A 21st Century Journalism Project

Motherhood is My Priority

In People on May 1, 2012 at 2:02 pm


Waking up at 7 a.m. for work, Sherri Waters prepares her one year old daughter Cara for daycare. Not always having time to cook breakfast for the both of them she always make sure Cara is well fed. Waters is a single mother raising her daughter alone.

 In 2011, her second year of college she found out she was pregnant. Determining the next step in her pregnancy was crucial if she wanted to remain in school. Waters sought guidance through Bettie Joe Lyons, executive manager of the Boro Women Services.  “If it was not for her I do not know where I would be today,” Waters said. “Lyons does not believe in abortions, she helped me decide to keep my daughter at a time when I was unsure.”

 Receiving no assistance raising her daughter Waters had to put her dreams aside for her baby girl. Deciding to withdrawal from Edinboro University was a consequence of limitations she faced having a child. “I had to make a sacrifice between raising my daughter and keeping a roof over her head or continuing my education which I can always go back,” Waters said.

 Currently, Waters is a part-time employee making $10 an hour at Barber National Institute in Erie, Pa. Only working for the company 2 years Waters has made a comfortable lifestyle for both herself and daughter. As the recession crisis becomes more severe so is the number of single mothers who cannot afford to take care of themselves and their children. Waters knows the challenges that come with living in today’s struggling economy. Single mothers like Waters face a vast number of problems ranging from childcare, hunger, minimum paid jobs etc. the list continues. “I usually have the most difficulty paying my bills and just providing the things my daughter needs like pampers, Waters said. “Being there physically is another issue because I am always working.”

There are about 14 million single parents here in the United States today. They are responsible for raising 21.6 million of our nation’s children.

 Statistics show there are about 14 million single parents here in the United States today. They are responsible for raising 21.6 million of our nation’s children. According to the US Census Bureau, in 2010, 21 million people lived in working poor families. This translates into nearly 9.6 percent of all American families living below 100 percent of poverty. 

This relevant issue is very serious as many women face this today. No women ever wants to imagine struggling to support their children. Waters endured similar struggles growing up in a household with 4 younger siblings and their mother working to provide for them. “My father was in and out of my life growing up with my sister,” Waters said. “My mother only worked one job but would work from the 8 am to 5 pm come home, take a nap, and go back to work a third shift. So I was left to babysit my siblings.”

 Waters ultimate decision is to move back to Pittsburgh when her lease is up in August. She can receive additional help with her daughter and go back to school. Her dream is to become a pharmacist, this is the career path she’s chosen to no longer be classified “working poor”.

 A typical shift for Waters involved working 8-10 hours shifts during the week. “When Cara was a newborn I worked 12 hours shifts to provide for her,” Waters said. “Because they lower the hours for part-time I usually wont even be able to receive 8 hours most of the time. I work 4-6 hours. This usually hurts me because I have bills to pay and they are in debt.”

 Because Waters is unable to find quality and affordable child care services while she working, Cara is watched by a family relative. Waters also does not have a car which limits her getting around and putting Cara in daycare.

According to the Children’s Defense Fund, child care problems often interfere with parents getting or keeping a job; when families receive financial assistance for child care, they are more likely to work.“Its hard and frustrating not having a car because I can’t get to places I want and need to on time,” Waters said “I cant do anything on my time I have rely on other people time and it sucks.”
“There will be times when I want the car but I can’t have it because my father needs it.”

Waters is taken to work by her father who helps out whenever possible. They do not always see eye to eye about the car but Water is making the best of her situation. Through working with the Barber National Institute, Waters saved enough money and is now ready to purchase a car of her own. She knows buying a car will resolve problems of getting around.

“Once I get a car life would be so much easier I wont have to wait until the last possible item I have to go get more Waters said. “I wont have to be late to work anymore and I do not have to sit and wait a whole hour to get to my daughter. Being able to have my own car would be so much easier and I wont have to depend on any one else I can get up and go.”

Most single parents today are single mothers.

Most single parents today are single mothers. Research shows the struggles of single mothers consists of dealing with worries about money even when the economy is good, let alone in one that is bad and has been bad for a while. Even though Waters is raising her daughter alone she does not let the thought of the state of economy lead her astray. “I am all I have for Cara, Waters said. “Her father is not here in her life and if I do not continue providing for her who else will.”

Majority of households in the 21st century are nontraditional, meaning that the mother and father do not live in the same home. Statistics show that over 60% of children who live with their mothers and whose fathers live outside the home do not receive child support. One reason is that the fathers of these children tend to have low incomes themselves, limiting their ability to pay child support

 A study published in August 2005 shows that, only 3.8 percent of the benefits from an increase to $7.25 an hour accrue to poor single mothers. One of the factors causing this low percentage of benefits is the fact that the majority of poor single mothers (58%) have hourly wages above this level.

Waters working only one job at McDonald’s for a month has never experienced the minimum wage increase. Starting at $10.50 with the Barber National Institute was a blessing she never thought she would received.

“Because I am part-time I do not receive any benefits I do have a higher wage then the full-time workers,” Waters said. “But they receive more money then me because they work longer hours.”

Waters spends her money to provide Cara with everything she could possibly need. At a moment’s notice Waters is prepared to handle anything necessary for her daughter. “Because her father is not in her life, the decision to file for child care was a decision I thought was necessary,” Waters said. “Cara will have everything she wants and need.”

Recently, President Barack Obama announced a call for $477 billion for the new federal spending budget. Obama discussed that hundreds of thousands of dollars would be spent on young people with a disadvantage and their low-income parents to give them the advantage of moving out the “ladders of poverty.” The U.S. Census released its annual poverty report, which declared that 46.2 million persons, or roughly one in seven Americans, were poor in 2010.

Waters hopes that the new federal spending budget would make it a little bit easier for Cara and herself but she is always prepared for plan b. The only way to get by would be to use the money I have been currently saving up, Waters said. “It would suck if something would happen where I would get laid off or fired but I do need the job I have.”

For now, Waters being a single working poor class mother does what she can to survive hoping for the best in everything she does. Being a single mother to her just makes her a stronger individual. Her initial thought is always her daughter. “My daughter is her main priority,” Waters says.“ Through the means of welfare and child support is what getting me by.The government is providing free money and I am going to take advantage of it until I am able to provide means on my own. Some people may be ashamed of taking the offer but I am not.”


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