Late Tuesday afternoon, Jamie and her nephew were walking side by side, each of them pushing a one-year-old girl in a little pink stroller. The curly-haired boy was barely tall enough to see over the top of the stroller, but he and the babies were clearly enjoying being out in the spring air. The girls wore tiny bows in their wispy hair and watched their surroundings, looking serious but pleased with the world around them.
Jamie—not her real name—said it was a great way to keep the kids busy, walking laps up and down the one-block-long side street.
Jamie is a slender 21-year-old. She explained that she was watching the boy, along with her own twins, while his mother was at work. Her family helps each other out like that. When she and her boyfriend are both working, they pay another of the twins’ aunts to take care of them.
“Child care is just too expensive,” she said.
Jamie’s boyfriend works in sales, and she has two retail jobs. Sometimes she gets 40 or 50 hours a week, sometimes less. Around the holidays, she said, she sometimes works a 90-hour week. She covers as many hours as she can get.
Jamie said she likes the jobs she’s doing now. At least, they’re better than other things she’s done in the past, working at other stores and at a daycare. But she’d like to go back to school and train for something else. She doesn’t want to work in retail forever.
“It’s just a lot of hours and not enough pay,” she said.
Jamie said she and her boyfriend haven’t checked to see if they could qualify for any kind of government aid. They’re trying their best to manage on their own, although the rising price of food worries them, and it’s tough to balance the hours they have to work with the time they need with the girls.
I asked how she juggles her variable schedule and makes sure there’s always someone to take care of the babies. She said it’s tough, but they’ve been doing what they have to do since the twins were born.
“It’s kind of an instinct,” she said. “Once you have them you really just figure it out.”