Your Privilege is Showing
I am sick of the mommy wars. The “my way is the best and look how great I am as a parent” posts on Facebook. The absolute “I would never…” statements that end with: feed my baby formula, let my toddler watch TV, use a disposable diaper, eat a GMO, feed my kids processed food, etc. And worse, the comments that imply or outright state that if you do those things you are a bad parent.
Most of the people who make these statements are coming from a place of privilege. Not recognizing that for many there is a gap between what is ideal and what is possible. That gap is filled with a variety of barriers – time, money, ability, support, education, home life, health, willingness to endure hardship, pain or discomfort. Sometimes it is impossible for someone to overcome all of those barriers. And sometimes one person’s definition of ideal is different from yours.
The fact that someone can achieve the ideal can probably be more highly correlated with a variety of factors beyond their control – the family and community into which they were born, their income, home life, proximity to family or other support systems, access to education, access to transportation, health, employment status, ability to stay home or afford child care, their child’s health, etc – than their prowess as a parent.
If you can achieve the ideal, great. That’s awesome. Unless, of course, you use that fact to shame others. In that case, fuck you.
Often, statements of privilege are made carelessly or with a misguided desire to “help” others, but today I read a blog that went one step further – Why Do Your Kid’s Allergies Mean My Kid Can’t Have a Birthday? I admit – she got me. I clicked on the link, curious about how she might answer the question. And, then, like many asinine things on the internet, it made me so furious that I was compelled to respond.
In summary, the writer is frustrated with school policies that limit what students can bring for treat days, due to the dietary restrictions and sometimes life-threatening allergies of other students. She doesn’t want her precious snowflake to have to bring or eat processed, store-bought treats because little Johnny or Sally might get sick or die. In her perspective, this will ruin her child’s birthday. What the actual fuck?
Basically – If it doesn’t impact me personally, why should I care?
What a selfish mentality. What a terrible example for her children. She probably would have a different opinion if her kids were the ones with life-threatening food allergies and could die if a parent forgets or makes a mistake. Or if her kids came home in tears because they had to sit out of food day because gluten or eggs causes them tummy troubles. Policies weren’t created to inconvenience her, they were created to protect kids.
One of the basic foundations of society and community is caring about others. Empathy goes a long way. The ability to walk in someone else’s shoes and try to understand their experience is something we should all try to have and teach our children. Also, we should try to recognize our privilege, especially when it colors our attitudes or treatment of others. Even if you don’t personally benefit from them, you can still support the programs, systems, institutions and policies that enable others to be healthy, strong and productive or protect them from harm.
I personally am not currently living in poverty. I have a great job, housing, access to healthy food, a car, health insurance, a graduate degree. I am privileged. I am fortunate. I am lucky. And I know it. I also have devoted my career to help break down the barriers others face in accessing those things.
I am not saying that everyone should devote their life to serving others…on second thought, that would be fucking fantastic! However, if you can’t, try a little empathy and a little perspective.
Your kid’s ability to bring cupcakes to school is not greater than the school’s interest in protecting kids from harm. It’s just not. Let’s not teach our next generation to be selfish and to take their good fortune for granted. Let’s teach them to care about each other and use their privilege to help others.
And Ms. Hoskisson, here’s some unsolicited advice – Why don’t you celebrate your child’s birthday at home with a glorious homemade, organic, GMO-free cake and send fruit cups or fruit roll ups for treat day?
Cute kid image credit: Steph, all rights reserved
Nut free school image credit: Brian Methot