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Monday, August 20, 2012


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I guess Economic Privilege is the big one. We have two good jobs and no debt but house and one car. We were only able to have one child. This means I don't really have to think of costs like a larger family surely does when it comes to wants and needs. We are very fortunate to have all of our needs covered, and enough of our wants. We do work on saying "enough" to our daughter a lot. I firmly believe everybody needs to have some of their wants met to feel like the struggles are worth it. But I think trying to satisfy every want is very unhealthy, for lots of negative lessons it teaches. And yes, I know that it's even a privilege to consider how many wants to fill, when some people cannot even meet their needs. It makes me think I have Gratitude Privilege, because it is very easy to list all that I am thankful for, from a place of no needs unmet.

Celeste, I'm fascinated by the idea of Gratitude Privilege! I think you're right - just having our needs met in a way that allows us energy left over to contemplate our blessings is surely a privilege in itself.

Now that the Boys are grown, I have Compatible Children Privilege. They like being around each other, and I never, ever take that for granted.

Yup, I've got those good logistics privileges: health insurance, really good doctors, basically any material possession I want, a retirement plan that was fairly effortless on my part, etc.

I have access to tons of really great restaurants and good food sources. My life would be sad if I didn't have regular and easy access to some Pad Thai and Trader Joe's. (I initially wrote OR, but no, I need both Thai food AND TJ's for happiness.)

I also have singles privilege: I make my decisions for myself knowing that it won't impact any one else, like going back to grad school. I can go to bed at night smelling like a chemical minefield with some scary hair courtesy of acne meds and protecting hair from the bleaching effect.

I go to work at a company with incredible benefits and I share working space with someone who entertains me on a regular basis.

I have a college degree. I never usually think of this as a privilege because it's just something that I did, but only 30% of adults in the US have one and it opens doors. I hadn't done a lot of thinking about that until a few weeks ago when helping a friend look for a job and he doesn't have one.

I have the privilege of feeling guilty over all of the things I do have.

Privileges I notice in others:

People who can travel for work and have a spouse at home so they don't have to empty the fridge, worry about plants, wonder if that leak over the front window was repaired when it rains while you're away, etc.

People who don't travel for work and can have dogs (I could have a cat, but I'm allergic.) (And cats are evil.)

People without seasonal allergies and can breath through their noses all year long without incident or illness.

The one I notice a lot is House Privilege---I notice it for me, and for other people not noticing. I started noticing it, I think, when people were freaking out about me expecting twins, and everyone assumed we'd have to move. But not only didn't I think we needed to move, I often think about how in other places, where families are lucky if they have a single sheltered room, our house would be considered plenty of room for, say, eight families. Maybe more. It's small for our family size in THIS country, but HUGE for our family size in other countries, or in this country at other times. Thinking about this makes me feel lucky and luxurious. Look at all our ROOMS!

Thanks for writing this, Arwen. It's good to shift my perspective. You see, I'm single, kidless, and unemployed, three things I do not want to be. I find myself slipping into the Comparing Game a lot lately.

BUT! There are many incredible blessings in my life that I often forget to focus on in the face of the louder needs. I have an amazing family, most of whom live within minutes of me, and I am ever grateful for the fact that they are the kind of people I WANT to have living within minutes of me. I have weathered this year of unemployment far better than seems reasonable and am in no more debt than I was a year ago. And I have remained healthy, which is a double blessing since I have been without insurance for so long. And there are so many more that I won't burden your comments with. So thanks for reminding me of how privileged I truly am.

I've got an abundance of privileges. I try not to take them for granted. Mine are financial, good husband, strong marriage, healthy family, big car - big enough for all 5 kids and disinterested mother-in-law (we seriously do not get along and if she were interested, I'd have to see her a lot and it would be ugly. Very ugly.)
I also currently have singleton privilege, but since I also have a set of twins, I would never, ever, ever take it for granted. I do think my singleton privilege is somewhat cancelled out by having 4 other kids. Large families are both a privilege and a hardship sometimes.
The one that is often overlooked by others and tends to drive me nuts is the lack of gratitude. You know, people who have lots of privileges and do nothing to give back. That really bothers me. I am a firm believer in that when you are blessed you should be an agent to bless others.

Please, Arwen, mothers of triplets are envious of your twin privilege. You only have TWO BABIES. ;)

We definitely have economic privilege. I notice that a lot. We don't overspend or spend beyond our means, but our means are generous and if we want something, we get it. I appreciate that a lot. It also allows me to be generous and I love that.

And in part because of my economic privilege, I have many others. I am at SAHM because I want to be, our insurance is awesome (my injectable medicine for this pregnancy costs more than $1000 a month and I pay $0 out of pocket. $0. I see a high risk specialist for an ultrasound and a non stress test once a week and that only costs me $20 a time. I am so, so grateful for our insurance.) I don't budget our groceries and right now I am eating takeout because I am sick and didn't feel like cooking. We have two cars and don't have to worry about gas. (Which is why I give strangers gas money when they ask me for it, since I have never in my life not been able to pay for gas when I needed it. Shout out to Miriel!)

I am envious of people with Easy Child privilege. Elizabeth is the best kid ever, but she is very difficult even for me to handle and I have 20 years childcare experience and a psychology degree. (Grateful for my degree and lack of student loans.) So many people with easy kids have no idea how good they've got it and they think THEY are 100% responsible for it.

I'm also jealous of people with When Pregnancies. They say "when I get pregnant and when I have a baby" and I say if. Even at eight months, I am not convinced that this pregnancy will result in a take-home baby. This is probably my biggest jealousy and most of my others are wistful wishing.

I'm also envious of people with regular job privilege. My husband's job is horribly stressful and has long hours and very little vacation time. It's also never really stable, simply because of the company he works at and how they operate. So all of that stress does affect our family and what we want to do.

On an everyday basis, even though there are a few things I would change if I could, I feel extremely grateful. And I almost always do a good job of recognizing it. Or at least I feel that way.

It's funny how something can be both a privelege and a disadvantage. I have only-child privelege. It means that I have more free time and less multi-tasking than the average mother (and I love, love, love the one-on-one time that I have with my son). It also means that I suffer with tremendous guilt over my son's lack of a sibling, I spend lots of time and energy facilitating a social life for him, and I am hyper-focused (more than I should be and more than is good for him) since I don't have other kids to divide my attention. But, I also love the gratitude privelege, and I think the key to contentment is to focus on what we have rather than comparing ourselves to others. Easier said than done, but I'm working on it.

Sorry for spelling privilege wrong.

I notice the economic privilege the most. We have two cars, a nice house, I can afford to stay home, etc, etc, etc. all needs easily met, and many wants. Insurance Privledge too-thank god for that! Life is SO MUCH easier with financial security and good health insurance. I know, b/c my godsons and their mom have neither. I miss the pregnancy Privledge- after 2 easy pregnancies, we lost one and are having trouble getting pregnant again. I appreciated the ease of wih my first two at the time, but more now, I think. Racial, definately. The only time I have EVER been treated as out of place was whn I was with a black friend. Being white and middle class,
I am treated different in a myriad of ways.

I've only ever heard of privilege in terms of economic privilege or white privilege. This is a whole new world of possibility.

Though, without great health insurance or well-paying jobs (which cause the lack of access to comprehensive health insurance), I had a hard time reading all these comments without getting a tiny bit jealous! ;)

But, seriously, we have No Debt Privilege (woo!) thanks to only having one car and helpful parents in college and a serious penny-pinching. Most of Mike's classmates are single and childless and still take out loans on top of the stipend they already get. Eep.

Relatedly, I have Parents Who Taught Me About Personal Finance Privilege. And Parents Who Read to Me and Cared About my Education Privilege.

I have Awesome Spouse Privilege (not to be confused as Never Disagree Spouse Privilege ;)). As well as Awesome Family Privilege - we both get along with our siblings super well and they are all so wonderful.

Okay, this is getting a little out-of-hand. I must stop myself.

We don't currently have economic privilege, but we have had it in the past, and I'm guessing I'll appreciate it more next time we do have it. That said, I'm privileged in MANY other ways.

Family privilege. We are currently living with my parents while Brian finishes his degree. I am eternally grateful that they were willing (happy even) to take us in while he does this. It means no rent/utility bills/groceries/etc. There is no way he could be a full time student if they hadn't been willing to do this. (Also, privileged to have parents who can afford this!)

Easy children privilege. We work a lot on discipline with our kids, but we definitely can't take all the credit. They are good natured, get along well, and self entertain a lot. I appreciate this every day.

Two car privilege. I know many families who make it work with one, and I'm so glad we don't have to.

Awesome husband privilege. I'm like you- I could go on and ON about all the things he does. Suffice it to say he's a great husband and father.

Something I'll call Perspective Privilege. For this I'm talking about Daniel. I know many parents feel incredibly sad about having a baby with Down syndrome and take a long time to adjust to that reality. My beliefs and perspective allowed me to skip over most of that and feel incredibly blessed to have him. ALSO, having him in our lives has changed my perspective on some things, for the better.

One of the big ones I notice that other people take for granted is kids who will sleep in. Kalena is up by 6 am 99% of the time. She often wakes up around 5. If she sleeps until 6:45 that's REALLY LATE. I'm a morning person, but before 6 am is early, even for me.

Another one I notice is ease of breastfeeding. I want to nurse my babies, but it is a SERIOUS struggle for me. I envy women who have no trouble. (I say this even as I recognize what a pain it must be to have a baby who won't take a bottle.)

Okay, I'll stop now!

I used to be aware of privilege, things like my parents making decent amounts of money, having health insurance, eating take-out for lunch at work, etc, but recent (in the past few years) injuries have given me an entirely different perspective on privilege. I want to go back in time and tell my younger self to run, play sports, hike, walk everywhere, while I still could. I have been incredibly humbled by the resulting arthritis and have much more compassion for the elderly now!

We spent the weekend at an old friend's condo, while back in DC for a wedding (and unable to afford a hotel), and spent a while discussing the strange feeling of being in a relatively upscale home of people the same age as us but much, much, much wealthier (we are both students). All their furniture is one matching set! They have frozen dinners in their freezer! Their parking space is in a private garage next to an elevator which goes right up near their door! But our apartment is home, with all of the mismatched inherited furniture, giant bookcases overflowing with books, and fluffy blankets & hoodies on every available surface. We have the privilege of going to school to do what we WANT to do -- unlike our friends who have 'boring' jobs (their word, not ours, I believe jobs are as boring as one makes them) who complain about their lack of purpose.

I am very grateful for the privilege of having the sweetest dog ever. I can't imagine not being able to have a dog.

I have so much to be grateful for, really, but I think the privilege of having "margins" sums it up best. I have space in my life, in pretty much all areas. Economically, physically, spiritually, in my relationships. When I see people living right on the edge-- whether it's of homelessness, unemployment, illness, divorce--I am reminded how truly blessed I am to have margins. Imperfect as I am, I need it! :-)

My husband and I both have the privilege of education without debt. I paid my way through my undergrad, he had a full scholarship; we had tuition waivers for our master's, and when we took the plunge, took out loans, and moved to Europe to complete our Ph.D.s, we did so knowing our chances of being able to pay the loans back quickly was good, and it was; we paid off everything by 2 years after we'd graduated.

We have the privilege of living in Europe. For two people who love history, travel, and good food, Europe is wonderful.

We have the privilege of being able to travel, much of it for work and hence paid for. I have been all over Europe and much of the rest of the world -- Moscow, Indonesia, India, Australia. And we are privileged indeed that we have a baby that travels well; we just got back from 5 days in Wales, the 11th country our 9 month old has been to.

We have the privilege that when my bike was stolen last week (along with the bike seat for Gwen I'd JUST bought 4 days earlier since she was finally old enough to use one), it was frustrating and unpleasant, but not disastrous (we don't have a car, so our bikes and Gwen's jogging stroller are our primary means of transportation). Though I probably won't get another one until we're back in the States for Christmas, which is irritating, but only that.

We have the privilege of having close knit family of both sides. It's hard having Gwen grow up across the ocean from them, but we also have the privilege of the internet: Skype video calls with Grandma and Grandpa, and a flickr site where friends and family can follow her growth and development in nearly real time. :)

We have the privilege of long-term friendships, people that we met in college 10+ years ago that are still on the "call any time" list.

We're pretty lucky.

Interesting topic, as usual, Arwen! I've been noodling about privilege ever since the 'bubble quiz' was making the rounds on twitter.

Let's see, among others, I've got excellent husband privilege and single child privilege. I've got economic privilege - both my husband and I have well paying jobs that we like. For me, this gives me the security and free time to ponder whether or not I like my job ENOUGH, and that's a privilege in itself.

We have small town privilege - we don't have to worry about traffic, or crime, or any of the urban headaches.

We've both got all the privileges of upper middle class upbringings - college degrees as a matter of course, no debt, worrying only about what we would achieve rather than if.

I'm really taken by the points made about the privilege of deciding which wants to meet as we raise our children - I am not yet sure how to approach this ourselves, but I'm confident that it's going to be important.

Economic privilege is a big one and it's the one I also notice most about others. My husband has a good job, which allows me the privilege of staying home. With his job comes the health insurance privilege, retirement savings privilege and the ability to provide for all of our needs.

In others I'm most acutely aware of their ability to buy whatever they want, whenever they want. Reading certain types of blogs really made me aware of this and (let's be honest) I didn't like the fact that becoming aware of that made it easy for me to forget all that I have.

The economic privilege allowed us to adopt...twice. The first thing I thought of, though, is the infertility privilege. I didn't used to think of this as a privilege, of course. But there's something to be said for the freedom involved in letting go of the fertility dream and being open to what God has called US to do. It also makes openness to life mean something very, very different. We would always welcome a pregnancy, of course. We are also open to the idea that God might bless us with another baby through adoption or foster care. But because of our circumstances, it is not likely, and we don't have to worry over babies coming quickly and unexpectedly. I've had many, many friends with abundant fertility, and some with abundant but not-so-evident fertility that caused many unexpected blessings (and stresses).

First Baby Was Supposed to Die Privilege - It gives you a complete and utter gratitude for EVERY day you get with each of your children when your very first experience of parenthood was one where you expected the lasts to come before you ever got to see any firsts.

I Was Supposed to Die Giving Birth to my 3rd Child Privilege - I know, again with the death...but, honestly? The fact that I'm still breathing and able to get out of bed even when my back hurts and my house is messy is...well...just pretty freaking amazing.

I love this post.

Privileges I have: Awesome Husband, Two Healthy Kids (after infertility and prematurity), Just Enough Income that I can stay at home Crazy-Supportive Faith Community (we got meals and housework help for months after each child was born, a teen still comes weekly to clean for me, and I can call church friends last-minute for any need). I could go on...

Privileges I notice in others:

Husbands who don't travel or have long commutes (mine drives 1.5 hours each way and travels at least one or two nights per week, which makes for a lot of time when I'm home alone with the kids).

Full-term pregnancies. 2+ years after my son was born at 31 weeks, this no longer makes me want to shake whiny 3rd-trimester pregnant women and shout, "You don't know how good you've got it!" But I still definitely think 3rd trimester = privilege.

Helpful Moms. Many of my friends have moms who watch the grandkids, do projects, help around the house, and offer emotional support. Mine doesn't. She's an alcoholic, so she's too unhealthy, unstable, and unaware to be involved in my life the way I see my friends' moms doing.

A couple of hours before I read this, I was working on my grocery list, struggling to get it below the budget for the month. I managed to figure it out, partly by cutting out ice cream. I have sugar and flour and baking cocoa and such on hand, so if I need a sugar fix before September I can always make brownies or something, but I was feeling whiny until it occurred to me that I am already in a pretty elite economic class when I can think, "I cannot afford the dessert I would prefer and must bake a different dessert."

So, I've got the obvious First World Privilege and White Privilege and College-Educated Privilege; I also have adequate shelter and a car (just one, but it meets our needs) and a husband who has a good job and savings that are adequate to tide us through another bout of unemployment if necessary (though I hope it's not).

And right now I have Chidless Privilege; I feel like a bad Catholic enjoying sleeping in and leaving sharp objects out without worrying about people accidentally stabbing themselves, but there you have it. (I'd give it up in a heartbeat, but might as well enjoy it while it lasts, right?)

Right now, I envy people who are debt-free (without student loans, our budget would have a lot more breathing room, but I still wouldn't go back in time and tell my 17-year-old self to go to the state school instead of the private school. For one thing, I met my husband at the private school). I also very much envy people with Singleton Privilege (as opposed to Childless Privilege, not Twin Privilege :)). I guess this is where I should be grateful for First World Medicine and Knowledge of NFP privileges.

Man, now I'm kind of sad. I'm going to have to go leave some sharp objects lying around and then go to bed and sleep all night.

I am glad to know there is someone else whose husband wakes up with the children whenever he can and allows me to sleep. It makes me feel less guilty. (Not that I feel SO guilty; I still sleep and my husband is very much a Morning Person.)

I definitely appreciate my ease of getting and staying pregnant privelege. And breastfeeding privelege - on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being having to bottle feed because breastfeeding proved impossible, I think I have been about a negative 5 with all three children. SO grateful as it was very important to me, which reminds me...

Jealous of women with natural childbirth privelege. I had 3 c-sections, not for lack of trying, and I am just now letting go of the disappointment. It is such a small part of mothering. (As is breastfeeding, but still.)

I definitely have natural childbirth privilege. I've had three home births and with the first the midwives almost didn't make it because I didn't think it hurt enough to be in active labor. They came on time the other two times because I knew it wouldn't hurt until transition.

I also have awesome neighbour privilege. When my husband had these horrible, weird headaches and needed to go to the ER our neighbours stepped right up and took care of our kids at the last minute. Child with a 40 degree fever and no children's tylenol? Just knock at the door upstairs and get some until a pharmacy run is possible.

And speaking of tylenol there's the healthy children privilege. The reason we don't have tylenol? Because it always expires before we can finish it. My three kids have never needed antibiotics (touch wood). I'm so, so grateful for our good health.

We also have walkability privilege. We have one car because that's all we need. We can walk or bike or take public transit to easily get where we need to go. It's awesome because I HATE driving.

The privilege I notice most in others is affordable housing privilege. It costs at least $800,000 to buy a modest, 3 bedroom home in our neighbourhood that doesn't need major renovations. We live in a small (by North American standards) apartment and we're grateful for it because it's a great deal for this city but when I see what other people have and complain about it can be irksome. That said our place is warm, safe, and definitely do-able. We're not living in a garage or homeless so we're very privileged overall.

After reading all these I can say that I definitely have been blessed with full-term pregnancy privilege, ability to breastfeed privilege, brilliant & funny husband privilege, really great health privilege, and since moving to Michigan, awesome parish & abundance of helpful friends privilege. All things so many people pray to have, for sure.

I definitely have been privileged in many ways - being homeschooled, marrying a wonderful man who is also a great daddy, having three safe births, being able to nurse three babies, not struggling with infertility, having an employed husband, being able to afford two vehicles.

I also appreciate single baby privilege, with having only my 15 mo as the baby right now. It's not the same as twins, but my first two were 13 months apart. I vividly recall cluster feeding sessions with the newborn and going to find the toddler and finding him on the table eating butter. It was like twins in some ways (two in diapers, two nursing, two that need almost everything done for them) but different in that one was mobile while the other was a needy newborn.

I think one thing I notice in other people is retired grandparent privilege. Both of my kids grandparents run small scale farms and still have 3-5 kids at home. They're working hard still and while I truly admire them and am happy that they're taking the chance to follow dreams finally...part of me is sad that my kids don't have doting grandparents with lots of free time and disposable income.

Granted, my kids grandparents are close, which is a huge privilege, mine were always a state away, but it still saddens me that they aren't the kind of doting, spoiling grandparents I had, as they're still in the thick of parenting as well as being super busy with the farm stuff.

It's a little hard for me when friends mention their mother flying in to spend the week with them...I realize that it's a big expense and bother and that their mom doesn't get to see her grandkids every week at church like mine...but sometimes it's so hard not to compare and think that would be nicer in some ways. :/

Additional priviledges we may not be aware of:

It is a priviledge to be white. To have people less likely to judge you to be uneducated, ineffective, or dangerous (even subconsciously). It is a priviledge to be white in a country where people are more likely to *assume* you belong here.

It is a priviledge to be straight. To not worry if people will discriminate against you for who you love. To not receive lesser benefits from the government because you love someone of the same gender. It is a priviledge to have society, government and religion recognize your sincere, lifelong commitment as legitimate.

It is a priviledge to be the dominant religion in a country (i.e., Christian). To worry less about your house of worship being burnt to the ground. To worry less about a gunman walking into a worship service.

And apparently it's a privilege to remember how to spell the word correctly in your post the first time around. (Well, perhaps not a privilege. . .) :)

I have the awesome husband privilege - being married to a Godly man who has loved and still loved me through almost 25 years of marriage.

The great children privilege, all of whom were uncertain blessings, especially the youngest who was truly a miracle. The oldest has now reached the age where she is becoming a friend more than a child, and the youngest is entering her teen years without the struggles many have.

The SAHM privilege for many years, and now the privilege of a job that, while it pays poorly and has many frustrations, truly serves children who need me very much.

Finally, and most importantly, the Catholic privilege. No matter what troubles life throws my way, I always have Jesus in the Eucharist. What better privilege can there be?

Privileges I have:

Economic: not completely stable, going through some turmoil, but we have a good foundation to lean on if needed.
Family: our marriage is good, our son is wonderful, etc, etc.
Faith: I, personally have grown a lot more in it the last few years...putting things out there and letting God nudge you or open your eyes is difficult to do but it can bring peace as well.

One you left out, as well as most of the comments here is, being a MOM. Being a stay at home Dad is the hardest thing I have ever done, it's not something we are wired for (and if we were, then you certainly can get in to the nature/nurture argument) and there is a miniscule online support community (and practically none to speak of in real life).

Our culture is still biased against it in many subtle and nearly invisible ways, the pause in conversation when you say what you do is always just great, the looks at the playground (yeah, I'm thinking of you, mean lady at the playground last week) and despite reassurances to the contrary from my wife, it can still eat at the core of my manly being that somehow, someway, I am not providing for my family the "right way".

Okay, enough of that now. Tomorrow I need to help with furniture shopping for someone else and do some baking in my new apron and probably try yet another new recipe for dinner.

I have many of the same privileges listed above, such as the privilege of being born into a caring family, income privilege, and most of the First World privileges. I've also been thinking about my privilege of mobility, both in the immediate physical sense and in the holistic sense. I'm coming off a stretch in which I was traveling every other week for work. I saw so many people who couldn't physically move very well through airports, or who couldn't carry their own luggage. Meanwhile, I can collect my stuff with ease and motor through the terminal like nobody's business. In the holistic sense, I'm free to move anywhere in the country I'd like and my husband would happily go with me.

The privilege that I think I am most envious of is the privilege of being able to ascertain what one wants out of life and then being able to get it with relative ease. For me, what I want that I don't have is a defined professional identity. And at forty and counting, I still can't make up my mind about what I want to be when I grow up.

As usual Arwen, your post gets me thinking.

I can relate to singleton privilege -- when my twins were tiny, I SO used to remember back to how "easy" I had it when I only had one child. And even now, as they're twelve, sometimes I see that singleton privilege. With twins, they always have one another for comparison purposes -- I try mightily not to do it, but boy, they compare, and I think it's especially challenging to help each boy remember how individually awesome he is.

As for the many, many privileges of my life: the good church privilege, the solid family privilege, the great example of my parents on my parenting...the, I'm not sure what I'd call it, maybe the privilege of survival. 2008-2010 were horrendously difficult, challenging years in many ways -- protracted unemployment for my husband, obvious financial concerns, my mom's illness and death, etc. etc. BUT coming through that time, truly being on the other side of a lot of sadness and seeing that I made it (more or less!) intact -- still surrounded by loving family and friends. There's a certain privilege there -- it reminds me of God's strength, my own strength, and the goodness of this day, right now.

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