I’m usually not the type of person that keeps up on what’s going on in the outside world. I tend to slog through my days, doing what I do and focusing on the here and now. I take care of myself, my kids, my house, and occasionally I work. But I do have a few thoughts to contribute every once in a while, just don’t expect them to be particularly informed. These are opinions, formed mostly from my personal experience.
I am a person who did not attend college. Well, some, but not enough for a degree of any kind. I did become a certified CNA, but that doesn’t really make much difference when it comes to income.
My first job as a CNA in 2000, I made, I think, 6.95/hr to start. I did get over 7 dollars per hour before I switched jobs, but just barely. The next few CNA jobs, I was making $8/hr. Then I ended up working in a hospital in Omaha where I made about 9.25. Still not much, but it was okay, at the time, for a CNA job. After my husband and I got married, I stopped working except for a few odd jobs I picked up every once in a while. I spent some time working at a hotel laundry, but I don’t recall how much I was making. Definitely less than 10/hr though. When we moved back to Iowa, I got a job as a Home Health Aide, bringing me full circle back to my CNA roots. That one was about 8.10/hr. I left that job in August of 2011 and have been casually looking at others since. I’ve applied to hotels thinking I could do housekeeping, other facilities as a CNA, and even Wal-Mart.
The problem for me, and a lot of families, is child care. I am fortunate that all three of my kids are in school, but depending on the job, I’d still have to find child care for evenings and/or weekends. I was offered a job in 2012, doing some CNA work in a residential facility for adults with disabilities. I REALLY wanted that job, but there was no way to make it work. All the hours were after school, and every other weekend. After doing the math, I realized I would have little to no money left just after paying the babysitter. I had to turn that job down.
Over the years, I’ve thought about it a lot. I hate not working, but at the same time, its not really worth it. As an individual with little career training, I’m not likely to make more than a few dollars over minimum wage, and that is the case for a lot of people in the same boat. One boat in particular – military spouses. There are those who’ve gone to college or have had training for decently paying careers, but I can tell you it is HARD to get a new job every time you move. For us its been every 4-5 years, for some it is more frequently. That’s why most of the military wives I know are stay-at-home moms.
I have been fortunate in that I have found a job I am very qualified for, but took no training. I’m not sure if extensive experience is necessary, but my personal experience with special needs children probably didn’t hurt. I am a substitute para-educator at our local elementary school. The wages are great, all things considered, and the hours are perfect for a mom. If I chose to do it full time in the future, it would be great income. I can even take the experience with me when we move; I’ve already looked at the website for the school district we are hoping to go to in NY and they pay their paras 12.75/hr. So yeah, its one of those rare entry-level jobs that pays well… but at the same time, not just anyone can do it.
Let’s play pretend :) Say you’re part of a two-parent household. One spouse works full time cause, ya know, someone has to. Then there’s you. Hmm… well, you have no college education, so you’re pretty much stuck with some type of entry level job. There’s places like Wal-Mart, who pay their employees absolute SHIT considering all the dicks they have to put up with when working customer service. Or you could work in fast food; more dicks, same bullshit wages. And who’s going to watch the kids while you’re making McFlurries? The babysitter wants HOW MUCH??? Ridiculous. Yep, maybe you should just stay at home.
Oh, well, if you do that, you don’t feel as if you’re contributing to the household. And maybe your spouse feels the same way. You’re both a little angry and you fight about finances all the damn time. You don’t get much of a vote when it comes to managing money, cause hey, YOU aren’t the one working for the dollar. Oh, you “need” a new car? You don’t even work, so you’re not worth the cost. You’re already going stir crazy from spending all your time at home with the kids, and now its worse…
Example #2 – You’re a single parent, with a dead-beat ex who almost never pays child support. You also have little college education, and you’re forced to work for just a little more than minimum wage. You make… let’s say $9/hr. You and your kids have to live in a tiny one bedroom apartment because you can’t afford anything bigger. (If you’re reading this, you know who you are.) You have a car payment, and piles of debt that you’ve racked up. You are on food stamps, and have to get child care assistance from the government. Maybe its just me, but wouldn’t it make more sense to raise the minimum wage so we can get you OFF the government assistance? (And don’t give me shit about the debts, cause almost everyone has some.)
But I digress. The point is, minimum wage, as it stands, is not enough for the average family. Yes, AVERAGE! Why is that? Welp, people can’t afford to go to college anymore! Even if you do get student loans out the ass, it’ll take you around half your working life to pay them off, and you’ll continue to eat ramen noodles 5 days a week until you do. You STILL can’t afford to raise a family. You probably have to work two jobs, and maybe your spouse does too. A CNN Money article states that most recently, around 260,000 college graduates were making at or below minimum wage. Cause just having a degree doesn’t guarantee you a good job. How the hell do we get outta this?
I’ll tell you. Colleges need to STOP increasing their fucking tuition so god damn much. And government assistance needs to focus on educating people and finding them jobs. Less enabling, more empowering. Look into it. And finally, of course, minimum wage needs to go up. I’m not saying it has to be twenty dollars an hour, but for fuck’s SAKE this is ridiculous: the Federal minimum wage at the moment is 7.25/hr. I’ve already explained why most families can’t live on that. With one hour of work, you can buy… a pound and a half of hamburger. Maybe. Two gallons of milk. But you’re never ever tasting steak again. So, ya know, if there’s any possible way to regulate the ridiculous increase in prices of essential things like food, utilities, gasoline, etc… that’d be great. Again, not super educated on this shit, I’m just… I dunno, pissing into the wind or something. Its futile.
Personally, we’re good right now. My income is mostly disposable.. kind of. I spend it on shit like soccer gear and new shoes and books. The military, in most instances, takes good care of us. We aren’t wealthy but we’re comfortable. But I HAVE been down that far… I have been a single mom with poor income… I have been on WIC and food stamps and gotten things from food pantries. I can sympathize with these poor souls who are struggling to survive in a country that doesn’t seem to understand how unbalanced it is. Just know, I am on your side, as are many others, and hopefully together we can affect a change.