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Juggling Work And Motherhood On A Shoestring Budget

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There are more than 4 million American families living under the poverty line today that are led by a single mother. Katrina Gilbert is one of those moms.

Gilbert is a certified nursing assistant in Tennessee. To support her three children, she sometimes works seven days a week at a nursing home. But at $10 an hour, her paycheck doesn't go very far.

HBO followed her for a year for its upcoming documentary, Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life and Times of Katrina Gilbert. The film airs Monday and will also be available online.

For Tell Me More's year-long series marking the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, Gilbert spoke to host Michel Martin about the film and the challenges she faces in her day-to-day life.


Interview Highlights

On letting cameras follow her life

Getting involved in the film, I really wanted to do it to inspire other single mothers, other single parents, other people out there that are living and struggling like I am. To inspire them. Show them that they can do it. You can be strong. You can be independent, hard-working. You can get through it. It's just your storm. You may be going through a storm right now, but you'll get out of it. Just have a little bit of faith.

On small comforts being out of reach

The worrying about the car going out, that scares me to death. Because if you don't have the money in the bank to fix it, if something does happen to it ... you have to have your car. Because you have to get back and forth to work. You have to take [the kids] back and forth to school and day care. And so, that's a real scary thing. And then the day to day, the kids wanting a candy bar, or "Mommy, I want a toy," I can't. I just tell them, "I don't have the money for that. I can't do that right now." So it's hard and they get upset, but hopefully they understand.

On choosing between money and medicine

Because you only have this amount of money, so I know I'm going to need my antibiotics because I have a sinus infection. I know that I'm going to need my thyroid medicine because I have thyroid disease. So I have to have that — that's a very serious thing for me to have. Me having the headaches, the migraines, the migraine pills were just going to have to wait because they cost way too much.

On making her kids proud

When I actually sat down and I watched the film, I was just like, "Wow, that's my life." Like, I'm a single mom and I would sit back and I would think, "Am I doing this right? Am I being a good mother? Am I making the right decisions?" And then after watching the film, and seeing everything that we went through, I can sit there and I can say now ... "I'm a good mother." My children are proud of me. My children love me. And I'm hoping one day when they grow up they can be like, "I'm so proud of my mom. Look what she did."

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