Want to know how hard it is just to make it through a month on nine dollars an hour as a single mom? Now you can with the game Spent. The object of this computer game, designed by the Urban Ministries of Durham and an advertising firm called McKinney, is to basically keep yourself and your kids alive. You do this by juggling your job, keeping up with house related errands, and making sure your child is getting everything he/she needs. All the while, you must pay off rent, groceries, and insurance.
Although the single mother who must juggle being the breadwinner and the caretaker of the family is often a trope that is used to garner compassion, there is a stigma against those who get help from governmental programs such as food stamps and child nutrition programs funded by the USDA. Anti-food and nutrition services propaganda often paint a picture of the lazy freeloader as the person who robs the government and lives a life of luxury. But, how are these tropes matching up? Oh wait, they aren’t.
Federal minimum wage is only $7.25 per hour, which is way below the cost of living especially if you have to support little ones. Many single moms have to work two jobs or more because the inflation rates haven’t been reflected in pay rates. As the income gap is widening and the middle class deteriorating, it’s important to slash the stigma of government “handouts” with bringing awareness first.
The game forces you to make decisions, both with significant trade-offs. A close relative passes away and the services are being held in another state. Do you fly there, drive and take a couple days off of work, or stay home? With such a tight budget, the decision is hard. Your child is offered a spot in the gifted program, but materials are costly. Do you invest in his/her future and tighten the belt or forgo the opportunity so your child can eat properly for the month? Getting through the month is a challenge and even though I ended with some money leftover, my last notification was that although I made it through the month, rent was due tomorrow. I had lost.At the end of the day, it’s just a game for those of us who have the luxury to turn our computers off and return to relative comfort. For millions of single moms, the game doesn’t end. These are decisions they face everyday.
As women’s rights slowly trickled in hundreds of years after it was deemed “natural” for men to have the same basic human rights, women worldwide are still feeling the effects of the historically withheld rights to their predecessors. This is one of the reasons why even though females make up more than 50 percent of the global population, they only own about one percent of the world’s wealth. This makes poverty a gendered issue. Other factors such as a woman’s opportunity to a higher education and the sometimes very unbreakable glass ceiling perpetuate the economic stagnation of women and the cyclical nature of poverty that spans generations.
After getting through the month and getting just a small taste of how stressful it is just to get by on nine dollars an hour, Spent allows you to donate a small amount of money to those who live Spent and there’s a link that directs you to the Urban Ministries of Durham’s website, where multiple resources are provided so you can get involved. Play the game and become an advocate, not a bystander.
Photos courtesy of Spent and the Urban Ministries of Durham.