Privilege and Choice

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the writing I have been reading lately about motherhood. I love reading mom blogs, and there are so many good (and funny) ones out there. Sometimes, though, I feel like there is a voice missing in all the conversations about PTA fundraising, minivans, tantrums in restaurants, and leaning in and opting out. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was, but something was nagging at me…a little thought in the back of my head that said “This is all awesome, but something is missing.”

And then I read something from Al Jazeera America. Just, go read it right now. (“OMG SHE READS AL JAZEERA SHE MUST BE A TERRORIST” say my Glen Beck-loving readers. Hahahaha, I don’t have any Glen Beck-loving readers.)

This article hit home for me SO much.

Second wave feminists made it possible for middle and upper class women to work outside the home. They got us civil rights, like equal educational opportunity, employment discrimination protections, and rights to fair treatment in the courts. They made it theoretically possible for women to have choices in their lives. And for that, we should be grateful. (Don’t get me started on people who shit on Second Wave feminists for not bringing on a feminist utopia. Have you seen Mad Men? I am glad I’m not living like that, aren’t you? Then thank a feminist.)

But the work left for feminism to do post-second-wave is to make it so that all women have enough economic stability that those choices are no longer just theoretical. So that women really are making choices based on their hearts, not their pocketbooks. Really choosing how to live your life–leaning in or opting out, going to college or going to work, SAHM or in-the-workforce mom–isn’t possible for every woman. Being a 20-year-old low-income mom with two kids? Yeah, your choices are going to be WAY more limited than mine were as a 20 year old, when I had parents able to pay for college, and no children of my own to take care of. I could go to a college back east and spend my free time playing in the pep band and drinking cheap vodka, because there were no kids waiting at home for me.

Which brings me back to that missing voice. I think the mom blogs that get the most attention tend to be women who are at least middle class, women like me who are writing from a place of privilege. Our lives aren’t perfect or easy, but they do give us the freedom to have time to write. And what we write about reflects our lives, as it should–we shouldn’t try to speak for others, that’s a recipe for disaster–and we lead lives where not every opportunity is open to us, but a hell of a lot more of them are than they are for poor women.

There ARE mom bloggers who are poor, but you have to seek them out. I wish the HuffPo’s and Upworthy’s of the world would pick them up more often. I think listening to their voices, understanding the particular flavor of their struggle, is important. And I am going to try to do a better job of sharing them on my Facebook page. To kick things off, check out this awesome blog post from a mom named Tara–it’s an oldie but a goodie.

6 thoughts on “Privilege and Choice

  1. I am a lower income SAHM because it’s more affordable than if I worked. If I got a job where we live, the pay wouldn’t be enough to cover a decent daycare for two kids (one special needs), and if I got one closer to DC, I’d never get to see my family.

    Since I stay at home, I try to teach my kids as much as possible, and I enjoy most of the time that I get to spend with them. I feel terrible when we can’t pay essential bills, but I know that if I worked, the burden would be even worse, or the kids wouldn’t get to see their parents. We have little debt and most of the time, we can barely pay everything. Our kids have plenty of toys and they spend time outdoors, so I don’t think they’ll realize how tight things were when they get older.

    When they’re older and in school for the full day, I plan on returning to work full time, and we won’t feel this crunch anymore.

  2. Well, first off, don’t make too many assumptions about your readership. šŸ˜‰ I personally like Glen Beck, but that doesn’t mean I don’t agree with at least some of what you said here. I certainly would be interested in reading blogs written by lower-income moms, because I do enjoy learning about other people’s perspectives. I also agree that for many women, choosing to stay home is not really a “choice”. And I do think that is really unfortunate, but I don’t have the answers as to what to do about it. My 2 kids are in daycare, but we can barely afford it on 2 engineers’ salaries, and we actually switched daycares at one point because the one we started at was so expensive that it wouldn’t have made sense for us both to work anymore. At the same time, I do feel that some women have made their choices in other ways, and they need to live with the consequences. Having children at 20, or having more children when you can’t afford the ones you already have, are choices too. I went out of my way to avoid having children until I could afford them, which meant I didn’t have them until my mid-thirties. Anyways, I would definitely be interested to read the perspectives of these women and understand more about how they live and how they came to be in their situation.

    1. Melissa,

      I have two children that we can barely afford right now. The first was born when I had a job that paid very well. She was a NICU baby and I had an additional hospital stay not long after she was born, but we managed to make everything work. The grant that allowed me the job was not renewed, and I had trouble finding something else. It was okay, though, because we were able to just barely make it on my husbands income.

      Eventually I found a low paying job that I hated. I worked, and put my daughter in daycare… then I found another good job (grant funded) that lasted for about a year. Shortly after I found that job, I found out about the unexpected baby. We worked and saved as much as possible (including me getting another job at a hospital), but I went into preterm labor at my hospital job and was put on bedrest for the last few months of pregnancy.

      I ended up losing both jobs. The good job because funding ran out, and the hospital job because I’d only been there 3 weeks before I had to go on bedrest. I wasn’t there long enough to be covered by FMLA, and I was still in a probationary period.

      I work in public health, which is frequently grant funded, so I am taking this time to expand my skill set in hopes of finding something else. We do not qualify for most benefits because my husband works… I’ve been told before that if I was a single parent, I’d qualify. Our kids are covered under CHIP, which is basically medicaid with small copays for up to about 45k in income for a family of 4.

      1. This is a great response, Nik. I feel like many people are quick to judge and assume that because someone is in a tight situation they must have been irresponsible. Sometimes shit happens–even to the hard-working, planning and “prepared” … none of us is immune.

        I feel immediate outrage when I hear people start in with the “poor shaming and blaming” that has become such a popular trend: If you’re in a difficult situation, it must be your fault somehow. Clearly you’ve done something to bring the hardship on yourself. …. Or, how about “NO!” Sometimes, no matter how much you try, bad things happen to good people.

        Yours is a perfect example of incredibly responsible and thoughtful choices to difficult situations that were thrust upon you. Kudos.
        Jen @ Real Life Parenting recently posted…Trick-or-Treat Turns Troublesome in TargetMy Profile

  3. So I’ve been thinking a lot about this too, but in a different way. Before thing two came along, I read a lot of the mom blogs. And then when we discovered thing two’s special needs, I abandoned these blogs, thinking “These people are nothing like me. They have no idea.” And then, I kind of realized something – for every time I look at someone and say “they don’t know how lucky they have it. They have no idea,” there are ten people looking at me like that.

    Which is why embracing diversity is a good thing šŸ™‚

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