When two jobs are not enough

“His work boots will have holes in them and he won’t buy a new pair until they’ve completely fallen apart. He always puts us first, and sometimes it really breaks my heart.

So when she asks for help from Globe Santa, the Boston Globe Foundation’s program that provides Christmas gifts to children in need, she asks for help from the whole family.

“I know that Christmas isn’t about the toys children get; it’s about the time and the memories you create,” she said. “My husband and I both come from broken poor families. We have seen more than any child should, and we are determined that our children will never feel what we have felt.

Working parents who write to Globe Santa, whether full-time or part-time, working one job or two, have this in common: whatever their job, whatever the number of hours a week is not enough.

“Even working full time, I still can’t make ends meet, literally, ever,” one single mom wrote. She takes care of two children, 7 and 1, while paying off debt from being out of work due to a back injury. “It causes distress and sadness every time a birthday or holiday passes.”

It is a lament repeated letter after letter. “I work over 40 hours a week and can barely make ends meet,” wrote a single mother of an 8-year-old daughter.

Another single working mother, also of an 8-year-old daughter, wrote: “Every day I struggle. I pay the rent, electricity and gas bills. I also pay monthly financial payments and insurance for my car to and from work. She listed her monthly expenses in the letter, totaled up for Globe Santa to consider. “It’s a lot for a single mother, to pay for everything.”

That’s a lot for a single mother of two little girls, ages 5 and 3, who despite having worked the same job for a decade still doesn’t earn enough to pay for her modest living.

“I work very hard as a dental assistant,” she writes. “This year has been particularly difficult. I know there are a lot of families out there who need help, and I try to remember that presents are not what Christmas is. But as the holidays approached, I found myself extremely stressed.

The letters that working parents write to Globe Santa reflect reality. Americans tend to work longer hours for lower pay than those in other industrialized countries. many forego benefits, vacation or sick leave. Millions of people earn less than a living wage.

And they are losing ground. Real wages, adjusted for inflation, have been falling for decades.

The pressures on working parents are not limited to low-income hourly earners. Professionals, academics and other white-collar workers also face job insecurity and lack of benefits.

One of the letters to Globe Santa is from an adjunct faculty member at a local university. Her two granddaughters, aged 8 and 5, live with her as their parents “are away due to substance use and abuse”.

To cover the expenses of his extended family, “I got another education [adjunct faculty] post,” she said. “But soon my student loans will go into repayment.”

The American Federation of Teachers stated in a recent report that nearly 25% of adjunct teachers depend on public assistance; 40% struggle to cover basic household expenses.

They are not alone. Pay for employees of social service and poverty relief agencies — the very organizations whose work helps people in need — is often so low that employees are eligible for public assistance and, by extension, unemployment. help from Globe Santa.

The public funding for better pay just isn’t there, said Kimberly Martin, assistant vice president of child and family services at Riverside Community Care in Dedham. “Our family partners, our specialist peers, those in support roles, absolutely meet the criteria. They help others while they themselves face housing insecurity, food insecurity,” she said. “It’s really frustrating.”


Ellen Bartlett can be contacted at ellen.bartlett@globe.com.

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