausted soon and my part time job reporting barely puts gas in my car and pays for the incidentals that can't be bought with food stamps. I am in the catch 22 that many single moms find themselves in and is the reason the majority of the homeless are single parent families - minimum wage and living wage are two very different things and we have gone from a society that understands people need to be able to live on what they make to expect to make no more than what the law says I have to pay you.....at least this is what I see in the rural area I now am trying to live in.
It's a catch 22 for moms like me because minimum wage...or even a dollar over it...does not meet the needs of a family - BUT...it does cut into any services you are getting....and if you dare to work two jobs to make ends meat, well then, kiss any assistance to get back on your feet goodbye. So we are faced with a choice....do you spend every waking moment working for a low wage to pay the bills in raising children that you basically are leaving to raise themselves....or do you live continue to live in poverty that sucks the energy and hope out of your soul, just so you can be there to make sure your offspring are not running with the wrong crowds...doing their homework and have a chance to see you more than while you sleep?
So as I go through my morning routine of scanning the same job listings that I do every morning...the dozen that there are for this area, I am asking myself that question - what choice do I make? I see an ad for an administrative assistant...in other words, an office girl....experience is needed...must be computer literate...must know various programs...and the starting wage is $8 per hour, and by the way it's part time so there are no benefits.
There's the one that is basically the same type of position, full-time...starting out at 9 per hour but it's a 50 mile drive..ONE WAY...when gas is hedging 3 bucks a gallon.
No matter what neither of them a pay enough for me to make it without taking another or keeping the part time job I already have.
I think about my boys...what is best for them...I am the only parent they have in their life - actually, right now, I am the only relative in their every day world...there are no aunts and uncles close enough, or who are willing to help keep an eye on them while I am out providing. My neighbors all have their own stresses and families to worry about - as do my friends who do not live in my neighborhood. There are no Boys and Girls clubs around here...no YMCA's to go to...there's nothing to do with their off time but to be at home...or out with friends...somewhere. Couple that with everything they have lost in such a short time period..the abuse they were exposed to...the alcoholism that runs heavily in both sides of their family...and then their desire to "belong" somewhere...with some family - I am worried about the options in front of me - what do I choose?
What are my choices???
Am I stuck with the choices here....or do I create another option?
Is there a living wage out there somewhere?
If so, where?
And, is this all worth the risk?
Friends tell me to cozy up to that "man" in my life. That's not my way - if it's meant to be it will happen....but in the mean time I have to be a parent to my children - so choices need to be made. A direction needs to be decided -
What do I do with this house? It's not like there's a thriving market out there...unless of course District Attorney Scott Southworth is reading this...perhaps he may want to buy it just to get rid of me (wink, wink..and yes, that was sarcasm)'
I do know that other areas of the country are in fact starting to pick up and jobs are opening up - jobs that do offer a living wage - so they are out there...it's just a matter of throwing the dart at the right area...at the right time...and taking advantage of every opportunity before me- the more that I think about it, the more I realize if I ever expect to make it somewhere on my own and provide real opportunities for my children to not follow in the foot steps of their father - I need to move in a different direction, and soon.
Last night I sat in on my school board's meeting. I was covering it for the paper...there they were making yet another half a million dollars in cuts to the budget for the third year in a row. Included in some of those cuts was the bus route my son takes to school. Next year he will need to walk just under 2 miles to school or I will need to find a way to get him there - If I am here, and working those couple of jobs will I even be home to do it? If he needs to walk that long distance because a ride may not be in the picture...even factoring friends...then will my child ...my pre-teen who is so very gifted and so very bored with school even attempt that walk to a school making cuts in the things that may in fact keep him challenged and interested?
So...all of that is what has been weighing on my mind lately, and why I haven't been writing much - in my quiet times when I am not working...mothering...or volunteering - I am sitting here..in front of this computer...while I search for a living wage...and wondering what is next...and how do I do it.
I know I am not alone........................but I also know, I am getting tired.