Summer can be the most stressful time of year for single working parents. The school year, however, provides structure-- the children are busy learning while mom or dad is out earning. It’s a working relationship that’s served families well for the last century. Once the summer arrives, and the final school bell rings, is when so many parents panic. “I was nearing a panic attack,” writes Stephanie Land, author of the upcoming memoir, Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive. “I had maxed out a credit card to pay tuition, planning to pay it off over the summer. What money I made from landscaping and cleaning houses paid the rent, and I had a little less than $200 per month in food stamps. Having my daughter with me, with the potential work hours I would miss, plus the cost of child care, would be nearly impossible.”
Land’s recollections of surviving summer as a single working mother are common. Despite working full time, many single parents can’t afford summer camps or extended day care and others can’t rely on family or friends to watch the kids, giving them another reason to sweat besides the rising temperatures. In her essay for the Washington Post, “For single working parents like me, summer isn’t all fun and games” Land recounts many common concerns from the financial strain of raising kids on your own in the summer to the emotional toll it takes to go-it-alone.
“At $200 or more a week, most summer camps, at least where we live in Missoula, are not only unaffordable but also impractical, as many start late and end early, or are only half-days. I would have to pack her a lunch and buy her new tennis shoes, and that’s if I found something I could afford.”
Land is resourceful, launching into research for help with tuition for her daughter’s daycare needs. But like so many single parents trying to better themselves while raising their family, she can’t shake the feeling of being undeserving:
“I was a single mother in her mid-30s whose kid ate food I bought with food stamps. Who was I to get a degree?”
The essay is an insightful glimpse into the things that worry single working parents and the struggles unique to raising a family on your own. If you’re a single parent, what do you do with your children during the summer? Do they attend day camp? Do you have to pay the tuition for the whole summer in advance? Can you afford a trip? We want parents to share their summer survival stories. Read Land’s essay in the Washington Post here.