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Monday, May 5, 2014

Two New Saints Among Many

This past week, Pope Francis oversaw a very special event--the canonization of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II. Adding to the unique event was that retired Pope Benedict XVI attended the service as well. Popes are rarely named saints. The last one canonized was Pope St. Pius X (1903-1914). A number of critics applauded Francis’ action as a shrewd political move as he appealed to the liberal wing of the church with the elevation of Pope John XXIII and the conservative wing with John Paul II.  As a Vaticanophile and a crusty curmudgeon, I felt he moved too quickly. Eyebrows were raised in 1954, when Pius X was named a saint a mere 40 years after his death. John XXIII was 50 years (quick by Vatican standards) and John Paul II was a lightning fast nine years.

With all the buzz about saints, I thought it might be a good time to devote a post to the many living saints I that I track as a demographer. I am talking, of course, about single moms struggling in the marketplace.

Today, there are 10 million single mothers in the U.S. living with at least one child under 18. Their lives are difficult, but if you look at it closely, many are remarkable women whom I would categorize as, well, saints. They work a job, sometimes two, rarely get child support payments, and despite exhaustion and a precarious financial existence, try to bring up decent children and often succeed.

Many of the readers of Media Realism are at ad agencies, TV and Radio stations, or cable providers. There are not a huge number of single moms at these companies for two reasons: 1) to survive, you often have to work overtime and weekends which interferes with day care pickups and 2) many 9 to 5 jobs have been totally eliminated at many places as they are incompatible with working mom imperatives.

So, I polled a few people whom I have known for years, sometime decades, who are owners in multi-unit retail. The results were surprising, and at times, uplifting and moving.

A fellow whom I have known for 25 years owns several franchises in three different concepts. He runs them all with ferocious energy and unfailing good humor. He wrote: “I love single Moms. They are great employees. You do need to be flexible, though. Children get sick and poor children get ill more than most. Once someone has proven themselves as an employee, my wife and I tend to “adopt” them and their children. I have three assistant managers who never miss a PTA meeting or school play or teacher’s conference. My wife drives their kids to the doctor along with Mom. If the bill is stiff, she picks up the difference. These women have earned our trust and I will be damned if they are going to suffer.”

Another fellow at a large company says that he looks the other way and breaks the rules for good employees. “We have strict rules from headquarters about attendance and I have busted them all. Our single Moms tend to be the better employees so I let them go to teacher conferences on company time (illegally) and I spend many lunchtime hours ferrying little ones to and from the doctor’s which my boss, 1200 miles away, would never allow. Once someone has shown themselves to be reliable, I throw much of the rule book out the window. If you want to build loyalty, be human. Corporate guidelines have no heart.”

Single Moms struggle. They are not great targets for many upscale brands. Yet, they live hard lives and try to do the right thing. They deserve our admiration and respect.

I am not suggesting that all 10 million single Moms are saints but more than a few are. If you can, cut them a little slack here and there and you may find that productivity will actually increase in your firm.

If you would like to pursue this topic, consider reading NICKEL AND DIMED by Barbara Ehrenreich, THE WORKNG POOR by David Shipler or THE MORAL UNDERGROUND by Boston College professor Lisa Dodson.

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

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