Building an Economy that Works for Everyone

Ladders to opportunity: Ashley

“When you havAshleye kids at home that look up to you, you have to try every day. It can be a struggle.”

As the sole breadwinner for her family of four young children, Ashley can’t afford not to work. She’s got work experience, some college under her belt, and wants to finish her degree. But a bleak job market has stripped Ashley of her financial security and stands in the way of a better life for her children.

“You have to have a job, you know. My concern is if I’m going to be going to school, I need to be supporting the kids. I was going to school and work, and oh my gosh, I was just so tired after work. I would get out of school and would have to go to work, and I was just so tired.”

She took out loans when she attended college previously and is still working to pay them off. “When I took out a loan, I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into. So now I’m really in a bind with them.”

As a mother and her family’s only wage-earner, she knows the importance of finding stable work. “It’s just so overwhelming, you know. Sometimes, you just want to give up. But when you have kids at home that look up to you, you have to try every day. It can be a struggle.”

Ashley knows firsthand how important it is to have a job with benefits. She was employed at the time her son was born, but because her workplace didn’t offer paid maternity leave, she had to quit in order to be with him. “I was working, but I just wanted to take some time off because it was my first son. And I wanted to spend some time with my son.”

Having watched her mom struggle to keep a job because she needed to take time off work to see her doctor, she knows paid sick days are critical. “When you’re working, they don’t want to hear the excuse of your health to take some time off. They’ll just lay you off. They don’t care about your health or disability.”

Ashley also wants to save for retirement, but she hasn’t been able to since she has been out of work – and now her savings have run out. “I would love to [save]. And that’s the plan. I don’t have enough to retire if I’m not working. That’s why I’m so urgent to get a job now and doing everything I’m supposed to do in my willpower to get that job. If I was working, I would be able to save.”

Ashley is determined to provide for her family, in spite of the odds. No matter how hard Ashley has worked, she still faces financial insecurity. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Benefits like paid family leave, paid sick days, and a retirement savings account would make a big difference for Ashley and her family. “I’m currently a single mom with four kids, trying to provide for them the best way I know how. I want to let them know that their mom is strong and independent. I’m very determined in my life for what I want.”

For more about economic mobility, including other Ladders to Opportunity stories, please visit this page.

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