Around once a week, Justina Pessein lugs laundry baskets, $20 worth of quarters, plus her three children, to a Davenport laundromat.
The 31-year-old Davenport mom hasn’t owned her own washer and dryer since before she married her husband, Austin, in 2012. Since then, the couple has had two children, Elijah, 4, and Samuel, 2, to add to their clan, which already included Pessein’s daughter, 9-year-old Kaylee.
While her husband works a second shift production job, Pessein balances taking her older kids to and from school and preschool, caring for her 2-year-old, plus the inevitable weekly trip to the laundromat.
“Daily life is crazy,” Pessein said. “By the time my kids get to school, I wake my husband up because he works second shift, and doesn’t get to see the kids during the week. He goes to work. Then, I pick up Elijah from preschool, and then Kaylee comes home from school. It’s just on the hour, every hour. There’s hardly any time to run errands.”
Before she married Austin, who was 21 at the time, Pessein cared for Kaylee on her own, working a day care job as a single parent. After the wedding, her husband was working at a Kwik Shop, providing some income so Pessein could go to school and become a Certified Nursing Assistant, or CNA.
After having her older son, Pessein took a job working as a CNA while her husband switched gears to stay home with the kids. Back and forth, the couple took turns staying home and working to support each other.
"I feel like that actually helped our relationship a lot," she said. "But I got pregnant with Samuel faster than we anticipated, so I had to decide to take some time to be home with my babies."
Her husband worked roofing jobs, which provided immediate cash after a job was done, but wasn't stable, she said. Pessein stayed home and home-schooled her daughter. Around six months ago, her husband landed the production job.
The family, living in a duplex in Davenport, can now afford to pay the bills, but not much more, she said. A few months after moving in, someone shot bullets through their front window, but she said the neighborhood has "quieted down now."
"We're basically maintaining right now. I do the budgeting and we try to make it work," she said.
One of the most difficult expenses for the family, though, is the trip to the laundromat. Pessein picked up a trick from her mother to keep track of paying for laundry each week.
"I use a M&M container, one of the giant ones, to hold quarters, and it holds $20 perfectly," she said. "If that's not full, I don't have enough to do laundry. People usually just take their change and throw it in a jar, but I have to keep my quarters on me. It should be a minor thing, but for me it's major."
It takes around two hours to finish the laundry trip, she said, making her routine more strict and partially stopping her from pursuing her nursing degree.
"We're looking at taking small steps, and I'm planning to go back and take classes again," she said. "My daughter is getting to the point where she has homework, so maybe seeing me doing homework as well would encourage her."
While Pessein's day features around eight hours of "time where I can only talk to kids," her saving grace has been Kristine Nichols, at Bright Beginnings in Davenport. She said she's helped her set life and family goals, plus celebrate the successes, such as her youngest son "finally blooming" and learning to talk more.
Pessein's story prompted Nichols to nominate her for the Quad-City Times Wish List program, in hopes that having her own washer and dryer will help her find more time and money to enjoy motherhood and pursue her career.