Worker Experience: Miriam

Miriam Morales is a wife, a mother and a first responder at the Highway Department of Dane County. At the onset of the pandemic, Miriam spent six months furloughed from her former job as a dental assistant before she connected with the Latino Workforce Academy of Dane County. Soon after, she began a paid internship as a first responder with the Highway Department.

“Things were really looking down, I lost my job and places were shutting down,” Miriam recalled – “but then I got that internship at Dane County. I appreciate the people in higher management who were trying to give people like myself who lost a job an opportunity. I was not expecting that, especially nowadays.”

During the most difficult moments, Miriam credits the support from her family support as the key reason behind her ability to transition to her new job while also performing primary caregiving activities for her son.

“It was tough because I didn’t get unemployment or the stimulus check help for the virus going on. Thankfully, I have a husband and he still has work,” Miriam said. “That’s how we sustained ourselves. If I didn’t have my husband, it would’ve been a completely different story, but I had someone to rely on.”

Now that her work situation has stabilized, Miriam’s concern shifts toward her family, specifically, caring for her five-year old son. Between juggling his school and her work obligations, Miriam continues to count on the support of family and friends to manage responsibilities. As the pandemic continues, one of the many difficulties Miriam faces is having to explain the situation to her son.

“A couple weeks ago he turned five and now he’s required to wear a mask. I just tell him, ‘you’re a big boy now.’ But he sees other younger kids that are not required to wear masks. What are you to do?. He’s thinking, ‘how come I have to wear this?’ For him, emotionally, I feel like it has hit him, but I try to make it a positive thing. I try to reward him for doing a great job and keeping his mask on.”

Miriam’s experience is representative of the challenges many working mother have faced during the pandemic. Experiencing first job loss and then tackling new childcare challenges while performing essential work, Miriam struck a balance between working and caregiving with the support of friends and relatives.