i was minding my own business going about the errands and excitement of a regular saturday full of karate classes and community service when suddenly my steering wheel started to creak and my wheels started to moan. i immediately thought to myself, ‘ain’t nobody got time for that.’ but the more i drove the more i knew…this was not going to go away.
then my mechanic quoted me that those creaks and moans are going to cost $875.
yep, you read it right eight hundred and seventy-five dollars. for me…
$875 is a car note, insurance, food, and utility bills.
$875 is karate tuition for 14 months.
$875 will cover the cost of math tutors for 8 months.
$875 is a three day vacation to the Bahamas.
$875 is the mortgage plus home owners insurance.
$875 is a lot of damn money.
especially when you are a one income household. especially when the entire world that is your life revolves around you being able to hold it together every month till the end of the month.
for most moms raising their kids without partners $875 is another mountain sitting in the middle of your living room right next to the pile of laundry no one had the fortitude to put away.
i’m a mom raising a kid without a partner. and like most moms with one income, i don’t have an extra $875 just lying around. but reliable transportation is critical. i don’t live in an area with mass transportation. public transportation in my community is spotty and unreliable. it’s also winter so walking or biking is a no go on with ice and snow.
as a social worker, i’ve often worked with families navigating homelessness. i still remember a family i worked with many years ago. they were a beautiful family of five (4 kids, 1 mom). i sat with them for 6 sessions working through the trauma of transitioning from life in their car to a shelter to a home of their own. when i asked the mom how did she come to live in her car with her kids, i was a bit surprised by her answer. she said,
i had a choice to make. i could keep the apartment we were living in or i could keep our car. i knew i needed the car to get to work and the kids to school. i could afford to put gas in the car but i couldn’t afford to pay the utilities at the apartment. so we moved into the car.
for many families headed by one adult this is a reality. facing a large auto repair bill can come done to choosing between a roof over your head or a job to help you feed your family. many of us simply can’t afford the cost of the repair or the time off from work while waiting for the repair to be done. hell, there are a lot of us who are too intimidated by auto mechanics to even go in to speak with one. so women lose their cars and then risk losing their jobs.
that’s why companies like single moms auto repair, really should be in every city and every state. single moms auto repair was founded in minnesota by two brothers who were raised by a single mother. they founded the auto repair shop because they remembered their mother struggling to keep reliable transportation to get them where they needed to be and herself to work.
i love the premise of this business. the idea that they put people over profit is touching and much needed. if i could i would replicate their business model and make sure that every single mom had a life link directly to it. because i don’t have a working magic wand, instead i’ll share with you what i do.
- don’t panic. i remind myself that i’ve been in tougher spots and i’ve survived. if i can survive driving an asthmatic 3 three year old through an ice storm in full on episode to the emergency room, i can survive an auto repair bill.
- research. research. research. i know you don’t have time. i know. i don‘t have time. but before you step one foot in an auto repair shop you better know what you need and have an idea of how much it’s going to cost. auto mechanics are notorious for overcharging women for repairs. you can google from the tow truck but whatever you do, don’t go in blind.
- ask for what you want. when i go into the auto shop i remind myself that a. this is a service, and b. i am hiring the people in this shop to work for me. when i walk in i take my ‘wonder woman’ pose (confident and direct). no deer in headlights here.
- learn how. there are so many auto repair clinics available everywhere. look one up and learn how to do basic car maintenance on your own. also read your vehicle’s manual. no it’s not ‘fifty shades’ but reading it will save you more than a few gray hairs and dollars.
- village up. i have a village of people who love me and support me. we keep a list of companies that treat us well and we share those names and numbers with each other. we also let the companies we deal with know that we refer business to friends and family. there is power in numbers. and folk tend to treat you right when they know you’re spreading the word about them in the community for good or ill.
i’ve never had to make a choice between having a car and keeping a roof over my head. if an auto repair places your family in the precarious position of choosing between a rock and worst place reach out to the department of health and human services. although they may not directly provide transportation assistance they should be able to point you in the direction of groups like single moms auto repair techs.
if dhhs doesn’t work, try contacting united way worldwide. united way has connected families to services in their communities for generations. they get how critically important it is for families to maintain reliable transportation.