They say it takes a village to raise a child, but in today’s society, many parents don’t have a village to fall back upon. In 2019, folks are working longer hours for lower pay than in previous decades. Some couples only see their partner when they switch off who is going to work and who is staying home with the children. That’s just not a healthy way to live.
I work with a person who has two children under the age of 5. One of the children is on the autism spectrum. She tells me how difficult it is to balance the kids, work, doctors appointments, and her personal life. Often, she and her husband are unable to spend time together and due to the type of work she does, she does not receive any paid time off or health insurance.
Another family I know, took their son who is also on the autism spectrum out of public school altogether due to suspected abuse by a teacher’s assistant. The family is currently experimenting with other options for their son, but mentioned how they feel uneasy for other parents who have special needs children in their son’s class who simply can’t afford to take their child out of school. Many families look forward to when their children start kindergarten because It means mom or dad can finally go back to work without worrying about paying for child care services. I’ve even heard from parents that even part time care for their child puts a strain on their budget.
In the 1990’s, my mother was able to support herself, her husband, and three children, one of which was special needs on her income. She had a GED and a job at a textile plant. She brought home $1,000 a week before taxes, due to the overtime she was able to work. Overtime at her job meant she didn’t have to find part time employment elsewhere. Overtime also meant that she received time and a half pay for all hours over 40 hours per week.
In 2019, many employers only allow folks to work up to 40 hours per week. Those who need to work over 40 hours per week are forced to find another part time employer, at regular pay, not overtime pay.
I’ve known folks who’ve been with the same company for over eight years and were notified that the company would no longer offer them pay increases in their position. To add insult to injury there was also no opportunity to be promoted into better paying positions. Some who had been in their positions for many years complained of heavier workloads and stagnant pay. It is also frequently reported that after co-workers resign, current employees have to absorb workload without additional pay and no ability to complain without facing consequences.
Corporate America and elites expect working class folks to produce and pay. We’re treated like cattle, and given little respect. When the younger generation complains about stagnant wages, little to no benefits, and a greedy corporate structure that only cares about the bottom line and not their employees, they’re called “lazy” and “entitled.” We’re told to keep our legs closed until we can afford to have children, and that if we don’t like our jobs, we should go back to school in order to obtain a “better” one.
Many disregard the fact that we’re a goods and services country. We enjoy going out to eat, hitting up the drive through, grabbing a frappuccino, and stopping by the store to buy detergent on the way home. We also need people to work those jobs. Around 3.8 million Americans work in fast food, 13 million in the restaurant industry (servers, cooks, chefs etc), and 29 million in retail. Factor in CNA’s, EMS, first responders, teachers and others who complain that their wages are too low. We should be able to raise our families on our wages.
Families are set up to fail in this country from the start. We have to fight tooth and nail for paid family leave, then on top of that, with low wages, long hours, and skyrocketing childcare costs, families still can’t afford to spend time with their children, or afford safer, alternative programs for their school age children when needed.
Paid family leave is a place to start, but we need more than that. We need higher wages and better working conditions. Paying a living wage to all who work should be a priority in the United States, especially as we move ever closer to an election year. Pay attention to politicians’ plans to shore up the wages of the working class, vote accordingly and hold them to it.
Nicki Faircloth originates from Scotland/Robeson Counties, and received her undergrad degree in International and Global Studies from the UNCG. In recent years has worked alongside her people to protect their ancestral lands, as well as pushing unification amongst all people. She enjoys videography, studying spiritual teachings, and connecting with the spiritual realm. Ericka lives in Raleigh with her husband, Fares, and their dog Charro.