Hello! My name is Mary Beth Cochran and I live in Canton, North Carolina -- a rural town with fewer than 5,000 residents. I’m a proud mother, grandmother, and member of MomsRising. About five years ago, I took in my granddaughter, who is now 12 and my grandson, who is now 7, because their parents were battling addiction and couldn’t care for them. I also share custody of their two sisters, now ages 8 and 13, with another of my daughters, their aunt.
I work hard, but have struggled enormously to care for my grandkids and provide for their needs. During the pandemic, it’s been close to impossible.
Before the pandemic, I worked at K-Mart to supplement my disability check. I carefully juggled schedules with my daughter since we couldn’t afford child care. It was hard to make each paycheck last. I was constantly struggling to figure out which bills to pay and how to make sure we had enough food.
Then the pandemic hit. I was furloughed from my job, then permanently laid off. Schools went remote and I had no child care, so I couldn’t look for a new job.
Losing more than half my income put us in crisis. We’ve really struggled with food. Last year, I didn’t have a car so sometimes I had to ask people for rides to a food pantry. I had to stop filling my prescriptions so I could buy my growing grandkids basics like thrifted clothes.
I’ve tried to put on a brave face for my grandkids, but it was hard. Some days I would just sit down and cry.
It’s hard when your six-year-old asks why the tooth fairy stopped coming, or when your 12-year-old anxiously asks if we have enough food to last the month. It breaks my heart.
The monthly Child Tax Credit payments have been a huge relief. We’ve finally been able to get out of the vicious cycle of struggling to choose between food, medicine and bills. I was even able to buy a used vehicle so we could access resources and I could look for jobs. In short, it’s given us the stability I’ve always wanted for my grandkids. If Congress lets the CTC expire after this month, my family and so many others will be forced to make impossible choices again. Children will go hungry. Grandmas will go without the medications they need.
We need the monthly expanded Child Tax Credit payments to continue, and we need a care infrastructure. I started a new part-time job at WalMart about a month ago. But I can’t afford afterschool care or child care when schools are closed. If my grandkids needed to quarantine due to COVID, I don’t know what we would do.
We need paid leave for when we need time off because our kids get sick or we get sick. We need affordable child care. We need to build back better, so families like mine can survive and grandchildren like mine can thrive.
These are game-changing policies, and they’d mean so much for my family. I’m counting on the U.S. Senate to pass Build Back Better this year, so I can care for my grandkids now, and so we can transform caregiving in this country for generations to come.
#WeAreMomsRising uses personal stories to showcase what it means to be a mom, a woman, a family member in America.