For most parents, finding time to fit in the demands of work and childcare is an unrelenting daily challenge. For single mother Melani Gomez, 28, that's especially true.
When she isn't playing in the park with her 5-year-old daughter, or reading her bedtime stories, Gomez attends school full-time, working on an associate degree in childhood development, with an eye toward graduating with a bachelor's degree in four years time. After classes and on weekends, Gomez cleans houses in the San Francisco Bay area, piecing together a living as best she can.
But Gomez, who was born in Guatemala City and moved to the United States with her mother when she was 7, isn't fazed by the fullness of her daily schedule is, because her focus, she says, is absolute: Her daughter.
"I want to give her a better life in the long run," she told The Huffington Post, "so she doesn't have to go through what I went through."
Gomez's path has not always been so clear. After graduating from high school, she cycled through various jobs -- working in a gas station for several years, doing elder home care and working as a receptionist in a dental office. When she got pregnant in her early 20s, she moved back in with her mother and stayed there until her daughter was two, at which point, she says, her mother's house was sold. Gomez looked for other housing, but the best she could find was a crowded house with 10 people, for which she says she paid roughly $650 a month.
"It was really bad situation," she said. She and her daughter had very little space, and even less privacy.
Fortunately, Gomez connected with a program called Compass SF HOME, which helps families in danger of homelessness find stable housing. Gomez and her daughter moved into a rental apartment, which SF HOME helps subsidize. In order for clients to stay in the program, they have to work on raising their income, Najwa Ahmed, Gomez's case manager said.
"All clients have to show proof that they are working towards their goals," she continued. "For Melani's case, every three months, she shows me her grades, school schedule and education plan for the semester."
These days, Gomez says she is filled with gratitude for the support she is receiving, and excitement about a future that feels newly open -- in a good way. "She is independent, working towards a path that can lead her to finding a good job," Ahmed echoed. "She feels that she has the power to make her own decisions instead of fellowing orders. Her current job is to clean after people ... but with a degree she will have options."
And yet there is one thing Gomez says would dramatically simplify her life: A laptop. In order to write papers and work on her resume, Gomez relies on her school's computer lab, which she hurries to on her lunch break or in stolen moments before and after class. A laptop would give her flexibility, allowing her to study at night after her daughter goes to sleep.
"It's easy to carry, and I could work from anywhere!" Gomez said, adding that she is on her way to reaching her goal of $600. Ultimately, no matter what happens Gomez says she is grateful to be able to spend time with her family and daughter this holiday season -- but the laptop would certainly help bring her a bit closer to her goals.
"Hopefully!" she said.
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