One Single Mom’s Child Care Journey (with Waukecha Wilkerson)
Gloria has a heart-to-heart conversation with Waukecha Wilkerson, a student parent advocate and single mom of three, about how her years-long struggle with child care ultimately put her on the path to earning her college degree. Waukecha talks about growing up as a gifted child in Compton, falling in with the wrong crowd, and getting pregnant in her early 20s. Her journey takes her through toxic relationships, job losses, battles with depression, and desperate searches for child care. She tells Gloria how she made it through, and how her family’s doing now. Plus, Waukecha shares the emotional story of a 20-mile walk that changed her life forever.
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Gloria Riviera, Waukecha Wilkerson
Gloria Riviera 00:09
Well, hello lovelies, how are you? I am feeling good. I don’t know about you. I’m feeling good a small miracle after what shall now be referred to as our RSV Thanksgiving. Yep. Everyone in my house was down for the count except wait for it. Me. Mom was still standing and Midstate cacophony of snorts and sniffles and fevers and pretty horrible cops. Who knows how that is possible? As it turns out, I love a quiet Thanksgiving. And that is what we had. Now it is off to the races to finish 2022, this is NO ONE COMING TO SAVE US presented by and created with neighborhood villages. I am your host Gloria Riviera. When I think about what Waukecha Wilkerson our guest today, I picture her walking for miles, very much alone. She was a new young mother and she felt off. So off in fact, that she just left her infant son with her own mother and started walking. She didn’t know where that’s the state of mind postpartum depression will force will impose without question on a mother. But Waukecha didn’t know that at the time, she says she must have walked 20 miles. Eventually she got a room at a motel. She had had a complication during her delivery that required wound care from a nurse. That nurse kept calling her. Where are you? Why aren’t you picking up? Finally, Waukecha did, that nurse founder in that motel, took one look at her and said, Honey, you have postpartum depression. That’s what this is. Waukecha told me, I felt like someone saw me. Up until that moment, I just thought people thought I was a bad mom. Of course, she was not a bad mom. And she went on to have two more children. But years later, after leaving a toxic relationship, she found herself struggling again, this time with childcare. This is a smart, capable, employable young mother who wanted to be a significant part of the workforce. But she couldn’t because she had no one to care for her babies. But Waukesha figured it out, and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Sacramento State University. She’ll tell me how she did that, with help from some amazing organizations. Her kids got to see her accept her degree in her own cap and gown, having come so very far from that motel room, where the nurse found her so many years ago. What I take with me from this conversation is perspective, community and connection. We all struggle, all of us. But when you talk to someone who has come through their own struggle, empowers you, not in a comparative way, in a connected way, in a less alone sort of way. I hope you feel that too. Here now is my conversation with the indomitable Waukesha Wilkerson.
Gloria Riviera 03:27
Waukecha Wilkerson 03:29
Gloria Riviera 03:30
It’s so good to see you.
Waukecha Wilkerson 03:32
It’s great to see you too.
Gloria Riviera 03:33
I want to start with you, as a teenager, who you were in reality, versus who your family and friends thought you were, as a student, how did you present on the outside and what was happening on the inside?
Waukecha Wilkerson 03:51
Oh, my teenage years were full of a lot of masks. For my teachers, and a lot of the adults I was in high school with I was a studious student. I was so polite, helpful. And I was I was truly all of those things. For my family, I had, you know, all of these expectations of you know, a gifted student, someone who was brighten, on the road to email success in college, and she had a bright future ahead of her, which was also true. But what I was doing, performance wise in high school was totally different from what the expectations were. I took full advantage of the trust that people had given me for being you know, gifted or smart or exceptional. And I just used it to my advantage to avoid going to class or I was hanging out with friends and I was doing all the activities I was doing, you know, you’re a junior statesman of America, you’re young black scholars, your mock trial, everything I could think of to keep me outside of class. So those were the things that I prefer to do. So the person that I was portraying was just different than what I was actually performing this.
Gloria Riviera 05:08
Right. And let’s talk about where this was all happening. You were in Compton, living with your grandmother. Right? Right, because your mom had her own issues to deal with two little girls, right? And there was a moment when your mom earned her own associate’s degree, right? That must have been amazing what happened that day.
Waukecha Wilkerson 05:30
I remember I was in probably in junior high school. And I don’t know why I was so upset. But I know that she it was it was a weekend I was approaching a weekend day and she had picked us up from schools probably a Thursday or Friday. And I had been with her on her college journey. I remembered it from being like five years old and six years old. So I knew it took her a while. As I reflect back on that experience, I remember sitting in classrooms with her, and her putting me and my sister in a corner, you know, to draw or write quietly while she took her math exam. I remember all those things, but I remember her graduation sticking out specifically, because as a rebellious teenager, and or almost teenager, preteen at that age, I threw a tantrum on the day that she was supposed to go for her graduation rehearsal. And I remember her being excited about it. And I remember being in the back seat, adamantly saying, I’m not going. And she gave in and she didn’t go to her rehearsal. And she missed her graduation. And I’ll never forget that. And now myself being a single mom, graduating from, you know, community college as well as earning my bachelor’s degree, and realizing how much she sacrificed to be able to complete her associate’s degree as a single mom with two kids and limited support. That was a really big deal for her. And I appreciate her so much and I apologized as an adult that I gave her so much grief with that.
Gloria Riviera 07:07
So let’s skip forward a little bit because you remained with your grandmother living there at her home and going to school at Linwood is at Linwood High School. And you went to school for your senior year with your friend, and they were selling what you called senior packets, right? The cap the gown, right? And what did you think when you when you saw those for sale?
Waukecha Wilkerson 07:32
Oh, definitely not for me, I remember being 16. And first, it was like they sold the senior package, which included the cap and gown for graduation, the yearbook. And I think like a memory book. And I had accepted that I was short credits. And I had known for, you know, for a while that I probably didn’t have enough to graduate and I just kind of accepted that. And I didn’t tell my mom to buy me one. I didn’t even tell her about it at all. So I was content with missing my senior activities. And my best friend, she knew about it. And I remember her mom would drop her off in the mornings in the that morning of the deadline. Her mom had handed me a check. And I was like, What is this for? She’s like, go buy your senior packet. And I was like, oh, no, I my friends, like I already told her. And I was like, but I’m not graduating. It’s okay. She’s like, Go, she’s like, I couldn’t live with it. If you didn’t get your senior packet and your mom finds out and, you know, just in case, just go by it. And she gave me a check. And I bought a senior packet. And I’ll never ever forget that because I did end up meeting it. Because I did ultimately graduate high school.
Gloria Riviera 08:42
But it was tough, right? Because you were really behind.
Waukecha Wilkerson 08:45
Yeah, it was terrible. I felt, you know, it took a lot of people to support me to complete my senior year on time with my class and graduate and walk across the stage. And it meant a lot to be you know, to not be the first person in our family to not graduate high school.
Waukecha Wilkerson 09:06
Right, because those were the expectations.
Gloria Riviera 09:10
So there you are, well, Keisha, this, you know, very well regarded young woman, all the activities, but not going to class. Somehow you managed with support to get it done and graduate. And then in your words, you got in with the wrong crowd.
Waukecha Wilkerson 09:30
Oh, yeah. So immediately after high school, it was there was a lot of freedom granted to me whether they gave it to me, or I took it and just was like, I did what you wanted me to do. I’m out of high school. So it’s kind of like that’s it for me listening.
Gloria Riviera 09:46
And no college plans at that point. You didn’t know college?
Waukecha Wilkerson 09:50
No. So it was easy for me to slip into the crowd of people who were in the same level as I was at the time we probably didn’t look the same I’m on the outside, I’m sure they looked a lot rougher than I was. And they had a lot of different traumas that now I understand, like, contributed to that. And I related to it, because I had, you know, whatever I was going through my experience, you know, as a child, it came out and we connected on those levels.
Gloria Riviera 10:19
Did you feel close to them?
Waukecha Wilkerson 10:21
I did. I mean, now, I understand that we weren’t, we were probably just really bonded by trauma. So I was it was easy to influence me to follow through with some of the lifestyle choices that they made, and kind of it ultimately affected my life in a really significant way negatively. So learning through that, that relationship in particular, which would be my son’s father. It caused me there were a lot of hard life lessons that I experienced really early.
Gloria Riviera 10:54
So your son arrives, and you’re where you’re living were with your son?
Waukecha Wilkerson 11:01
So we were out on our own. And then the relationship was just so toxic, I was kind of scared. And I was kind of happy that we had got asked to leave the apartment we were in. And I immediately I was like mom coming home. Yeah. She didn’t know, all of the toxic things that were happening. So it gave me an excuse to stay face and go home. And she welcomed me. And I stayed there. And I had my son and that was still in the picture in and out. He was there for the birth, but he was still him. So looking back, I try it, I gave it I gave it my best. And it just when it’s not meant to be it’s just no matter how much you give, it’s just not gonna work out.
Gloria Riviera 11:48
I know. But even that sentence, like in general in life, when you know, you’ve done your best, and it doesn’t work out, you know that that that can be a solve, but you weren’t doing very well at that point where you
Waukecha Wilkerson 12:00
know, immediately after having my son I’d have experienced like some bad reactions like after my I had ended up with a C section. And it became infected. And that caused me to like be hospitalized like week after my son’s birth or two weeks. And when I returned home, they had given me wound care. So a nurse would come out every day or every other day to help with the wound and make sure that I kept it clean. And it was my dressings were changed regularly. And I was just down I had just had a baby had a traumatic like C section experience. The dad was being you know, toxic. And I remember just being so low and not understanding those feelings or emotions. And I was living with my mom and Compton. And I remember like taking a long walk all the way probably 20 miles to Long Beach.
Gloria Riviera 12:59
I mean, 20 miles?
Waukecha Wilkerson 13:01
I walked the entire I walked for hours.
Gloria Riviera 13:05
And you said to your mom, can you watch my son.
Waukecha Wilkerson 13:09
I left my son I said here you’re gonna have to take care of him. And she was hysterical. She’s like you cannot because my car, my I was having car trouble. My car broke down. I was poor. I was broke because I was on maternity leave. And I wasn’t having the same income coming in. It was just at 22 years old. It was a lot. And it felt like it was just all caving on me everything that I worked so hard to try to be independent and maintain and not ask for help. It just wasn’t working out. And I just give had at that point I was ready to give up. So I took that walk. And I just walked for hours and hours and hours and hours. And I finally made it to like some dusty motel room that I could afford for a night or two. And I was there by myself. I wasn’t answering calls. My mom was like calling incessantly leaving messages. You can’t do this. I’m going to take you to court and you’ll pay child support and that’s fine, fine over your rights. And it was just a lot to hear. And at that point, the postpartum I understand now was in full effect because I felt like that is a great idea mom, like I think that would be best for my son. Wow. Because I am not a good mom. I can’t handle it. You’re right.
Gloria Riviera 14:31
I mean, even as you say that now Waukecha your tone, your body language changed into this other space of okay. Yeah, that makes sense. You know, she’s saying all of this to you probably with some degree of hope that it’ll scare you straight. I’m gonna take you to court. And instead of being scared, you’re saying, okay, yeah, that makes sense. That’s a very hollow bereft, really, it’s a bereft place to be.
Waukecha Wilkerson 15:01
It was just one of those like, this is life at the moment. Yeah. And I remember getting another call, and I was getting messages and then was the nurse that did my wound care. And I know something inside of me was like, Well, you don’t want to die. You don’t want to die in a sleazy motel dirty, like from an infection that she probably could have been, you know, you know, helped. And so I answered her call, and she’s like, I don’t care. I’m not going to tell your mom where you are. But just you have to tell me where you are. So I can come and do your wound care. And I’m like, alright, well, as long as you swear, you will not tell her where I am. And she’s like, I won’t tell. And she comes to the motel and she just, she acts like nothing’s wrong. And she’s doing my dressing. And she’s just like, okay, and then she just stumped. I don’t know, something inside of her, I guess told her to tell me. She’s like, you know, sweetheart, you probably have in postpartum depression. And that’s normal. And you can probably get help with it. You’re doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom. And I’m just like, like, I had to exhale, like, I can’t like, I’m not a bad mom. And she’s like, no, like, this is not, you know, this is something that can be treated. And it’s not like who you are as a person. This just happened sometimes to moms.
Gloria Riviera 16:54
So fast forward, because you have now how many children? And where are you living just before you find your way to some real help, and what helped you find that help. So
Waukecha Wilkerson 17:07
fast forward, where now I think my son is five years old, six years old, I started having more kids, I have a new relationship. And we go through some experiences. And we find ourselves out of California, then back in California. And I have like this, really, you know, I have this really good job. And the other parents, like my younger kid’s dad, he’s, he’s the stay at home parent, which works perfectly for us and our dynamic, because, like I said, I love to work, I’m good. Like, I know how to make money. I know how to network and socially, you know, build social capital. I’m really great at that. And I enjoy it. So with him staying at home, I’m thinking to myself, you know, I have this really great job. And if I could get a degree, I could probably have us a more comfortable lifestyle. I know, I could do it as like, but the only thing holding me back is like, I need that paper. And I’ve been fighting it for all these years, and I’ve been doing great. But I’ve been doing good. But I’m not doing great. And I think I could do great with the paper, right? And I’d have this conversation with him. I’m going to try to take classes at night that you can do them online now. But I need your support. Like I need you to watch the kids even longer. Like I know I work all day and you’re home with the kids. But um, because this time, these are two like I have two toddlers. And, you know, I don’t have anyone to watch them. And if I’m going to do his classes, like at least for two hours at night, I’m gonna need help. So he’s like, Okay, that sounds fine. And so I take the classes I’m enrolling this program that’s supposed to be accelerated for working adults at community college help us get our associates within two years, like people who can go full time. So I’m like, that’s perfect. Because I know if I spread it out, I probably won’t complete if we can do it fast, then I’ll do that. And so I’m like, okay, that’s, we’ll do this. So I finished the first semester and I make straight A’s. And I’m like flying on the cloud. I’m like, this is amazing. I really did it. And I’m so proud of myself. And I’m just like, I really you know, I could do this. And that was like I realized that relationship. I mean, it’s been toxic to fortunately, but this was one of those like, Okay, this is probably gonna be the final straw because he didn’t see it the same way I saw it. He saw it as you’re trying to be better than me. You didn’t tell me thank you for watching the kids. I you know, I would have appreciated if you had given me some credit for your success and I’m just like, what? I started I asked you to tell me thank you for paying the light bill this month. I did not I just do What I’m supposed to do in our relationship, I thought that’s what we were doing. And it caused like a rift. I had not expected it, I kind of thought he would be happy, like, oh my gosh, like you’re doing and we’re doing this and you when you get that paper like, you know, it’ll be for our family. So we ended up the relationship and he kind of left me hanging with. At this time now I’m I have three kids, and I’m a single mom. So the first thing that dropped was school because now I have to focus on working, I have to focus on you know, daycare expenses.
Gloria Riviera 20:38
You lost your childcare when you lost your partner, you lost your childcare.
Waukecha Wilkerson 20:42
Absolutely. It was devastating for me. I really at that point in life, I was probably one of my lowest points I’ve ever been where I was like, I cannot. It was a struggle with one How am I going to do it with three and no support around.
Gloria Riviera 20:59
So what happened? So he leaves he leaves you with the kids and a full time job. And you’re feeling low? I mean, that’s an understatement. What do you do?
Waukecha Wilkerson 21:10
Oh, after I cried like I did have to get up for a ride. You know, fortunately, I have learned throughout my life. So when we weren’t together, part of the things when I had the really good job and I was on you know, a high level I was talking money away for a rainy day, I thought I was saving money to like buy a house in the future with us as a family with turns out I was saving for to pay for daycare, because it was outrageous. So. But that money I went through that money really fast. Because daycare was just like super expensive. And I didn’t qualify for any. And I lost my good paying job in the middle of all of this.
Gloria Riviera 21:58
You did. So you’re in this position now where I know we’ve had conversations on this podcast before where you lost the good paying job. But you still have a job. So you’re not qualifying for subsidies. So you’re still being charged.
Waukecha Wilkerson 22:11
Exactly. So I’m paying whole time daycare costs. And when I lost my great job like I was making it like with my savings. And then I lost that job and the daycare. I couldn’t afford it. So now the kids are home with me. I’m looking for a job. And you know, now I’m on unemployment. And I still unemployment was too much still for me to get like childcare assistance, or welfare or EBT, or food stamps or anything. So we’re just surviving.
Gloria Riviera 22:42
I mean, at that point, I just I think we should pause there because it just is so representative of the many requirements people when they need help have to meet in order to get that help. So you have a home over your head. That’s a positive you had had savings. But now you’re looking for work. You know, you don’t qualify for subsidized childcare.
Waukecha Wilkerson 23:07
Not at all.
Gloria Riviera 23:08
So what did the daycare lady say to you like, did she say Listen, I’ll help you. I’ll help you like a lower rate or?
Waukecha Wilkerson 23:16
The day I lost my job. And I went to pick the kids up. I was in tears because I didn’t know what I was going to do. And she’s asked me what’s wrong. And I told I was like; I just lost my job. And she was so shocked. And she was so sympathetic. And she tells me, she says, if you need to go to a job interview, I watch the kids for free. And I was like, are you serious? She says Absolutely. I’m dead serious. If you need to go, you call me whenever you need to. And I watch the kids for free.
Gloria Riviera 23:52
You don’t even know this person. I mean, outside of her being the daycare lady.
Waukecha Wilkerson 23:56
I couldn’t have written this story better myself that someone would be so generous and kind and human to say I know that’s pushed you in a bucket. She knew I was struggling with paying the daycare. And so I would say I was out of work maybe a month, maybe four to six weeks. And I found I stumbled upon a supervisory position. Like they just kept getting better. They just things just kept getting better in the jobs. I just kept getting placed in better position. So when I talk to people, and I talk to other moms and other parents and other people struggling with things, just keep going. You think things are losses, but they make sense later. You don’t understand it in the moment. It will make sense there you’re crying over the thing you lost but there’s something on the other side. So that was one of those instances and then I was able to go back to you know, paying her daycare eventually the first week. I think she cut me like half a half price deal, because she knew like I would need to catch up. And by that time I had found, I had found like a godsend. I don’t think it’s a viable source of income for long term. But when you need money, I started doing gig work like Amazon Flex, Uber, Lyft, Instacart, those I would work, I will work Saturday. So my routine for the week, you know, get up, drop the kids off at daycare, go to my 40 hour a week job, pick the kids up, dinner, and then bedtime. But then on Fridays after work, I would drive an hour to take my kids to my mom, and then leave them there. Then I was Uber or Lyft for the rest of the night on a Friday night. And Saturday and Sunday, I would Uber or Lyft or do Amazon flex or Instacart the entire weekend and then pick my kids up Sunday nights so that I could have the money to pay for daycare for the following week.
Gloria Riviera 25:54
That next week that money was going to daycare. In and out. So at what point do you say okay, you’ve got this new job you’re working your tail off on the weekends, you have support you’re at least your you know, families watching the kids on the weekend. Talk to me about school, when do you go back to school? And before you talk about school, tell me about what you Googled when you realized like, I need I want to go back to school, but I’m gonna need help with childcare. What did you Google and what happened?
Waukecha Wilkerson 26:26
I didn’t want to go back to school ever. But I, I needed help with childcare and I was desperate. And that’s how school came into play school actually was secondary to my need for help with childcare.
Gloria Riviera 26:40
Wow, okay, I didn’t know that.
Waukecha Wilkerson 26:41
I was back to like; I don’t need that. Like after I lost the good job that I was gonna retire it. And I got the supervisor. I’m like, oh, yeah, we’re back on baby. Like, we don’t need a degree we’re going to show them. Yeah. And yeah, then as fate would have it, like I was telling you, like, I’m like killing myself to pay for daycare, and I, I’m a resourceful person. So I started Googling, like, there has to be help. Like, I don’t make that much money. Like I need help. I know, people are not out here surviving like this. They can’t be. And I’m going through like page three or four Google looking. I’m googling childcare subsidies, single moms scholarships for childcare, childcare, anything with childcare, single moms low income, I’m searching, and I come across this organization called Project Self Sufficiency. And its website, and their website was like, oh, yeah, we help single moms with childcare and we help supplement. And I’m just like, oh, this sounds too good to be true. And I’m reading and it says, single moms who are in college. And I was like, oh, that’s, you know, that’s the catch all boy. Yeah. You know, well, I could probably do college, but I went back and forth with it. And I was like, now, so I didn’t apply immediately when I saw it. I thought it was fake. Who is really wants to help single moms. And you know, with childcare, go to school and give all these things. I was just I didn’t, it didn’t seem real. And so that was like, almost a year before I actually enrolled in school again, wow, I enrolled in school, the childcare became an issue again, about a year later, I was tired, I was exhausted. I had been doing that working seven days a week for over a year at this point. And I was burned out. And I was like, something’s gotta give. And school came up in my mind again, like, let’s see if you can do it again. Like, let’s just see if you can go to school, and this time you is going to be by yourself. So my son at the time was probably like 11. And I had conversation with him because I had the two toddlers and I’m like, okay, you know, Mommy wants to try to go to school, and I would need your help. Like, it has to be a family thing. And, you know, sometimes if I have to take a test, can you keep your brother and sister occupied? Can you just like play with them? You know, while I closed the door for an hour or two? He’s like, yeah, Mommy, that’s great. And he’s on board. He was on board. He was more excited. And he believed he was more optimistic than I was that I would be fine with that. He’s like, we can do our homework together. To him, it was like a game. And so I enrolled in two classes to test it out. I talked to my therapist, she’s like, well, what’s the worst that can happen? And the more I thought about was like, yeah, what is the worst? I get an F. She’s like, and then what would happen if you got an F and I was like, I guess? And so I was like, Okay, I’ll made an agreement and I said I’ll enroll in two classes, and we’ll see how it goes. And that’s all I can promise myself at the moment, like, we’ll try it. And I’m not going to say I’m going to finish, I’m just going to try two classes with the structure with my son helping with the babies, and me going to work and doing the, the weekends. And we’ll just see if I can fit it in. So I, I do the first semester and we you know, I finished with like A’s again, and I applied, submitted my application for Project self-sufficiency with my grades. And the process altogether, took a week or two. And she called me to come down for an intake in the office. But the intake was actually her telling me, oh, we’re accepting your application. And now you’re part of Project self-sufficiency. And we you know, every, every week, or every month, you submit your receipts for your childcare, and we’ll reimburse you this amount of money. And then for coming down, here’s a gift card to target for 20 bucks. And then here’s a gas card. And then on Christmas, we’re going to connect you we’re going to adopt your family for Christmas. So the kids can have gifts and on Thanksgiving, we’re going to have a turkey dinner, and then we’re going to send you with a box of food for Turkey, you know, for Thanksgiving, and then you know, we want you to apply for our scholarships that we are going to issue next year. You’ll need to write an essay and apply but you’re most likely everyone wins a scholarship.
Gloria Riviera 31:24
I mean this sounds like an amazing organization. But you didn’t know any of this was kind.
Waukecha Wilkerson 31:29
No. And I cried. I remember crying in the office because it was like a weight. Remember the weight when I was walking after I left my son with my with my mom. It felt like that weight, somebody else was helping me carry it wasn’t gone, but it was not as heavy as it had been this whole time.
Gloria Riviera 32:13
So at a certain point you get your associate’s degree but then you go on to Sacramento State and this just you’re smiling now it makes me smile, but it’s an incredible story Waukecha and you managed to earn a degree in psychology, with Project self-sufficiency’s help and support.
Waukecha Wilkerson 32:31
Yes, it was project self-sufficiency. There was also the Soroptimist of Huntington Beach, which is an organization of women who invest in young girls and women who are in school. They wrap their arms around me, I had a send at the Aspen Institute, I had so many people and organizations that continued to support me in the best ways they could like with professional development, I had imaginable futures, which is, which was the great organization that believed in like, not just me, but like the welfare of my family. And that was an important component because it wasn’t always just about me. They made sure that as a unit, we were able to move forward in life. So the transition from community college to Sacramento State University, it wasn’t, it wasn’t as big a leap, as in my mind, I probably had envisioned it. But I had already built this network of support. And I did that it took time. It took a lot of time. Like I said, the initial intake was mostly about the childcare. But as life circumstances continued to happen, they kept finding new ways to support I think I share with you about how they had partner with the church in the community that helped us moms who had finals and didn’t have a place a quiet place to study, and what and childcare. They had opened that the church had opened their doors and on a Bible study night, the church members had did a potluck dinner for us, and they’d done it a couple of times, they did a potluck dinner, we all ate dinner together. They would take our kids to the childcare center for the church. And then they have Bible study and we got to do our finals in silence and quiet and steady or whatever we needed to do. I think it was like about three hours. And that was all they want it.
Gloria Riviera 34:19
Your story is so compelling. And it’s not an accident that we’re talking to you right now. I’m realizing because on this podcast, we’ve talked about hunger. We’ve talked about homelessness. We’ve talked about that fragile edge where you are one car break down away from losing it all. And here you are embodying what happens when we support our mothers with child care, you’re able to go to school to get that degree to get the better job. In addition to this idea of support for your family, it’s not just you and we talk about guess what if you have childcare you can be a member of the working world and pay taxes and Yeah, contribute. And you’re doing it all. And, you know, we’ve known each other for all of 24 hours. And I feel like I’m so proud of you for what you’ve been able to do. And I think it’s such a good example for our listeners to see and hear from such a success story. So let me ask you this one, your graduation came, you know, reflecting on, you know, how it had been for your own mom, so many years before? Who came to your graduation? And what was their experience?
Waukecha Wilkerson 35:35
Oh, my children were front and center. My dad flew out my uncles, it was because we, you know, we’re all from different places, and we had to go to Sacramento together. But my daughter was front and center, yelling and screaming, she’s probably the most studious of all my kids and to see her from the floor where I was, it was amazing. It was one of those moments that you want to just bottle it up and keep it forever. So I have pictures and videos of her screaming, go mommy, go mommy.
Gloria Riviera 36:09
That’s amazing. And you got your senior packet for your graduation from Sacramento State you had a cap and gown?
Waukecha Wilkerson 36:15
I had a cap and gown girl. I wear that cap and gown out. I did see your pictures. I did pictures with; I had a photographer the kids were with me.It was a life moment. It was a life moment that I hope that they remember forever. And I hope it encourages you know them that they can do anything.
Gloria Riviera 36:34
What is your advice for students today, you’ve been able to navigate so much. What is your advice for people, you know, like the mom who’s in the motel with postpartum you know, who feel helpless and bereft?
Waukecha Wilkerson 36:49
Always my favorite piece of like, support that I like to give people in tough situations is that only, you only have to move one foot in front of the other, you don’t have to walk the mile today. If you just keep doing one foot in front of the other, eventually you’ll reach where you’re supposed to be. But you can’t give up, that’s probably the biggest lesson I’ve learned along my journey is that I’ve always you just have to keep moving forward, even on the days, you may need a break. That’s fine. You may need a couple of days. But you have to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Gloria Riviera 37:23
Yeah. And this is my last question for you. You know, what do your kids tell you that you keep with you? What have they said that you reflect on and keeps you going?
Waukecha Wilkerson 37:34
Oh, my kids, they’re so proud of me. And I’m proud of them to like, because we’re just a regular normal family with a lot of challenges and struggles. But at the end of the day, I’m so happy that I was able to create a safe environment for them to feel like they’re able to be themselves. And they tell me that my son, my 16 year old, we were sitting in the backyard a couple of weeks ago. And he says, you know, Mom, this is so crazy that we have our own backyard. And I’m like, what do you mean, he’s like, Well, I remember when we were living in our apartment, and he was like, we didn’t have a backyard. And I remember asking you when you were gonna get a backyard. And now you gave us one like, thank you. And that meant so much to me. Because I you know, when he asked me when we were in our apartment, I did honestly did not think I could give it to him. So you know, for him technology and appreciate it and a more mature way than I think his brother and sister know, his siblings probably will not remember very much of you know, their childhood, but he grew up with me. So he would got to experience a lot of it. And so I know that I did something right that he’s mature enough to appreciate it.
Gloria Riviera 38:45
Waukecha I think you did a lot of things right. And I just want to say thank you for taking the time to talk to us. You know, as I said, I think that you embody much of what we’ve discussed on this show. And you know, I know it has not been easy, but you make it look inspiring. And we all need hope so thank you so much.
Waukecha Wilkerson 39:07
Thank you so much for asking, I love to share I hope it helps someone I hope they take something.
Gloria Riviera 39:13
I promise you it will.
Gloria Riviera 39:22
Wasn’t that story just awesome and inspiring. Look what happens when we help each other college degrees, upward mobility in your career and in your life. The valve we’ve talked about before on this podcast, the one that is so tight, it feels like you can’t breathe. It opens up a little more with every helping hand until eventually we exhale, inhale and begin again. Thank you Waukecha. You know you have a book and you write I will adapt it for the big screen so that so many, many more people who need it. can be inspired by your story. Thank you for sharing it with us. Before we go, I want to let all of you know that you can get even more. NO ONE IS COMING TO SAVE US when you subscribe to Lemonada Premium. If you loved this conversation with Waukesha as much as I did, you’ll be excited to know that you can hear even more of it next Tuesday. We talked for so long I just couldn’t get enough of her. So we will be releasing a bonus for you all to feast your ears on. All you have to do is subscribe to Lemonada Premium in Apple podcasts. Thank you all for listening. I will see you back here next week.
NO ONE IS COMING TO SAVE US is a Lemonada Media original presented by and created with Neighborhood Villages. The show is produced by Kryssy Pease and Alex McOwen. Veronica Rodriguez is our engineer. Music is by Hannis Brown. Our executive producers are Stephanie Wittels Wachs, Jessica Cordova Kramer, and me Gloria Riviera. If you like the show, and you believe what we’re doing is important. Please help others find us by leaving us a rating and writing us a review. Do you have your own experiences and frustrations with the childcare system? Do you have ideas for what we could do to make it better? Join the No One Is Coming To Save Us Facebook group where we can continue the conversation together. You can also follow us and other Lemonada podcasts at @LemonadaMedia across all social platforms. Thank you so much for listening. We will be back next week. Until then hang in there. You can do it.