The Struggle Is Real: Funny Video Reveals How American Families Work to Get By
Before Adrienne C. Moore was cast as Black Cindy on Orange Is the New Black—the wildly popular Netflix series that began in 2013—she made ends meet in New York City with unemployment checks, food stamps, and Medicaid. Even after landing the role, she continued to babysit on the side to bring in extra cash.
“A lot of the time we glamorize our industry because we’re on television,” Moore told TakePart. “When you’re a day player or a costar, you’re making the minimum, like $800 a day. That wasn’t enough to even cover my rent for the month.”
While $800 a day might sound like a dream come true to some folks, Moore appeared in just six episodes of the first season, which means she wasn’t exactly rolling in the dough.
That helps explain why she brings a particular verve to her character in a funny new video from Make It Work, a campaign to help hardworking Americans do just that by focusing on bread-and-butter issues such as equal pay, caregiving, and working families.
In the video, Moore’s character confronts a slew of conflicts that many working women face every day; it all starts with a boss' unreasonable demand that she go into work sick. The campaign hopes you'll share your stories with the hashtag #HowWeDoIt.
Even though Moore is not a mother with a nine-to-five office job in real life, she can relate to the core issues, such as fighting to get equal pay for equal work. Like many women, Moore thinks equal pay is a no-brainer. “If I’m doing the same thing my counterpart is doing, I should be compensated equally and fairly,” she said.
Yet women receive 78 cents for every dollar men make. The disparity is even worse for minority women, with African American women making 64 cents and Latinas 54 cents for every dollar men make. On top of that, all Americans are working longer than the traditional 40-hour workweek: The average workweek for full-time employees is 47 hours, and almost 20 percent clock more than 60 hours each week. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of time to care for children, family members, or oneself.
Women are now primary or co-breadwinners in two-thirds of all households, according to Make It Work. Moore grew up in a family with two working parents, and for a brief time when she was growing up, her family relied on her mother’s income when her father was laid off.
With Moore’s massive undergraduate and graduate student loans, money disappears pretty quickly.
“I work as hard as I do because I am trying to pay off those bills,” said Moore.
Now a series regular on Orange Is the New Black and working on a play in Kentucky, Moore has been able to support herself without government assistance for the past two years.
Today, all adults are fully employed in six out of 10 households, with women the primary or co-breadwinner in as many instances. That’s a big increase from four out of 10 households with two working parents in 1965, according to a 2014 White House report. Without one parent spending his or her days at home, finding affordable child care is a common battle.
The cost of making ends meet doesn’t end with child care. Roughly 65 million Americans care for elderly family members. Moore is working on a play called Dot, about three grown siblings struggling with the cost of caring for their ailing mother. It’s made her think about her own parents: “Now I’m moving into a place where I’m looking at my parents and they’re getting older, and I’m starting to think about [caring for them].”
With obstacles at seemingly every turn, there’s legislation in the works to combat them. Proposals to extend tax credits for families with children or dependents aim to put more money in the hands of caregivers to make child and elderly care more affordable. President Obama announced his support last fall for the Healthy Families Act, which would guarantee seven days a year of paid sick time to a bulk of the 40 percent of workers in the private sector who risk losing their job if they need to miss work to care for themselves or their children and parents. For those instances when a few days here or there isn’t going to cut it, Obama has proposed $2 billion in new funds to support states looking to develop longer instances of paid family and medical leave.
Even if the government does its part to enforce equal pay and allow workers to take paid time off, Moore stresses that each individual has to make self-care a priority. “Now I’m finding—I’m still learning this lesson—you have to find the time to step back from the work,” she said.
With smartphones and Wi-Fi, there’s an expectation of 24-hour availability, and the line between work and personal life becomes increasingly blurred.
“I still try to find time to do things that I enjoy,” said Moore. The last time she was in Los Angeles, she went hiking and paid $25 for an hour of horseback riding. “I can’t depend on someone else to make my life happier. I have to take that own-ness on myself. And I think that’s empowering.”