Jasmine Cook stood in front of her house in the North Side neighborhood of California-Kirkbride. She held her 7-month-old daughter, flanked by her other two children. Her 7-year-old daughter was a self-proclaimed singer-gymnast and her 4-year-old son was a superhero with laser eyes, graciously contained by a pair of plastic red sunglasses. Running around the side yard was a miniature Batman, the boy who lives next door.
“All kids around here, nothing else, just all kids,” she said. “Everybody knows each other around here. It’s a good street to live on.”
Cook grew up in the South Side, raised by her dad. The 23-year-old works as a home health aide and is firm about her vote for president.
“Team Hillary,” she said.
Republican candidate Donald Trump is too mercurial for her tastes.
“We don’t want a president that pleases everybody, right, because then you never know," Cook said. "We do need a stern president, a friendly one but also who can get down to business and not worry about what people say, get negative feedback but still do the right thing.”
If that sounds like the role a parent has to play—friendly, but firm, able to do the right thing even when it’s hard—Cook admitted her political views come down to protecting her children.
“That’s their future," she said. "Honestly, that’s all I really care about is their future. Making sure they get the right education, that’s important to me.”
From her perch on Cook’s hip, the baby smiled at her mom, the kids on the porch, and particularly at her big sister.
“This little girl loves her sister,” said Cook.
It was the end of a long day, and pretty soon Cook started making dinner. She shifted the baby to her other hip. She said everybody needs support, and it wasn’t something she’d heard Trump talk a lot about.
“It doesn’t seem like he’s trying to put much effort into helping low-income families,” she said.
Cook’s primary concerns are housing, education and reproductive rights. Most important, though, is childcare. As a single mother, her ability to make ends meet depends on childcare.
“If you work between certain hours you’re stuck, because you have to have somebody to pick your kids up, that’s not a choice. You have to do that. It gets hard between choosing between work and staying at home, and then when you stay at home, you’re really low income,” she said.
At night, Cook is studying to be a licensed practical nurse so she can better provide for her family. As she talked about an upcoming test, her daughter ran up.
“Mommy, when are you going to be a nurse?”
“Good question,” Cook said. “I’m practicing for the test tonight, so go to bed on time.”
Cook had a question, too. “Were you good in school today?”
“Better than yesterday?”
“Good job, high five,” she said, smiling.
As a parent, as a healthcare professional, Cook is used to taking it one day at a time, doing better than yesterday. She seemed optimistic about the country’s future.
“I think we’re going to get better, I think it can be better, I do. A little bit more time and the right people, I think we could get better. So,” she said, “I don’t think we’re all the way ruined yet. Not yet.”
This is the second in a five-part series exploring how Pittsburgh-area families experience the debates and dramas of the 2016 election.