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5 Millennial Moms On What It's Like To Raise A Child In New York

Motherhood

Mothers in New York are an entirely different breed. To be fair, mothers in every city should be granted the medal of honor just for managing to get through one week. But here in New York, we are faced with a specific challenge. The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in New York is around $3,200 per month, while the average income per household is around $50,000. For the childless New Yorker, these numbers are staggering – but for a parent, they can be crippling.

I decided to talk to some of the working moms of New York. Each of them with different stories and different support structures put in place. I like to think, that if women are capable of this, then we are capable of anything. Whether you have children or not, the hustle of a New York mother is inspiration for us all.

*Rachel, 33

Occupation: Seasonal sales person at high-end department store

Income: Less than $50k

Her Story: I'm a mom to a 7-year-old little boy living in Brooklyn. I went to Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and came back to New York after school. I met a guy. We married. Had a baby. Things didn't work out, so I moved to Atlanta as a single mom with my son who was 16 months old at the time. The job market in Atlanta was so rough that I decided to take on a "sugar daddy" to supplement my income. After 2 years of sitting on his lap for money, trying to catch my bearings, and losing my car to the Title Pawn in Atlanta, I decided to come back home to New York. By then, I'd pawned all my valuables: car, jewelry, electronics, cashed savings bonds, depleted CD accounts, and 401k.

I had to get a job – any job. Despite my education, because my child's needs do not cease, that means being underpaid and working schedules that don't agree with my parenting needs. My son is 7-years-old now. He is incredibly smart, he's happy, he's healthy and in a great school and gets good grades. However, in the last three years, we spent 8 months living with my best friend and 20 months at a homeless shelter. I still haven't found gainful employment, so my income is supplemented through food stamps and the $408 a month that the state garnishes from the father.

Before all this, I was an New York socialite on the urban scene. A walking directory for all things lit and fashionable. I had a corporate job and I shopped high end. Shelters, food stamps, and welfare were not a part of the vision I had for our future.

I pray that he never feels the the sacrifice, only the end result, which is fun and love.

*Sabrina, 29

Occupation: Executive Assistant

Income: $50k - $75k

Her Story: Being a mother in New York City is extremely hard. Budgeting has become an everyday struggle in itself – choosing between what is more important week by week. I can't afford to move because of the rapid gentrification in Brooklyn. I'm living in a two-bedroom apartment with several other family members after I was evicted for being unable to pay rent.

My children go to separate schools miles away from one another because of the school district policy in place. There's a good quality public school minutes away from my house however, but it's zoned out of my district and my children cannot attend. Instead, I was told to enroll them into our zone school that is failing academically and farther away.

Because my neighborhood is in the process of gentrification, the only quality schools are charter or private. The people moving in can afford private school, so their children are not enrolling in the public schools. Because my children attend separate schools, more money comes out of my household budget to pay a van driver for drop-off services. To make things work, I'm forced to pay the extra $400 monthly for early drop-off and pick-up.

I also pay for tutoring, which is $450 monthly, swimming lessons for $180 per child, and soccer whenever I can afford it, along with the usual bills rent and car payments. All the while, I have student loans in default.

I've worked 16 hours in one day, causing me to miss quality time with my kids – missing homework, missing laughs, missing their little explanations of their day – all so that I can stay afloat in this beast of a life.

This struggle is never-ending, but as a mom, I put my best foot forward and smile whenever I see my kids.

*Carla, 31

Occupation: Health Care Integrator

Income: Less than $50k

Her Story: We live in a one-bedroom apartment in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn. It has been both difficult and somewhat easy raising my child in such an expensive city. It is difficult because there is not much opportunity for working mothers to have assistance. It sometimes seems like I make too much to qualify for anything substantial because programs only see my pre-taxed without considering all of my expenses.

It can be easy because there are a lot of free entertainment programs I can take my daughter to that help expose her to culture. I spend a lot of time on Google looking for free things to do since money always has to go to more pressing things. It's also hard to arrange pick-up and drop-off since babysitters and nannies tend to charge more an hour than I make an hour. I would like to find a bigger apartment that I can afford so she can have her own room but the prices are very high. I continue to put my name on the housing lottery. What helps a lot, though is that I grew up here and I have friends with kids. My daughter receives a lot of hand-me-downs.

*Kim, 33

Occupation: Account Manager and PR Coordinator

Income: $50k - $75k

Her Story: Ever since moving back to New York in 2009, my sole purpose has been to give my daughter a life that will not only meet, but exceed the lifestyle that my mom - who was also a single parent - provided for me. I would have to say, it's not easy financially, but with faith, it is possible to raise my child in this city.

Like everyone, I have general expenses for everyday survival like rent, food, health care, transportation, etc. My daughter's father is married and lives out of state. I can never predict from one month to the next what type of support financial or otherwise I'll receive from him. So, I'm basically handling all of it on my own. That includes school tuition, after-school activities, childcare, clothes, getting her hair done, and weekend fun. I can't even begin to list all the other little things that come up in between.

I take advantage of sales whenever I can and shop for clothes off-season so we can be frugally fly. My mom is a big help. Sometimes, I food shop at her house and take advantage of her babysitting whenever she's in a good mood. I try to make sure my daughter is as comfortable as possible at home with things she's enjoys so I can save money on outside activities.

However, at the end of the day, faith is always my saving grace. I definitely have moments when I'm sitting there thinking, 'Damn, the struggle is real.' Right before I start to get frustrated or overwhelmed and sometimes after venting to my best friend, I realize that I've been here before and made it through.

My faith has trained me to start to recognize blessings and to worry less about my life because God got this.

*Mya, 34

Occupation: Medical Receptionist and student

Income: Less than $50k

Her Story: I moved to Harlem four years ago from Philadelphia after me and my long-time boyfriend broke up. I dropped out of college after I got pregnant with my second child and before moving back to New York, I finished a medical training program and found a job in a clinic. My job can be very stressful, especially because they won't allow me to leave work an hour early to pick my kids up so I have to pay for aftercare, which is a lot for two kids. I do have some help along the way. I have two cousins who also have small children and we take turns babysitting each other's kids to get a break from time to time. Paying for babysitters is not even an option at this point.

I decided to go back to school this year and I'm taking classes at CUNY to complete my degree in Communications. Between raising my kids and school, I hardly have any time for anything else but I've been dating someone for over a year now. He also has a kid, so it helps that he understands my hustle. We try to be supportive towards each other in the ups and downs of parenting.

I have a car, which helps get my kids to school in the mornings and avoid being out in the weather when it's bad. However, I try to use public transportation as much as possible, especially on weekends when we do little activities in the city. It's important to find free things to do so I'm always looking through Groupon or looking up things online.

Honestly, the thing that keeps me focused is that I know raising my kids here in New York will be an asset to their upbringing.

The schools here, the opportunities, the culture – there's no place like it. I'm okay with my hustle because I appreciate the well-rounded life they can have here.

*Names have been changed for anonymity


Are you a New York City mom? Leave us a comment below with your experience raising a child in the Big Apple.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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