(Molita Cunningham and three of her children)
On Mother's Day, when the most of us mothers are celebrating, some mothers are working.
Molita Cunningham is one of them. She's a 56-year-old home healthcare worker who puts in 12 hour shifts as often as she can get them. Cunningham needs every penny she makes because as a home care worker she earns about $ 10 an hour( and that's after 30 years into her career). Her shifts are unpredictable so when she has work, she takes it.
Molita's children are less than pleased that she won't be spending Mother's Day with them ( 3 of 6 still live at home). "They put on a sad face and say 'Mom, you're never home. You're always working' and I tell them it's just me paying the bills and struggling,'' Molita says.
Molita works for an home care agency that contracts with hospice. Sometimes, she gets hired for private clients. She rarely turns down a job. That means she can't always be there for her kids. "There are a lot of things I don’t attend — my son’s track meet, my daughter's dance recital, things at school. The kids complain that I'm always working. "
Molita actually is one of the workers who are outspoken about raising the wages of home care workers. Despite being one of America’s fastest growing jobs, home care workers are living below the poverty level, getting paid an average of just $ 13,000 a year. Almost 50 percent of home care workers rely on some form of public assistance in order to make ends meet. Women, who make up 89 percent of workers in the industry, bear the brunt of these low wages. They typically do not receive expenses such gas or benefits such as health insurance. And, their jobs are unpredictable — some assignments only last a few hours.
Molita has spoken out at several rallies for higher wages for home care worker who pushing for $ 15 an hour. "That's still not a lot but at least I could breathe better. I'm a single mother and there are things my kids need. It's hurtful when I can’t provide for them for my children." A new report from the National Women’s Law Center substantiates the challenges these moms are facing.
On Mother's Day, Molita will spend the day with an elderly woman whose family lives overseas. She will cook for the woman and care for her until late in the evening. Molita says caring for the elderly is hard work. "You have to bathe them, feed them, dress them, help with oral care….you have to be caring and compassionate to wipe feces off of a stranger. Not everyone can do that."
Molita hasn’t spent Mother’s Day with her kids in years. It’s a feeling that she remembers from her own childhood – her mother was a home care worker and she remembers not being able to spend time with her on Mother’s Day. Molita says some clients will allow her to bring her children with her on holidays or with them if they go to church.
Even with the challenges, Molita says of her work as a home care attendant: “The work I do is demanding, and it keeps me from my family more than I would like, but it’s essential. I love this work and I intend to keep doing it.”
Happy Mother's Day to Molita and to all the mothers who are working at restaurants, in hospitals, as home health workers and any other job that requires they be away from their families on this special day. For those who do their best to balance work and family, you are all amazing people!