A reflection on economic struggle

CCI Action Staffer Sharon Zanders-Ackiss started the #LivetheWage challenge – she will be living on $77 for a week. She shared some insight prior to launching into the challenge about her former economic struggle as a single mom working three jobs. 

Okay, so I decided to take the live the wage challenge of living off $77 for a week.  I was instructed that this is the amount of money a person living on minimum wage has left after taxes and housing expenses.

As we were discussing this challenge, I began reflecting on my own life and I began remembering the stress of making almost nothing to make ends meet.  I knew this challenge sounded all too familiar.

At one point, the minimum wage challenge was my life, but not for a week, it was a day-to-day struggle.  I was divorced and   I raised two daughters on a very small wage.  Let me be clear, I didn’t live off government subsidies; I was always told you worked for what you got.  Trust me, it would have been easier, but I also didn’t want to fall into the pitfalls of the “system.”

My daughters were young and I was blessed to have the support of my parents to help babysit the kids.  At one point, I was working three part-time jobs to try to pay the rent, utilities and keep food on the table and I don’t remember having $77 for the “extras”.

I remember wanting more, wanting to do better and regretting the time I was missing with my children. But, in order to provide some of the basic needs, it took all three jobs to do it and you go into survival mode. You learn that you didn’t go to the mall, because you couldn’t afford it.  Entertainment was watching a movie, popcorn and maybe a few other extra treats for the evening.   We did a lot of going to the parks, it didn’t cost anything and having picnics, which wasn’t extra food you bought, it was a part of your weekly groceries, besides, I couldn’t afford to buy extra.

I remember that time of working so hard and getting little pay was a very low point in my life.  Working everyday and never getting ahead.    I felt like I was being swallowed up by life.  At the time, it all seemed so pointless and I wanted to give up.   But, the love for my children kept me going, it kept me determined and I had to remind myself often, it can’t be like this forever.  And it turned out, it wasn’t.  Things eventually started getting better.

 

If you believe that someone can live off $7.25 hour, then you have never made that type of wage or maybe, like me, you may have forgotten what it was like.  Life is not a fair distributor of financial advantages.  There are many of us who have had to work hard to make ends meet.  But at what price does it cost?  Missing out on some of the most formative years of our children lives, relying on others to “fill” in for you?  Who’s raising our children while we go to job one, two and three?  And what financial support do we have if we get sick?  I had no benefits.   If you haven’t been there, try it.  One week is nothing compared to what seemed like a lifetime.

 

Stay tuned for more folks who take the #LivetheWage challenge and don’t forget to sign the petition to #RaisetheWage

 

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