Being A Working Class Single Black Mother In America Sucks and Employers Are Trash
I learned at the very early age of 15 that these employers are anything but loyal. I learned that employers don’t care about your travel time, or your health. They don’t care if your children never see you. They don’t care if your car is broke and they don’t care if the weather is far too dangerous. Their only goal is to make money for the person or persons who were smart and devious enough to come up with an idea that requires other peoples time and dedication to actually build.
I remember being 15 years old and being driven from Rosamond, CA to Lancaster at about 6 in the morning to catch the Metrolink to Valencia where I would then get on two buses in route to Santa Clarita so that I could be at Six Flags in time to start my morning shift at the gate at 9AM. I was 15 doing all of this travel time for a measly little $200 (roughly) every two weeks. Needless to say, that I am 32 years old and not much has changed.
I can admit that working under someone else's management and time does not work for me and it never has. In the years that I have been trading my time for survival and maintaining a household that includes a child I have noticed that jobs, no matter the industry and no matter how much they claim, generally are anything but family friendly and especially harsh on mothers raising their children alone. The idea of having to “ask” for permission to be a mom or to have a life of my own is demeaning. Having to ask for permission to be able to attend a recital, go on a school field trip or take a day off to spend with my family or just have a little me time is not what I imagined my adult years would be like.
I’ve lost jobs over my duties as a mother. One of the law firms I worked at when I first moved to Dallas cited me having “mother issues” as one of the reasons that they let me go. I was being punished for taking care of my child. Soon, the fear of being “fired” or let go because I had to leave a few minutes early, or come in late started to weigh on my mind and each time that I would start a new job my anxiety would be at extreme levels regularly. I would find myself making senseless mistakes that could have been avoided had I been able to focus completely on my tasks. But instead I was beating down the clocks with my eyes hoping that would not be the day I get fired for that one day last Tuesday when I took extra time at work to pick my daughter up from school.
After a while I began to doubt my ability to master both the office and the home on my own. I started frantically coming up with different ideas on how to make this work because it was a matter of being homeless and having place to call home. I even toyed with the idea of sending my daughter to stay with my mother for a year so that I could completely focus on being an employee. I had planned to downgrade my apartment and dedicate all of my time to working. I had literally been convinced that my inability to be a 100% dedicated employee because I needed to be present for my daughter was a “bad” thing. I actually began to think that this was a problem that could only be solved by me giving myself completely.
I never sent my daughter to stay with my mother because mothers guilt wouldn’t allow me to do so. Instead, I decided that I was going to be all of those things at the same time no matter what the cost. So much to the point that last year, I found myself driving back and forth, 45-60 mins, 4 times a day, 5 days a week for an entire year. I put at least 20,000 miles on my car alone last year going back and forth to work every single day AND using my lunch break to pick my daughter up from school every single day. Because when I asked my upper management if they would be willing to negotiate with me so that I could take a shorter lunch and leave work early about 30 minutes so that I could pick her up from the after school program on time before they closed at 6, my request was denied. My request was denied. Denied because the other paralegal who might I add was married to a man who was fairly well off needed to be able to pick up her children from school and be mommy dearest at her home….and in case you are wondering, yes she was white.
I only asked for 30 minutes, it wasn’t like I was asking to leave an hour early. I remember sitting in that meeting and I was totally uncomfortable because I didn’t know if they would understand or if once again my need to be mother would cost me a job. The attorney that I worked for basically told me without saying the exact words that I needed to “figure it out” or they would make other arrangements. I basically got threatened. So there I was, pushing myself beyond my limits mentally, physically and emotionally just to be able to pay my bills. My anxiety was skyrocketing and I was barely able to maintain myself. The funny part is that I went through all of that back and forth, putting milage on my body, staying late to make up for any missed time and they still let me go. Just like that. And, of course, they offered their usual general apology. But it didn't mean much and honestly, I was expecting it. I knew that it was only a matter of time and that this could not keep up forever. I wanted to quit. I needed to quit. But I couldn’t and I wouldn’t. Had they not let me go I would probably still be there killing myself.
Single parents, particularly single [Black] mothers, are treated as if they have a handicap.
Some people do a better job as hiding their disdain for single parents but others make it quite obvious that they are not particularly fond of single parents, especially and specifically Black mothers raising children primarily on their own.
Reflecting on my past struggles to find employment I can attest that every interview I have participated in included being asked if I had children. Once answered, the question that usually follows is somewhere along the lines of inquiring about my marital status. "Are you married?". "How is your relationship with her father?". Depending on my answer, which I almost always struggle to answer because quite honestly it is none of your business, I am then asked if I have "help" taking care of my child or if the father is active in helping care for the child. From there I am asked a slew of questions from a hypothetical viewpoint of what would happen "if" I was offered the position.
Would I be able to "commit" to my job and be a parent as well?
How will I manage a full time job and being a full time mom as well?
Who am I willing to put first? My job or my child?
The fact that I am being strong-armed into promising to neglect my child and home to instead serve as a corporate slave to a "job" is baffling. How does one answer this question? Obviously, if I am here...then I have this setup or have options. I mean...lets use our brains. As a woman, especially a Black woman, I am constantly asked to choose between being a "good/faithful employee" and a "good mom". Men are never asked to make this decision nor are they ever put in the position to do so.
Men are never asked this question. Men are never asked if they have "arrangements" set up to pick up their children after school. Men are never asked if the mothers of their children are around. Employers never drill men down with questions as to how they plan on maintaining a healthy home life and still be able to perform at company level standards. It is assumed that men are just naturally capable of getting it done.
I have a feeling that I am asked these questions (specifically pertaining to the involvement of her dad) because I am Black.
Sexism x Racism = bullshit.
Assuming that a young Black woman is incapable of performing job duties or maintain her job because she has children.
Assuming that a young Black woman is incapable of caring for her children on her own.
Not affording her the opportunity because she is a single mom.
Requiring a mother to ignore her responsibilities because you have paper to mail out yet allowing Bob to take off for 3 days because his damn dumb dog chewed through electrical wires and cant go to doggy daycare is insanity.