Doom, or Reading NPR Depresses Me
Single mothers have an especially hard time getting out of poverty. Households headed by single mothers are four times as likely to be poor as are families headed by married couples.
Still, many of these women are trying to get ahead. Some know instinctively what the studies show: Children who grow up in poor families are far more likely to become poor adults.
These mothers often rely on a network of support — not just from food stamps, housing subsidies, welfare, or other government programs people usually think of. They also depend on charities, churches, family, friends, personal drive, ambition and even luck to stay afloat.
Wait for it …
Stepp has three children by three different fathers. The father of her eldest child, 10-year-old Isaiah, is serving 30 years in federal prison for armed robbery.
The father of her youngest is in prison too.
Kids ages are 10, 8, and 1.
Stepp says she was the victim of youthful optimism. She kept thinking that the next guy had to be better than the last, and that the relationships would last.
And, you know, why wait to see if the relationship would last before having kids with the dude? Or, wait and see if they guys could stay out of jail?
Now, that’s all behind her, and she’s wiser. She says she’s trying to get her life on track. These days, Stepp works full time at the Second Street Learning Center in Reading. The center provides round-the-clock day care for working poor families.
But she’s kind of stuck. She has worked there for almost eight years, and she still earns less than $9 an hour.
It’s all behind her, because it’s been a YEAR since she produced a baby with a criminal.
Now for some math. She had babies number two and three AFTER she started working full time, making $9 an hour. Yet, it was a good time to go ahead and have some unprotected sex, because $9 an hour is BANK.
Here’s where Stepp’s safety net really comes into play. While she’s at night school, her three children are back at the Second Street Learning Center, where she gets subsidized day care. While they’re eating grilled cheese sandwiches and carrots, she’s enjoying chicken and cheese stromboli at school.
The dinner is provided to the night students to make things a little easier for them, says Isamac Figueroa, director of community engagement with I-LEAD, the nonprofit that runs the program. She says the typical student is a single mother with either a full- or part-time job.
“For us to believe that [a single, working mother is] going to be able to get home from work, hurry and scurry and get some dinner ready for the kids, and come to school is just not a reality for our students,” Figueroa says.
We feed her kids, we feed her, and we feed two of the fathers as well, since they’re in prison.
After her kids go to sleep, around 10:30 p.m., Stepp has a chance to reflect. She says it bothers her that single mothers sometimes get a bad name, that people think they just have babies and collect welfare. She says she briefly received welfare benefits a few years ago, but not now.
Yet, her employer pays half of her housing (so she’s obviously “making” more than $9 an hour). She gets food stamps and medical aid. But she’s not on welfare?
But, it’s not her fault because apparently the poor are too stupid to make good choices. From comments:
I wonder if many of those criticizing her could pull themselves out of her situation. I doubt many of them have ever BEEN in a situation like that. It’s easy when you are born in a nice middle class standard family and brought up with values and behaviors that allow you to succeed. I was.
Of course, this is a cyclical argument. You can’t lecture folks on moral issues, but then the poor make bad choices because they don’t know any better.
Let’s just keep throwing money at the problem. I’m sure that will fix things.