‘I do wish I was there for him more often’

Thelma Mathurin, taken in her native St. Lucia, circa 2000

Thelma Mathurin is a 60-year-old woman from St. Lucia who lives with her 25-year-old son in an apartment complex in Shrewsbury. Mathurin is a certified nursing assistant in a senior citizens’ home called Atrium in Red Bank, New Jersey, and supports herself and her 25-year-old son Arthur.

This profile is part of the series, “The New Jersey 37,” which focuses on residents making up the 37 percent of households in state that cannot afford basic needs such as health care, housing, food, child care, and transportation.

Scott Jagarnauth: Do you feel because of your living circumstances that you can’t provide your child a proper and happy upbringing? Is it the opposite?

Thelma Mathurin: I believe my job provides myself financially. They provide me with a 401(k) and a pension because I’ve been there for so long. I was eventually promoted to a certified-nursing position after 12 years and that gave me more benefits. However, for my son, it is difficult to provide him an education. He wasn’t the best kid growing up and I’m working two jobs to provide for us.

SJ: Does your job take into account your child’s well-being?

TM: Maybe if he was younger, they [her employer] would provide him with things financially but I’m the only person who can really get the benefits since he’s so old now. I’m allowed to get a certain fund if I ever wanted to become a LPN [Licensed Practiced Nurse] but that doesn’t help my son academically whatsoever.

SJ: Does your job give you enough money so you and your son can live comfortably?

TM: Even though I can get all these so-called benefits, and I do plan on retiring when I am 70, I’m still living paycheck to paycheck. I do wish I can live in a bigger house, but most of my family lives in St. Lucia and I’ve been separated from my husband for a long time. The pension helps me but it’s not enough for me to send my son off to school because I still have to provide for my family in other areas around Jersey and St. Lucia. I also work a second job to help with bills as being an assistant to an elderly personally in Rumson.

SJ: How do your work hours affect your life at home and work? Does that affect your relationship with your son?

TM: I usually sleep all day but my hours alternate drastically because of the work I’m in. There are some nights where I’ll be gone until the next day. It does affect my relationship with my son, maybe more so on me but I do wish I was there for him more often. I’ve been doing this for around 12 years so even when he was in high school, I was working long hours. This might’ve affected him mentally and why he was a wild child when he was younger.

SJ: Do you see yourself doing something else in the future? Are you happy with what you are doing?

TM: I’ve been doing this for 12 years and I have opportunities to get promoted. I’m also about to be 61 years old so I think it’s a little too late to think about a career change. I’m not always there for my son and we are sometimes struggling living paycheck to paycheck. Arthur’s also the man of the house so he has to pay the bills as well but for the most part, I am comfortable.