For many Americans, family time is sacred. Coming home to our loved ones is supposed to be an occasion when we reconnect and the worries of the day fade away, replaced with the stories and laughter of those we care for the most.
But for Aarin Foster, a single father of two, this part of the American Dream is often cut short. As a full-time server for a fast-food chain in the Chicago area, Foster puts in around 30 hours per week, usually working a sporadic, unpredictable schedule. He even works extra hours on his days off in order to increase his inadequate wages. Although he has worked at the chain for eight years, Foster makes only $8.25 per hour—the minimum wage in Illinois. That amounts to less than $13,000 per year, well below the federal poverty threshold of $19,530 for a family of three. It is barely enough for him to feed himself, much less his two young daughters, ages 6 and 4. Since he cannot afford a car, Foster spends many unpaid hours on the bus, commuting to various subway locations across the city, significantly increasing his time away from home.
“I have to work late hours, which means I can’t see my daughters,” Foster said in an interview with the Center for American Progress. “I walk in, kiss them goodnight, crash into bed, and then I’m right back at again the next morning. I think I get to see my daughters for about 4 or 5 minutes a day. That’s it.”
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