This originally appeared in the Trentonian.
This past August, like millions of other Americans, I was trying to raise two children as a single mom amid a global pandemic. I was struggling financially, desperate to find additional income to make ends meet and take care of my family. I needed to find a new way forward, which is what brought me to app-based work. I know I was not alone in this struggle. Many throughout New Jersey and around the country faced similar circumstances, and I’m sure many made the same decision I did – to turn to app-based work as a way to improve their lives.
When I needed money right away to support my 5-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter and needed to have the flexibility to care for them, Instacart offered me a solution. I immediately saw a financial return when I started shopping and delivering groceries with Instacart. I love knowing that I can jump in the car and take Instacart orders whenever I need extra money or when I have some spare time on my hands.
This flexibility proved to be a game-changer for me. It showed me that I didn’t need to report to someone else but instead can be my own boss. With the financial security of Instacart backing me up, I felt secure enough to start my own notary business in December. And because of the flexibility of independent work, I will continue working with Instacart while my business grows from my home in Trenton.
While I was looking for a quick solution to a very pressing problem, the impact I could have on my community was not originally part of my thinking. However, the sense of pride and satisfaction I get from being able to shop for those who may not be able to shop for themselves is an added benefit.
Helping my neighbors, while also doing something that benefits my family is incredible. I am proud to be a role model for my daughter. Managing multiple streams of income and my own schedule has shown her what entrepreneurship and hard work can bring to a dedicated woman. But what’s most important to me is that I can schedule my work around my priorities — not the other way around.
I know I’m not alone. Throughout the pandemic, so many people have turned to flexible app-based work to fill in income gaps, giving us the ability to take care of our children who may be learning from home or family members who might have fallen ill.
The full-time, 9-5 schedule that many employers rely on is outdated, especially in the case of working women and moms like me. Instacart and other app-based platforms have introduced new work opportunities that better fit our lives. It provides options to people like me, who cannot work traditional hours; I usually shop for my customers during early mornings, evenings, and on weekends.
This model only works if we remain independent and flexible. As soon as we start punching a time clock and have to request vacation days or sick time, this model stops working.
COVID-19 showed us that workers all around the country need better access to health benefits and employment protections. I hope that as New Jersey lawmakers consider ways to ensure everyone has those benefits and protections, they also will listen to the voices of workers like me and protect our right to maintain the independence and flexibility that app-based work offers us.