What It Really Means to Not Have Child Care (with Sa’iyda Shabazz)

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How do you find a job when you have no child care? How do you find an apartment with no job? How do you pull off Christmas when you’re stressed about making next month’s rent? Sa’iyda Shabazz has done it all. The writer and mother joins Gloria to tell her about how she made it all work – balancing single motherhood, unemployment, housing insecurity, and a lack of child care – in a new city far away from her support system. Plus, Sa’iyda talks about why she’s pushing back against the narrative of the so-called “Quarantine Queen,” and why we should all be focused on fighting for the much-needed social safety nets all parents deserve instead.

This podcast is presented by Neighborhood Villages, and is brought to you with generous support from Imaginable FuturesCare For All Children by the David and Laura Merage Foundation, and Spring Point Partners.

This episode is sponsored by Flourish Ventures. Flourish is an early-stage global venture capital firm backing mission-driven entrepreneurs and industry influencers intent on advancing financial health and prosperity for individuals and small businesses. With more than 70 global investments in leading fintech startups and ecosystem partner organizations, Flourish also works alongside industry thought leaders in content creation, research, policy and regulation to better understand the needs of the underserved and help foster a fair, more inclusive economy. For more information, visit: www.flourishventures.com.

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Gloria Riviera, Saiyda Shabazz

Gloria Riviera  00:11

Monday, how are you doing? How are all of you doing Monday morning, that is when I am recording this. It is about 10am and I have already been to school various schools four times, yes, count them four times. Between kids one was sick, he was ready to go that he wasn’t than he was. Then I got a call from the nurse. And you know, when you get a call from the nurse, it’s never just like, hey, it’s the nurse. I’m just checking in. No, it’s because they have news and that news typically requires a drive back to school. So I’ve been in the car a lot this morning. But the good news is, we are all still standing, all of us together. And for that, we win the prize. We win the big. We are all here together prize and it’s a good one. This is NO ONE IS COMING TO SAVE US presented by and created with neighborhood villages. I am your host Gloria Riviera. Our guest today is Saiyda Shabazz. She is a mom, she’s also a writer. Her focus is the intersection of parenting race, social justice, women’s issues, and more. She has been published extensively online in scary mommy. I am a huge scary mommy fan. I’ve been reading it for years. She also worked there as an associate editor and social media manager. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times The Washington Post romper.com and moms.com. Just to name a few. Why did I want to talk to Saiyda? Well, because she has seen and she has lived struggle hovering on the poverty line but making it work for herself and her son. How do you find a job when you have no childcare? How do you find an apartment with no childcare? How do you pull off Christmas when you are stressed out overpaying the rent? How do you make it all work? Saiyda did, she will talk us through surviving on very little money, but a hell of a lot of faith, things will work out. And they are you should know she has a wonderfully warm, happy way about her. I hope you hear that in her voice. She talked me through a series of the very painful events life threw at her and she did so with a smile. You know, I felt sort of sad when the interview was over. Because I wanted to spend more time with her. I enjoy talking to her that much. Here now is my conversation with the beautiful inside and outside, Saiyda Shazz.

Gloria Riviera  02:56

Saiyda Shabazz, it’s so good to see you. Thank you for joining us.

Saiyda Shabazz  03:00

Thank you for having me, Gloria. I’m really excited to have a chat with you.

Gloria Riviera  03:04

You live in LA, you’re originally from NYC. Yeah. And you’ve written so much about parenthood and race and class and more in your writing. And one thing that you often come back to is balancing your finances. I want to hear about what it’s like for you supporting your family, where you are now and how far you’ve come? Can you walk us through that?

Saiyda Shabazz  03:29

Sure. Um, well, when my son was born in 2013, I had lost my retail job or customer service job while I was pregnant. So I was unemployed, and his dad was working, you know, also in retail for a good portion of like the day, but it’s still, you know, making slightly above minimum wage of maybe like 12 $13 an hour. This is, you know, nine years ago,

Gloria Riviera  03:59

Let’s just pause for a moment to say so you were pregnant. Can I ask were you visibly pregnant? Everyone knew?

Saiyda Shabazz  04:07

When I lost my job, no. Okay. But over the months of looking for a new one, yes. But the end. I was I mean, I went to a job interview, I think, three days before I gave birth.

Gloria Riviera  04:22

Oh, my God. I just wonder because on this show, we’ve talked about the protections that people have at their place of work when they are pregnant and to be to lose your job when you are pregnant, you know, should not be the way it is without some kind of compensation or protection, but that’s the way it was for you. So whether you were a day pregnant or you know, eight and a half months pregnant, you lost your job. And there were no there was no talk of what kind of compensation might come your way.

Saiyda Shabazz  04:49

No, no, not at all. So it was definitely it was a precarious situation to be in and we weren’t planning on being pregnant. So that I, you know, created a certain level of financial stress just to like, know that we were going to be supporting another mouth. And it was very difficult for me to get a job, even just something as simple as like customer service or retail. And then when my son was born, his father, you know, realized, I don’t think I can support three people. Like, I’m barely making it work. Now, it’s just the two of us. So, unbeknownst to me, he talked to my parents and was like, her and the baby need to go stay with you for a while, and like, sorted out. So it took time to be able to not only like, wrap my head around all it was like I was dealing with emotionally, but also like, again, kind of almost hit the ground running with applying for jobs and like, trying to go through that process, when you’re barely recovered from having a baby like, it had only been not three-ish months. So I was still figuring out breastfeeding. And he was still, you know, barely sleeping, like for more than a few hours at a time. But it was very much like you have to get a job, you have to be able to support yourself, you have to be able to support your child. I had that kind of coming from everyone in my life.

Gloria Riviera  06:25

So move us ahead what happened your little boys, two and a half months old, your mom is caring for him. Your parents are providing housing, your dad’s there as well. Move us to a place where you do find a job and what is life look like for you then?

Saiyda Shabazz  06:42

Okay, so it took time, I worked some babysitting gigs, like on and off for a few years, I had always kind of like, writing was a goal job for me, but I didn’t know how to go about it. Because it wasn’t like the most easily. This was just the beginning of a lot of like the digital media kind of like, boom, if you will. So I was like, people do that. I just didn’t know how. And a friend of my dad was a reporter and a friend of his who was also a reporter was like, hey, there’s some groups on Facebook, for, you know, writers trying to like get their career started, I’d love to add you to them so that you can, you know, get some resources. And hopefully, that’ll lead you somewhere. And I was like, that’s amazing. Thank you so much. So I joined these groups, I made connections with other writers who were like me who were single moms who were single moms, but still needed to provide for their families. And I was able to start getting some writing gigs through that.

Gloria Riviera  07:42

And what did that feel like? Can you take us to the first gig you got? What did it feel like you had been online? I know that you would describe yourself as very much online. What did it feel like to get? You know, what did it look like, did the editor write you back? Were they looking for a reporter?

Saiyda Shabazz  07:59

Somebody was looking for, I mean, the first real big piece because some of them are small, it’s like it’s fine. Um, but the first real big piece I sold was to The Washington Post. And I had seen, I think it was in either a Facebook group or on Twitter, I Dean, an editor put out a call for pitches, and I was like, hey, I have this story. I am a Black mom to a biracial child who could pass for White. And this is our reality. And I like to write about it. And she was like, yes, absolutely. Because this is 2016. I think 2015-2016. So it’s a hot button topic to talk about. So I was like, yeah, absolutely. And I wrote it, and it was great. And I got like $300, which I had never been paid that much to write before. It never been really paid to write before ever. So I was like, this is amazing. Okay, so I started, like, just pitching these one offs to different places, and kind of getting some traction there. And the beginning of 2017, at the time managing editor of scary mommy had reached out to me and was like, Hey, I’d written a piece for them once, like a few months prior, and she was like, we’re bringing on two new freelance staff writers. And your name has come up a couple of times, as someone who we’d like to join the team. It’s a guaranteed to do three pieces a week. And, you know, you could do this for as long as you want, basically.

Gloria Riviera  09:37

Oh, that’s great. Well, that’s, I mean, a guarantee is a guarantee right? No matter how little, how much.

Saiyda Shabazz  09:42

Exactly. I knew that I’d be guaranteed a few $100 a week. So I was like, Yeah, that sounds amazing. At the time, I was financially preparing to move back to Los Angeles. I had been in New York way longer than I had ever anticipated. My son was getting bigger. My parents were getting older, I needed I was getting older, I needed more space. And we I realized pretty quickly that financially live staying in New York was not an option.

Gloria Riviera  10:14

Right? Because New York is one of the most expensive cities in the world. I mean, LA is not too far behind it.

Saiyda Shabazz  10:19

But at the time, it hadn’t. La had gentrified as much as New York did. So there were pockets, like I knew that there was a way I could make it work. And, you know, I have been very grateful to my parents for, you know, putting up with us for so long. But I knew that for me and my son to thrive, we needed to be in our own space. And we needed to be back in Los Angeles where his dad was, because he was getting older. Yeah, you know, he was a toddler. So he like needed that, like other parents structure, it meant giving up all of my support. Because my parents, my best friends, everyone I knew with children all lived in New York. But I knew that for myself, and for him, the best thing to do was to move us to LA. So everything I was doing was focused on being able to save as much money as I could to make that happen.

Gloria Riviera  11:15

Is that financial health for you that flexibility, that ability to choose where you live? Because now I feel like we’re on this trajectory, you’re able to save some money. And the first thing you want to do is move? Is that a fundamental part of how you define financial health now?

Saiyda Shabazz  11:34

I think for so many of us, especially when you are barely above the poverty line, or you know, making not a lot of money. Any sort of money in your pocket equals freedom.

Gloria Riviera  11:45

Did you at that time, when you prepared to leave the home you’re living in with your parents? Was the child care aspect, prominent in your mind? Like if I leave, and I’m on deadline, you know, who’s gonna watch my kid? How did it factor into what your life would look like?

Saiyda Shabazz  12:04

It definitely was like a concern. But it was one of those things where I was just like, I’ll make it work. I was used to working with him under me anyway, and underfoot and just kind of running around. And so there was times, yeah, it was great. There would be days where I told my parents, I have to go to the coffee shop, and bang out these like four articles, because I’m behind, because it’s just everything has been crazy. But I knew that in our own place, we’d have more space, he’d be able to self-occupy in a different kind of way. I would theoretically be able to call his dad sometimes and be like, okay, can you come take him? And also, I was thinking like, okay, my time has been moved. He’ll be about four. And preschool will be an option.

Gloria Riviera  12:57

You’ve made it to preschool.

Saiyda Shabazz  12:59

We’ve made it to preschool, because I couldn’t do daycare that would have been waived, like that would have eaten up any at all, not an option. So yeah, it was never even an option. But preschool could potentially be an option. And LA at the time, I don’t think they had universal pre K. But I got on Google and was like, What are my options? So I did save enough money. I saved about $4,000 and moved us out here. And we got a one way ticket and we stayed at Airbnb’s and hotels for about a month. And I was dragging my kiddo around to like, look at apartments and filling out applications. And like the rental, you know, application fees, were eating into my already limited bank account. And I was working with spotty WiFi at the like motel that we were staying at. And I was going back, you know, every couple of days to the grocery store or to Target because we had a mini fridge in our hotel room. And I would be able to buy you know, my son, his snacks that he needed and his juice and like made sure he had his breakfast foods and all that stuff. And we were eating out every night because I never kitchen and we made it work. And we made it through and we finally got a place because a credit score wasn’t that great, understandably. And I finally had a building manager who was willing to take a chance on me because I was a single mom and he had been raised by a single mom.

Gloria Riviera  14:49

So as you went about all of this was this like simultaneous education you said you Googled you know, things that you needed? I’m just picturing you with a young child. nailed you said, you know, you had become used to doing your work with your child under foot, but this move to then find a place. You’re doing so much all at once. What were the important pieces of information that came to you? And in particular, I’m concerned with, you know, were you aware that you could look for help that there were organizations that could help you? Or is that too much of an idealistic thought to even have?

Saiyda Shabazz  15:28

I mean, it is kind of an idealistic thought, just because I know the way the system works. Like, I was very aware that there are not a million systems in place. There was a private preschool down the street from us. And I went to inquire about like, what that could be like, because I’m like, it’s right down the street. It’d be so easy to like, I could just walk across the street, and it’s right there. Like, that would be amazing. But it was something like $400 a month for something astronomical because it was a private preschool. And they couldn’t do that. And so I was like, that’s not an option. So I think I Googled maybe, like, low income or free preschool, and I found Headstart. And I was like, oh, okay, this is something, it’s, you know, it’s federally funded, but they’re still independently run. So a lot of the times they’re through maybe the religious charities, or something of a similar like, this one was through like a religious charity, even though it was not a really just Headstart program. It was through one, but I finally found a place. And I called and they were like, yes, we still have spots available. Come in, like visitor that. So they needed like tax documents, proof of income, like any of those kinds of things, things that I had already gotten very used to having on hand between applying for apartments and also applying for medical insurance. And we were on SNAP when we first moved out.

Gloria Riviera  16:58

Okay, so all of the paperwork, which is arduous and difficult.

Saiyda Shabazz  17:02

It’s exhausting the amount of Thank God; we lived in a neighborhood with a staple.

Gloria Riviera  17:06

Oh my gosh, so yeah, right. So you have all of these, I’m picturing you with like, Okay, I’ve got the file. I know what they’re going to ask for. You provide it and what is this Headstart organization say to you, do they say they have spaces, which is kind of a miracle.

Saiyda Shabazz  17:20

Which is the first step, right. So they say, okay, like, let’s set up a meeting, bring all of this paperwork, and we’ll go from there. Anything that they were going to need, I had, his doctor’s notes, immunization records, my tax forms, my proof of income, because as a freelancer, that’s another financial hurdle is I don’t have like proper pay stubs, right? It’s not like a thing that I get at the end of every week or every two weeks, because you’re invoicing, right? When you’re a freelancer, you invoice and then they do a direct deposit. And it just goes, you know, right to your bank account. So I had to print out bank statements and highlight, this is a payment, this is a payment, this is a payment, I bring in copies of my invoices so that those two things would match up. It’s a lot of just paper to like, have on hand at any given time.

Gloria Riviera  18:17

Which you’re doing with a toddler, right, like running around demanding needs, right. So I mean, this is a full time job.

Saiyda Shabazz  18:25

So I had like everything. Yeah, it’s everything. It feels like I’ve like it feels like I have like seven full time jobs at this point. So I’m like, okay, so I bring the papers, they go through everything. They’re like, we’ve got everything. This is great. He can start, like, when do you want him to start? That was like next week. Today.

Gloria Riviera  18:47

Is there room this afternoon? Yeah.

Saiyda Shabazz  18:49

So we chose I chose a location that was easiest to get to by bus that required the least amount of walking to the bus stops. I had a four year old, he had little legs. So it was one of those things. So, he was doing his program in the late afternoon, which means I dropped him off at 3:30. And I picked him up at 6:30. So I still just spend a good portion of my day working with him around. But I was able to stop, take him to school and get things done. Like that was became the time of the day where I went grocery shopping, where I clean the apartment where I ran errands, and then a few days a week his dad would pick it up and I’d get an extra two hours.

Gloria Riviera  19:34

It’s like those two hours are gold.

Saiyda Shabazz  19:37

So it’d be sometimes I could get everything done. And then I can just lay down for a few minutes and watch television or you know eat in silence or whatever it was or take my you know, take myself out to lunch or like dinner just to have like that little bit of extra luxury time. But it was really it was a time.

Gloria Riviera  19:57

I mean it was a time and I’m just, I can’t help but compare it to other places in the world that provide child care for the wellness of the parent, right? Obviously, for the wellness of the child, too. But places where as young as eight weeks, you can go drop your baby, who will be well looked after, and then have time to yourself, because that really is I mean, when you just said time to eat so often when I was a new mom, I would be like, Oh, my God, it’s four o’clock. I haven’t eaten anything. And it’s just one thing and a long list of things that that compromise our own self-care. So yeah, I mean, what kind of state were you in? Once your son started, the program that you found through Headstart.

Saiyda Shabazz  20:46

I was just too I mean, I’m a mom, I always say I’ve been tired since 2013. So I’m like, at that point, it was just felt like the default. But it was, like, it was overwhelming sometimes, and having to get a million other things done having to make sure that the laundry was done and cooking dinner and feeding myself. I’m very bad at that even now. But you know, you’re going through all of these things. And then you’re thinking about, you know, do I did I write enough this month to pay the bills are the lights gonna get turned off, there was one point where I hadn’t, and I was really concerned that I wasn’t gonna be able to pay our rent. And, thankfully, I have amazing friends. And, sorry, it makes me tear up to thinking about it. But my friends and coworkers all came together and pooled all of their money, and made sure that not only were and it was also around the holidays, so they made sure that not only were we able to pay our rent, but everyone gave me like Amazon gift cards, and you know, all of these other things. So I was still able to provide Christmas,

Gloria Riviera  22:06

gosh, that sentence, I was still able to provide Christmas. I know that’s a luxury, right? But the fact is, every parent should be able to provide whatever holiday celebration their children should have, right? It’s sort of fundamental, how was your son’s health during this time, because I know that these scenarios, it just takes one thing, like it just takes one thing to bring the whole house of cards down.

Saiyda Shabazz  22:39

At that point, he was okay. It was as he got older and went to like regular school, but the sickness just kind of started always filtering in. But he was fine. Like, he was completely oblivious to everything that was happening around him, which was a very conscious decision on my part. I grew up with, you know, my dad was the only one who worked when I was a kid, because my mom has a lot of health issues that kind of prohibited her from having a steady job. And there was I remember the lean days, like I remember those very well. And I had to be aware as he got to the age where he would be aware of how I handled things. So as not to bring that imminent sense of danger, or fear to him as well. I could do it. I would just cry when he was asleep.

Gloria Riviera  23:33

God I like, we always get to these points in these conversations where the mom says, I cried in the shower. I cried after they were in daycare, I cried, you know, by myself, and it makes me go back to something that’s so fundamental in this podcast. I mean, we’re having this very long conversation on how you as a freelance writer struggling hovering just around the poverty line with a child. You know, really, a new career in freelance writing, and a child and the stressors that come into your life are so that list is so long, and I wonder about how you looked after yourself. And I guess you’re going to say, you know, I just kept going. But at a certain point, the dam breaks and the tears come and you just had tears over this idea that your friends stepped up and helped you. I mean, what happened? Did a friend say, listen, we got you or did like how did that all work?

Saiyda Shabazz  24:41

I had been talking to one of my friends who is also one of the staff writers […], and she was just like, how are you? Like, how are things and I’m like, girl, things are not good. I just laid the situation out. I was like, I’m behind on my rent. My brother offered to help me out, because he’s kind of one of those people that I would turn to in these situations. But then he had a financial emergency and couldn’t give me all the money that he had told me, he would be able to. And so I was like, I don’t know what I’m gonna do, like they’ve sent me the notice, like pay rent, or we’re gonna, like start the eviction process, because it takes they do that as soon as you miss one rent payment. By I think it’s like 11 days or so. They don’t, yeah, they don’t mess around like it is not. And if you don’t know where that money is coming from, you know, it’s one thing where sometimes like, as a freelancer, you’re like, my invoices are behind, but I got you tomorrow kind of a thing. But when you don’t know where that money is coming from, it’s really scary. Like I was looking up, like, you know, eviction court and like, what the process looks like, and how do I, you know, fight it if I needed to?

Gloria Riviera  25:54

Because you knew what would happen. I mean, did you pause to think about what that would look like, if you were packing up your apartment to leave with your son, because you could not pay your rent.

Saiyda Shabazz  26:05

It wasn’t an option. Like, honestly, for me, that wasn’t an option I could I had nowhere to go. I couldn’t go back, I couldn’t even afford a plane ticket back to New York, which was, again, not an option.

Gloria Riviera  26:16

I mean, that’s a very scary place to be because I commend you for your attitude, you just, you know, look straight into the cameras that Well, that wasn’t an option. And that’s unfortunately, where so many mothers in the context of this show, that’s the place they often find themselves where they refuse to even consider the options that are not tenable, that just will not work. So do you remember the phone call that you got from your friends saying, listen, we got you.

Saiyda Shabazz  26:48

I didn’t know that at the time. She was mobilizing the group through like private messages and was like, listen, we all have money, most of you do this writing thing because you love it. And then you also get paid. For Saiyda, this is her life. This is how she keeps her family going. We need to help our friend. And then all of a sudden, it was just like, remind me of your email kind of a thing. And I was like, um, you know it, but Okay, here you go. And our managing editor who overtime has become one of my best friends was like, we got you don’t worry. This is, you know, we got you. It’s all gonna be okay. Like, we’re not gonna let you guys, you know.

Gloria Riviera  27:39

We’re not gonna let this happen to ya, we care about you.

Saiyda Shabazz  27:43

And it was so just amazing to know that I had people in my corner because it felt like for the first time in four years, I really had support.

Gloria Riviera  27:54

Yeah, I mean, that concept of, you know, we care about you, we see you, we see where you are, that’s very applicable to how other countries see child care, right? They see a woman make a transition into parenthood. And that person is valued and seen. And on this show, we’ve talked about the systematic racism in how we think about parents and mothers. And we’ve talked about how we undervalue women, all of that all of that history, like, it’s no surprise, if you stop to think about how our country has perceived of motherhood, for centuries that we are aware we are, but I love that story, that you’re getting an eviction notice. And, you know, kudos to you for communicating about it. Because if we don’t talk to each other and share our story, nothing will happen.

Saiyda Shabazz  28:45

But no, I knew at that point, there was a point where I knew that like, I couldn’t just do it on my own. And so I allowed myself to do one thing, what I don’t do very often, and that was be vulnerable. Yeah. Because vulnerability, you know, like you said, when you are living in a world where the system is stacked up against you, from the minute you’re born, basically. And as a Black woman, this system has been stacked up against me since I was born. I see vulnerability in these situations as weakness. Because it’s just you can’t get through it when you’re sick. You know, I’ve written about this, and I’ve talked about this. And you know, being a single mom for six and a half years, people are always like, I don’t know how you did it. I was like, what was my option?

Gloria Riviera  29:34

Like you said to me, that’s not an option, like eviction was not an option.

Saiyda Shabazz  29:38

Right. You just keep pushing forward, however, that is and cursing all of the systems that don’t exist for you. It’s tough. Like, there is no real like safety net. And so you have to make one yourself. However, you know, whatever that looks like.

Gloria Riviera  30:19

The scary mommy that I remember that stays with me is the original. And my friends and I still passed around an article, I believe the founder published about having to come up with a costume for her son with like five minutes to go in the school year. And she was like, I’m sorry, what? And it still makes me cry with laughter because, I mean, I think what that mom was doing was saying, This is too much. This is crazy. And now I have to do I have to come up with a costume for my child. On top of all of that, and you’re saying that this community, you’ve written about how hard it was to find friends when you came to LA, but this is a basically a community of friendship forged? Virtually, yeah, they’re

Saiyda Shabazz  31:03

My pocket friends, they’re like my internet and social media friends, so I carry them around in my pocket. I mean, that really was, honestly, the only way I could have gotten through the first five years of motherhood was through my pocket friends, the people that I was closest to the people that I was sharing, you know, the hard parts of motherhood with the like, Oh, my God, am I ever going to wean my three year old the Oh, because my son nursed until he was three and a half, you know, the oh my gosh, diapers, or just the like, I’m having a bad day. Like, all of these different things. Those people were going to pick up my phone and just go in my phone. Like, I got to carry them around. I could be at the playground, and be like, Oh my god, I’m so bored. I couldn’t do that till we get another mom.

Gloria Riviera  32:03

Were you bored at playground. I can’t imagine we’ll edit that out of this episode.

Saiyda Shabazz  32:10

I’m really honest about how will I enjoyed that time.

Gloria Riviera  32:14

Some of my most bored moments of life have been at a playground. How long can I stay here?

Saiyda Shabazz  32:21

it was still too little to like, feel comfortable reading a book or like kind of being emotionally tuned out. Because then everyone judges you for being the mom at the playground who reads the book.

Gloria Riviera  32:31

I’ve been the mom at the playground on my phone.

Saiyda Shabazz  32:35

That’s basically who I became after a while because I just said, you know, I don’t care what anyone thinks. But it took time to get to that place emotionally. But yeah, those were my people.

Gloria Riviera  32:45

Those were your people and your project friends and they saved you, you have written about not wanting to be a quarantine queen. What is that? And why did you want to push back against that narrative?

Saiyda Shabazz  32:55

Well, why did the beginning of the pandemic, you know, everyone was baking bread and learning languages, and like really saying, we have all this time we’re gonna, like, do things. And you know, I see like, other moms on social media who are like, I’m teaching my kids French, and baking them sourdough. And I’m over here, like, I’m trying to keep my kid from dismantling my apartment, one brick at a time, we are not the same. And at the time, at the beginning of the pandemic, I mean, through the worst of the pandemic, I lived with my son, we were still in the same spot that we had moved to, but we lived in a studio apartment. And that’s tough, you know, when you have a four year old, but now I have a six year old, who was used to having his whole day at kindergarten, and getting most of that excess energy out and coming home. And you know, then we would do like dinner and all that stuff. Now he’s home all the time, in a way that he hadn’t been since he was three years old. I still had to work. My work was written, you know, for some people like things were really in the shift, but everybody had a lot of time to read. So I was now like, in gogogo mode, because I’m writing about COVID I’m right, like we’re trying to keep our information the most up to date. We’re writing about, like, what things are changing. I mean, if we’re pushing, you know, I mean, quarantine quitting is kind of like those first few months. So it was just like, a now school is like, you have to do virtual kindergarten and like, that was worse and like, all this stuff. And I was like, I can’t do this, but there’s no way like, I’m not baking any bread. I’m not learning French. I’m literally just trying to keep us from imploding and keeping my kid out of the hospital because he broke his leg trying to like spider man himself across a very small apartment. These are the things that were We’re just trying to get through. And I was like, this is unrealistic. The version, the quarantine queen, the mom you see on Instagram on tick tock, who’s like, look at us and her White, all White kitchen with her white furniture. And I’m like, I don’t think children live here. What is this? You know, that wasn’t the reality for like, 99.9% of us. And somebody needed to like, say it.

Gloria Riviera  35:32

Did you redefine what quarantine queen, you know really means to you?

Saiyda Shabazz  35:37

I think for me quarantine queen to admit, I got through the day and everyone survived. That was how you like as a parent, really? That’s how you won.

Gloria Riviera  35:48

That’s how you won. That’s what you just said. That’s how you won. Yeah, we’re all winning. If we’re going to sleep and getting up the next day.

Saiyda Shabazz  35:55

Is everyone alive? Did you all make it? You know? Are you all still here? Congratulations, now you’re a queen.

Gloria Riviera  36:06

I love that. So after coming through the pandemic, and you know, I’m just thinking of you going like moving back in with your parents in New York coming back out to LA, writing about all of this demystifying or redefining what quarantine Queen really means? Have you emerged with a list of things that you think mothers should be demanding from our government, we were so filled with hope, when President Biden talked about mentioned the word child care in a State of the Union address. And it’s been hard to watch it come apart, it’s hard to watch it come to nothing, basically. So what should we be asking for now?

Saiyda Shabazz  36:45

I mean, when in regards to like the, you know, I thought that Biden even like mentioning the word child care was like, super great. I knew nothing was coming out of it, you know, it was idealistic. And when you come from a place of privilege, it’s very easy to be hopeful. When you are the person who has basically just been hovering for, you know, your whole life, and especially like, through motherhood, when you’re the person who is like, I made $10 an hour as a babysitter so that another mom could go to work, and struggle to pay me those $10 because there was a point where I was babysitting for another single mom. And I would always take on the families where the parents were like, I wish I could pay you more, but we just can’t. And it sucked because I had a kid to support to but I was like, no one’s coming to save them.

Gloria Riviera  37:46

Yeah, well, that’s the name of our show.

Saiyda Shabazz  37:49

So who’s going to it’s going to be me. So I knew that this country, this government, no matter who the president is, has shown us time and time again that women and mothers don’t matter. There’s no two ways about that. You can’t pretend that there’s ever been if there was even a modicum of truth in that, we’d have universal pre K already, at the bare minimum. That’s like a bare minimum, child care workers would be making a livable wage.

Gloria Riviera  38:23

Do you know any child care workers, I mean, for me, we spent a lot of time on this show, talking about former early educators who left their jobs to go work at a target or go work at Amazon where they could afford to pay $15-$16-$17 an hour, the industry is devastated. They cannot find early childcare teachers will educate you will give you lots of letters behind your name, to make you highly skilled and all the debt that that you’re going to come out with a lot of debt, and there’s going to be an industry that’s paying you poverty level wages.

Saiyda Shabazz  38:56

I don’t know any childcare providers personally. I mean, I guess like you could say like, the teachers at Headstart were like the closest that I kind of got, but I never wanted to cross a line with my son’s teachers and be like, so tell me, how much do you make? Like, what is your life? Like? Because that just felt like a space that like, I wanted to protect kind of that sacred space for him. But, I mean, how much could you really be making like, and the stuff that you’re putting yourself especially for, like, let’s talk about how they came through the pandemic. That I mean, of course, the field is decimated because you’re putting yourself out like additional risk. The things that we ask of teachers of early child care providers in daycare systems or anything similar of teachers have older children just who were by and large women, the things that we demand of them and as a country are super messed up. Like I have teachers in my family, I see it like very intimately. And we asked them to literally put their lives on the line for our children every day. And this country doesn’t give a damn if they survive. And isn’t that messed up?

Gloria Riviera  40:18

That is messed up. I mean, that is so messed up, it makes me so angry. I also another thing that makes me angry. And I want to know what you think about this. If we were in, you know, ideal land, going to provide care for our mothers by caring for their children. You know, these are people who want to be a significant part of the workforce who want to be taxpayers who want to be included. And we’re standing in their way, in a sense, we are our own worst enemy.

Saiyda Shabazz  40:49


Gloria Riviera  40:51

So what do we do about that? What do we need to ask for?

Saiyda Shabazz  40:53

The only thing that I could say is that you know, how we’ve got these groups like Moms Demand Action for Gun Violence and stuff, we need a coalition, like we need to really, and truly, all of us moms, that I mean, most moms need, we need to march, maybe those aren’t taking us seriously. You know, we had the Women’s March after Trump was elected. And we need to mobilize in the same way. We need to really come together and say, you know, we’re not going anywhere. We need also we need more moms in office, but that’s incredibly difficult.

Gloria Riviera  41:38

I feel like we get through these really childhood years, and we sort of black them out, like who made it, they’re in school. Let’s not go back there because that was not pleasant. And maybe the message is okay, we’re not asking you to go back there. But we’re asking you so that when your son grows up and has, if he chooses to have a family of his own child, that won’t be something he has to consider that he will know, his child is well looked after.

Saiyda Shabazz  42:08

Right? I mean, that’s the biggest thing is, in this capitalistic society, they tell us get education, go to college, get a job, have a family, right? That’s the lie we’ve been told our whole lives. But what happens? You get the education; you have to take on debt. You get the job to pay the debt. And don’t get ahead. You have the family, but they’re like, lol, you expected us to help you take care of that? No. Why would we do that? You wanted the family? We didn’t tell you to have the family. But then you have, you know, these politicians on TV who are like, oh, no, the population is dwindling. I don’t even know if I want grandkids? Because I don’t know if there’s gonna be a world left for them.

Gloria Riviera  43:01

I mean, all of this comes from you with somehow a positivity to it. You are full of energy. And I feel motivated, just speaking to you. Because it’s like, it’s like gallows humor, we laugh. We’re like, Oh, my God, it was so horrible. I was so bored at the playground. But we’ve got to hold on to all the negative things that we experienced so that we can turn them we can turn it around, you know, we got to turn it around. And it’s so related to everything. It’s related to homelessness and hunger and how we value women and fair wages. It’s like, let’s fix this, I believe, a lot more good will come if we just fix this problem.

Saiyda Shabazz  43:41

Yeah, just opening the door to talk about it. That’s why I read about it. You know, it wasn’t comfortable to be that openly vulnerable with strangers, because strangers will find you and tell you things. But if I could have given one person a different perspective, then it was all worth it.

Gloria Riviera  44:02

I love that you said before you don’t like vulnerability, but you decided to be vulnerable. Maybe that’s what it takes. I mean, that’s, that’s good storytelling is vulnerability communicated.

Saiyda Shabazz  44:14

But that’s the reality of it. Like that’s how, you know if I could send these lawmakers some of these articles that I’ve written with emails or comments that I’ve gotten from people who are like thank you for speaking my truth. I would if I thought it would make a difference.

Gloria Riviera  44:32

Well, no, you just have to run for office and then we’ll solve that problem.

Saiyda Shabazz  44:36

I have a too big of a mouth for that. I would tell some old White man about himself and scandal at all.

Gloria Riviera  44:44

I’m not taking it off the table. I’ll be back in touch with you.

Saiyda Shabazz  44:48

You are not the first person who was suggested.

Gloria Riviera  44:50

I mean, I talked with less than an hour. I’m like this person needs to run for office. Thank you for your work. Thank you for toughing it out with us. smile on your face. You’re smiling right now. There’ll be a link to some of your work in the show. And we can’t wait to see what you do next.

Saiyda Shabazz  45:08

Thank you so much. I really appreciate it

Gloria Riviera  45:18

Did you guys feel that positivity? Did you love how she got through tough times by accepting help from friends who loved her? I did. I know that not everyone has that kind of attitude all the time. But if you have even an itsy bitsy slice, just a slice of it. I think that is key to making. Yep. Lemonade out of lemons. Thank you Saida for all that you do all that you write. And most of all, for joining us on this show. We appreciate it. 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. Earlier this week, we put out a new premium episode with more from last week’s conversation with Waukecha Wilkerson, the incredible single mom who graduated from college while raising three little ones on her own. Her story was just incredible. To hear that, all you have to do is subscribe to Lemonada Premium in Apple podcasts. Thank you all for listening. I appreciate all of you so much. Hang in there and I will see you back here next week.

CREDITS  46:36

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.

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