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How a mom with 4 kids who drives for DoorDash and Walmart Spark struggles to make ends meet: 'It is a never-ending vicious cycle'

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Bri drives predominantly for DoorDash.SOPA Images / Getty Images
  • Bri, a single mom of four, is struggling to make ends meet driving for DoorDash and Walmart Spark.

  • Bri turned to gig driving after a knee injury made her previous job at an Amazon warehouse untenable.

  • Despite working long hours, she can barely pull in $400 a week after accounting for expenses.

Bri, 40, is lost on what to do next. The single mom of four, who lives in Fort Worth, Texas, pulls in about $400 a week driving for DoorDash, Walmart Spark, and Skipcart, which isn't enough for her and her kids to live comfortably.

She drives while her kids are in school and after they're in bed, and she's using her daughter's car since she can't afford to buy a new car. She said after delivering food all day, she waits in line at a food pantry to get food for her and her kids.

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It's what she has to do to provide for her family, given her osteoarthritis that makes it difficult for her to do other types of work. Bri asked to just use her first name for fear of professional repercussions.

"When we file taxes, we're self-employed, so we pay the self-employment tax, but gig drivers aren't prepared for that throughout the year," Bri told Business Insider. "It's hard to put money up when you're depending on literally tips."

Bri is one of many single parents who recently told BI they cannot work a stable 9-to-5 job while caring for their kids and instead rely on gig driving. Income is unpredictable and money is tight for many gig workers having to pay childcare costs.

Lyft said in February it would guarantee weekly earnings for drivers at 70% or more of what riders paid after external fees. Lyft noted that the typical US driver earned about $23 per engaged hour — or hours spent picking up or dropping off customers — after expenses. Uber said the typical US driver earned about $33 per engaged hour before driving expenses, per an announcement in November. DoorDash said that in New York City, drivers earn minimum guaranteed earnings of $17.96 per active hour.

In reality, given some drivers only have rides for half the time they're on delivery apps, these hourly earnings are frequently lower.

Gig driving with a disability

Bri was a business owner in home healthcare, but once the pandemic struck, she lost access to many of her clients.

She decided to work at an Amazon warehouse, which was somewhat flexible with her schedule, especially raising a child with Down syndrome. She was assigned to pack boxes and lift heavy items, often working 10-hour shifts and making about $600 a week.

In February 2022, she fractured her knee on the job, which developed into osteoarthritis. She was paid 60% of her normal paycheck while on medical leave. Recovery from the injury took a long time, especially since she faced cancer in her early 30s.

Since her doctor told her not to do physically intensive work, she pivoted to something less demanding. She was unsure how long Amazon's disability payments would last, and gig driving was one of her only options.

She got accepted to DoorDash first in March 2023, followed by smaller apps such as Skipcart and Roadie. She's still waitlisted for Uber Eats and GrubHub nearly two years later due to high saturation. She said she bypassed Walmart Spark's waitlist by putting in her location for a more rural town half an hour away.

When she started, she made about $800 on average, driving when her knee felt good and her kids were cared for, though sometimes she would need to drive with her kids.

From the end of March until the second week of June, she said she wouldn't bring home anything less than $700 a week working full-time. She drove in the mornings while her kids were at school, took a break, then drove for another few hours around dinner. She was consistently getting good orders, including some where she would get $10 to $15 driving just two miles.