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How Can it be so Bad if the Parent Has a Job?

I find myself saying this quite a bit lately but, "Can you believe it's Christmas?"

I've always loved Christmas but, as wonderful as the season can be, there are so many who struggle under the weight of all the expectations.

This week I was listening to a program on CBC radio that featured interviews with children and families living in poverty in Canada.

Once again it struck me that the mothers and fathers are working Canadians who can't make it on the wages they're paid.

The most heart-wrenching interviews were with children who talked about how they felt in a world where everyone but them seems to have money for food, clothes, school trips, heated homes and transportation.

One of the most troubling statements came when the interviewer asked a child, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

Instead of answering with the usual "firefighter, doctor or teacher," the child said, "I don't want to talk about it because I don't think it will happen."

Eight years old and already in her mind life has no possibilities.

Some people wonder how it can be so bad if the parent has a job.

Here's a glimpse of what can happen.

Melanie awakens the morning before Christmas with a sense of foreboding. So much needs to be done and timing is everything. This morning she must prepare for the kids to spend the day alone while she works. She was given some extra hours because a co-worker at the fast-food restaurant is going home for Christmas.

She needs the money but her three kids, aged six, 10 and 12, are not in school and she can't afford a babysitter.

She leaves out some brown lunch bags for them to decorate and some cheese and crackers for their lunch. This will hold them until she returns.

She receives her two-week paycheck in the afternoon. She has worked 46 hours at $8.50. She has to pay $100 on the Hydro bill as she had agreed when they called to say she was behind. The baseboard heaters are playing havoc with the bill in the winter.

She needs to get groceries and she really wants to pick up a small treat to put under the tree for each of the kids. Last year she got lucky and at the end of the season got a used artificial tree for $4.

Her paycheck won't cover all the expenses but she will buy food first.

She still has to pay the rent at the end of the month but she's hoping she can borrow from her parents again. She's still looking for a second job and she had promised to repay them as soon as she got a little more money coming in.

She knows she has to keep going for the sake of her kids.

If you've got a little extra this year, pass it on.

Merry Christmas!