Meet Martina: Being a Single Parent Isn’t Easy

It is the beginning of the week in Chicago, and the kids are home from school. Martina, a young mom of two makes dinner while being prodded and poked by five-year-old Jazae, who pretends to be a doctor. “ She plays where she thinks she is a doctor, so I let her act like a doctor,” says Martina. “She also likes to do hair, and she likes to cook. Also, she loves to play with the baby dolls.”

Being a Single Parent Isn’t Easy

Martina admits that raising two children on her own as a single parent isn’t easy. “I’m constantly running. I’m the only one,” she says. “I take my kids to school and pick them up, so my schedule is tough. I have to work around my kids and help with homework everyday. As a single parent, I have to spend time with my children, playing with them. There is no one else to answer all of their questions, make meals, give them baths, do bedtime, pay all the bills—things like that. That is the life. “

Always Willing to Help

Jazae is always willing to help, especially with her little brother Jamar, who is 16 months old. “Jamar, he is into reading books right now,” Martina says. “Of course he can’t read, but he loves to look at the pictures and stuff. They like to play with each other,” she says. “Jazae likes to give a little school. She acts like she is a teacher. She teaches Jamar.”

Jazae is a very smart and nurturing child. As an outsider, it is easy for us to see her grow up to be a doctor or a teacher. It is also too easy to see her become a statistic, one of the many children who can’t reach out of her situation to reach her potential.

This little family has a lot of love, but also a lot of struggle. “I’m often between jobs, because I have to care for my kids,” Martina says.

The Reality of Educational Opportunity

The reality is that educational opportunity is harder to come by when you are experiencing childhood poverty. From the link between poverty stress and lower academic performance to the simple problem of not having adequate clothing to get to school, these children come into the world at an educational disadvantage.

“Today more than ever, education remains the key to escaping poverty, while poverty remains the biggest obstacle to education,” says Kristina Birdsong in her article about how poverty impacts education.

Martina is doing everything right for her little ones. She makes sure to get them to school as often as possible. She finds a away to provide books for reading for both her children, and she encourages them to explore possibilities for the future.

“It is really a struggle financially. I am basically doing everything on my own,” she says. “But I wouldn’t take it back. I love my children. I thank God for them, and they are the best thing that ever happened to me. “

Supporting Families in Need

We met Martina through the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA). Every year, the CHA puts on an event to give extra support to their residents. Operation Warm is proud to supply brand new coats to the children. These coats can relieve some of the pressure on parents, who have to balance being able to provide for their children.

“Getting a coat for my child really helps,” Martina says. “ I don’t have to worry about getting Jazae a coat or getting her boots. I don’t have to worry about having to choose. And, they are good coats. They are warm, and she likes them.” This year, Operation Warm was also able to gift baby Jamar with a warm fleece baby romper.

The little family is looking forward to the good things about winter. “Oh yes, the kids like playing outside in the snow,” Martina says. “They make snow angels, and they try to make snowmen. They like to splash and sculpt in the snow. Throw snowballs—we have snowball fights. “

“When people donate it can help out tremendously, like it helped me,” she says. “Think about families with three, four, five kids—it really helps out, and it takes some of the extra stress and burden off of the family.”

Operation Warm thanks Martina and the CHA for taking the time to help us share this story.

Want to help a single parent like Martina? Visit our Give page. Just $20 puts a brand new coat on a child. 

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