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Living privileged lives - Page 2

post #21 of 34
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Alenushka View Post

I do not think one needs to travel abroad to see poverty. There is plenty here.


If you want your kids to realize how privileged they are, make them pay for some of the things themselves . You said they are swimming in cash.

Better yet, make them quiet the jobs they do not need, so some low income kid can get it instead and help her family pay the rent. Your kids can volunteer somewhere.


Ouch. Really?


We have a much stronger social safety net, so I don't think there's nearly as much abject poverty in our country as in the US. Sure, there's poverty, but compared to what my daughter experienced in rural Myanmar it's on a completely different plane. Poor here includes universal medicare, universally available K-12 schooling, housing assistance, income assistance, the security of basic human rights, a transparent political system, freedom from armed conflict, and so on. I'm not trying to minimize the challenges of being a poor Canadian. But ... well, travel still puts a very different lens on our first-world privilege.


In our family we parents pay for basic clothing, food, shelter, and education (defined broadly, in the unschooling sense) from 0-18. But they pay for most of the discretionary things, beyond the basics. My eldest has paid all her college tuition so far with a combination of savings/investments, scholarships and employment income, and things are looking good for this upcoming year as well. We live simply and our kids are not showered with frivolous consumer goods. They haven't been given vehicles, or gaming systems, or cellphones, or computers. They've bought some of this stuff for themselves, typically after years of savings, but we're still a family without a lot of the typical "stuff." The kids are still video-game free and cellphone free, we're driving a 19-year-old minivan, have no Netflix, etc. etc.. 


My kids are flush with cash in that they currently have more income than they've ever had - because they have jobs that they applied for with good resumes and strong interview skills, and have worked hard at. This is a community with a lot of summer employment for teens and there are more jobs than kids to fill them. My kids are considered reliable good workers, so they have tended to be recruited by the more pro-active employers. But wow, I can't imagine encouraging them to quit their first jobs as some sort of life lesson. What kind of strange message would that send? How employable would they be in future if that was the upshot of their first job? Their employers would be angry, they would likely struggle to find replacement employees. 


Do you really think that quitting a job is a good way for kids to appreciate their relative level of privilege in the world? Is throwing away one's privilege the only way to understand it? I'm willing to entertain that idea: that it is futile to try to understand privilege whilst one maintains it. But I'm not yet convinced that it really does the world much good on balance to throw away one's privileges. Ideally I'd like to find a way for my kids to gain enough understanding of privilege to want use their privilege for good, non-exploitatively, to try to make a better world. 



post #22 of 34

I am sorry. I did not realize you live in civilized country. I live in US where poverty is very different form Canada.


People who are lucky to get food stamp are supposed to live on $3 day. We have many people without any health care at all and they die on the daily basis. School in poor districts look like something our the dystopian nightmare and have 50% drop out rate.


Honestly, next time you do not feel like going to Myamar, just come over here.



I grew up in Soviet Union and my childhood was the type that gives gentle readers form the first world countries  PTSD and forces them to the support groups for the rest of their lives.


 I honestly thinks all that rich person liberal guilt is kind of pointless. What do you want? Seriously, you have good luck, good karma to have good income in the times when economic system all the world are collapsing. I know, you worked hard, your kids work hard, but luck and accident to birth play far higher role in all of that than people ego's are willing to admit.


My son works for awesome start up at the age when most of the kids at in high school. Is my son is a hard working, awesome and smart? He is. But was I little bit poorer or little bit more tired, he would have not spent his summers in awesome computer camps learning C +++ t age 9 and he would not be where he is today.


My other son is doing amazing internship for animal sanctuary. He applies, he has to write and essay and have an interview. He is also awesome and smart. But was I working two jobs and unable to take few week off to drive him back and forth he would not be doing this internship that is teaching him executive skills and eventually will help him to get into college and get a job.


The problem with privilege that is not possible to gain true understanding of it by mommy and daddy taking privileges kids on the poverty tourism expeditions.  You think for your kids to work for free and not being flash with cash and experience difficulties getting a next job would be wrong message and bad idea. Well, from a practical point of view it would be. I am sure being  privileged they would not agree to it. I would not either. I wouldn't want that for my kids. One has to loose the privilege and really live the life without out to grasp it. I grew up poor  and so I completely understand the privilege of my lower middles class American existence.


I know of only one case where someone was able to really grasp his privilege before voluntarily letting go of it. His name was Prince Siddhartha .



You are good person and good mom but let your children be. It is time to let go.  Life is hard enough . At some point we all privileged if not with money then with health, or personal relathionships ,and at one point we all loose it.  Suffering is universal.  Your children will experiences it as well. Rejoice in the fact hat right now things are good and they are good.    I understand the maternal desire to give children everything but some thing they have to get entirely on their own.

post #23 of 34
Thread Starter 

Originally Posted by Alenushka View Post

Honestly, next time you do not feel like going to Myamar, just come over here.

We didn't send her to Myanmar to help her understand her privilege. We sent her there because friends were going, and she was invited along, and we wanted her to have an experience away from home and family, and we knew it was one that would open her eyes to other ways of living and being, to other cultures and languages and religions, to other geographic parts of the world. Privilege isn't something I obsess over. Someone else raised it in another thread, and it got me thinking, in light of my kids' recent increase in income. As I said above I want them to understand enough about their privilege that they don't develop a sense of entitlement, but rather a sense of the moral duty to use that privilege for good. 



post #24 of 34

Miranda, you do a great job articulating the way I feel about this situation.


Alenushka, I agree that we do have plenty of poverty in the US and one doesn't have to travel if they want to see misery. I grew up in poverty, though not in an urban setting, so perhaps we were spared from some of the misery you describe. That said, we don't travel to "see the poor," or on service-related trips at this point. I mentioned I was a Peace Corps Volunteer; that was a two-year commitment as a young person, rather than tourism. My point, I suppose, is that this is the life we are in right now, one in which we are traveling a great deal (for work), and I want my kids exposed to what exists everywhere we go, not just the photos from the Ministry of Tourism. And to remember that people are struggling everywhere, and to try to remember as they grow, to be a positive part of others' experience.


I don't think it's a liberal guilt thing, but more an awareness and empathy I want my kids to have, to keep in mind the many and varied obstacles that exist for people to improve their conditions. To be helpful and kind in general, and not make assumptions about people. For example, had someone stepped in to help fund your kid's programming camp experience, or to provide the transportation your other child needs, that would help lighten your load, even in just small ways.


I have no guarantees that my kids will afford college, especially in today's financial climate. I can't guarantee they will be great entrepreneurs and not someday struggle. I don't like the thought, but truth is we are not above falling from the precarious position we are right now so privileged to have. I'd hope that my kids would come to understand, too, should their fortunes not be so great, that just as success is sometimes a thing outside us, so is failure.


And still, yes. I want them to have the compassion within them not to ignore the plea of someone who needs help. To help others when they can, in small ways or big ones.


I just found out that our next trip to see our African relatives will likely involve our working the entire time on a construction project, fixing a house and installing a toilet facility. I could have canceled and left it to dh to do without us, but instead I am going forward and involving the kids in the work. We have a lot to learn in the experience, and many hands make light work.

post #25 of 34
In our family we parents pay for basic clothing, food ..... We live simply and our kids are not showered with frivolous consumer goods.


Yes, for the basics you mention, there is a lot of scope for ensuring fair wages, working conditions, production standards and business practices that move in the direction of greater equality or greater inequality.  


Just finding out where the food comes from, who makes the clothes, how, etc and finding food and clothes made in a way that ensures food and clothing and shelter and dignity for all rather than widening the gap between haves and have nots is itself quite a life-changing exercise.


Present company excepted, many people look to do some charity work with their extra money rather than examining the choices they make with their basic money, and what kind of world that is creating.  


slightly tangential but may be of interest: 


The Charitable-Industrial Complex - NYTimes.com

post #26 of 34

rumi, thank you for the link. I can't imagine how it feels to be in his shoes, but I think a lot of the conversations about "development" are a lot like those about "democracy." There's one right way; it comes from here. Frustrating.

post #27 of 34

Reading this thread, I finally thought I'd share my story, or one part of it.


I spent 4 years hitchhiking around the country, much of that using no money, most of it simply not having it.  Another 2 years living outside.  It was a humbling experience.  My main privilege was that I was not mentally ill.  Seriously!  This represents the main delineation of those on the streets.  It is heartbreaking some of the cities I visited and the friends I made to see people so sidelined merely by mental illness and a society ill-eqipped to deal with it in the long term.


The second "privilege", if you can call it that, was not being a substance abuser.  Most that I met were first and foremost mentally ill, then they might be an alcoholic or drug addict on top of that.  Very few I met were on the streets just because they fell into abuse.  Usually it started somewhere else.


I also had the distinct "privilege" of not having been abused myself, either as a child or as an adult.  


Finally, I had the "privilege" of being born a white woman in America.  I only had a high-school education, but I also have the "privilege" of having been a good student, and sounded well educated.  Both reinforced that this time of my life truly was a choice.  It is unfortunate that these things are still considered a privilege--meaning a societal advantage, since we have no true "privilege" in the original sense of the word, either in regards to "caste" or true "class" and certainly not one written into law anymore, thankfully (though we could argue about immigration, etc. and I recognize that it's a squashier issue than all this.....anyway............)


What I learned from the experience: every one of these people have a story to tell, that the poorest among them were the most generous, often spending nearly all their SSI check on food for feasts to feed whole groups of people.  When the manna came from heaven, it was shared, not hoarded.  The people we met who had the luck to (temporarily sometimes) have a home were the most likely to share it with you.  They had less to share, but they shared more easily.  Why?  These people still counted themselves lucky to be where they were, however humble, because not long ago they had even less.  They were no longer afraid to open their hearts and hands because they saw much worse and survived-- the fear of having less no longer was as pressing.


What I want to teach my kids: needs and wants.  What it is that is truly needed, not just what is certainly nice to have.  We talk about this quite a bit.  I don't know that they need such an experience that I had.  I do think, though, that the most valuable thing I walked away with was not an appreciation of my privilege (a nice perspective, but not paramount) but a first-hand appreciation of the humanity in all of society-- any preconceptions of "other" were profoundly challenged if not changed permanently.  I met people of all income levels and all walks of life, and I always found that binding experience, regardless of our privileges, opinions and education.  Granted, the people I met were the people that willingly opened their hearts, wallets, cars and homes for us, and that skews my viewpoint a bit.  But I will say that those people were not the normally the ones with the nicest cars, the nice homes, the degrees.  How to interpret that?  Maybe those people gave in other ways-- ways that were indirect, or just not me personally, I'll never know.

post #28 of 34



Great thread.

post #29 of 34

For World Breastfeeding Week, I posted a blog about some ways climate change and breastfeeding are linked.  I saw this thread this afternoon and felt that it fit with my feelings about how many parts of parenting are supported by the privileges of time and space - living here in the western US.  The link to the blog is here: www.babysdailywork.blogspot.com.   In environmentally, economically, and socially resilient communities we are not yet as highly impacted by climate change (lack of clean water, outbreaks of disease, conflict, stress); however, we have contributed the most to climate change over the past 35 years.  It is an issue of social justice and particularly toward nursing mothers and children in places that are much less resilient.


Something I didn't raise in the blog post but wanted to mention here is what I learned in an online course in global poverty: those of us living in "developed" countries have many decisions made for us, and we don't even think about the many choices we criticize or puzzle over as being ones we simply haven't confronted.  For example, our financial institutions are regulated widely, so while we can choose which bank or credit union we prefer, all will operate under similar regulations and offer certain benefits of security and compensation.  (Even if they are malfunctioning sometimes!!)  Also, we don't decide where to source our water, in general.  It comes from a municipal source, which is part of a plumbed system.  It has additives, often.  We don't choose those.  So many, many choices that we'd have to make (do I use this iodine capsule?  do I give my money to x, y, or z lender at the end of the day? should I wash my clothes and direct my sewage into the river where we also collect drinking water?)  These aren't our moral choices, and we have no moral high ground on these issues, yet we frequently blame or decry the choices of those who have no infrastructure to make those choices for them.  Now that is a privilege issue!  

post #30 of 34

We are too poor to travel, but privilege is something we talk about on a daily basis.


We are incredibly poor. I believe in "making do" and I don't believe in having more than I need. I don't judge others or what they do. I know that what I do is super abnormal and I don't say it to try to sound self-righteous, just answering the question. This is how we do it.


So yes, we are very, very poor. Only my husband works and he does not make much at all. I choose not to work. I could get a job and put my children in school or daycare, but I believe in my lifestyle and choose poverty because I know that even though we have so little, we are wealthy by world standards. So these are some ways in which I teach my children how much they have. It really is integrated into our lifestyle.


1. We listen to the news every morning. I turn on NPR and we listen while we have breakfast. My daughter asks questions and we talk about what is going on and why. I am careful to tell her about why there are problems in the world and how lucky we are to live somewhere that is safe and healthy.


2. We do not buy things we do not need. My daughter is five now and old enough to know that we don't buy things we don't absolutely need. We don't go to a store unless there is an item that we have to have. We don't "shop." Shopping is for when you have a plan and we try to find a way to make do without it first. We also periodically get rid of things we no longer use.


3. We have a garden. I like my children to know how much time and effort goes into producing the food that they eat. When there is not enough rain and we have to water the garden, I explain how lucky we are to live in a place with water, how some people don't have enough to grow food.


4. We only get new things at Christmas. We are atheist, but still celebrate Christmas as a time of joy and giving, even if it's not about faith for us. All year long, my children do not get anything at all. This leads me to make Christmas a really special affair. Many parents say that they don't like to give their children lots of presents at Christmas but because we don't get anything all year long, we really go all-out. In the days before Christmas, I tell my children that we have to get rid of our old things. Not everything, just the things that we have outgrown or no longer use. The more my children give away, the more new presents they can have. I work on the side making toys, doing graphic design, babysitting, etc. and save every penny all year long. This lets me buy very nice things for my children. I may not buy a lot of items, but what I get is really special. Waldorf toys and wooden toys, natural products, etc. I teach my children that we don't just get everything we want all the time. There is a lesson in abstaining from retail therapy. Once a year is all we need. (We don't do presents at birthdays. We do cake, a mylar balloon, a party - where friends to bring a few small gifts - and I take the kids to a local bounce-house place for a few hours which is super fun.)


5. Whenever I need something, I try to make it first. I am teaching my daughter to make her own things out of old things or repair them if we can instead of buying cheap new products. Often, we make do or do without.


6. We stress taking care of what we have. A lot of parents are more lenient and let some things get destroyed, but I am firm on keeping what we own in nice shape. My kids are not allowed to color on their toys or tear them apart. We keep our things nice so they retain their value and we will always be able to enjoy them and when we are finished with them, someone else can enjoy them. I take off their clothes when they eat (we live in Hawaii so it is warm) so that nothing gets stained. I care for everything, even down to the least significant possessions. I can sell them when we are finished with them and the money goes back into getting new things that we need.


7. We always obtain used items first. I don't believe in buying something new if someone has a perfectly good used one we can get. It's difficult sometimes, but it does save money in the end.


8. Our entertainment is usually free. I like to foster joy in things like play, parks, reading (library books), games, learning, the beach, etc.


9. We don't watch television. I feel as though TV paints an inaccurate portrayal of "normal." Everything on TV is brand new and shiny and I find it makes the watcher feel as if they need to live up to those unrealistic standards. It's okay to be a little shabby as long as you have everything you need.


10. We watch documentaries about life in other countries. Netflix is, unfortunately, the closest thing we can get to being able to travel. :)

post #31 of 34
Originally Posted by kathymuggle View Post


Great thread.

Agreed. I'm not sure how to deal with this myself yet, but I am working on it.
post #32 of 34
Wow! So much to be admired in these posts and their differing ideals and backgrounds.

Such an interesting coincidence that I've just listened to a podcast called "Philosophize This" discussing Aristotle and his recipe for living well- vigor, vitality, and health. I couldn't help but see how these things are an incredible struggle for so many in the world.

I am so inspired, especially, by amberskyfire's post and her lifestyle.

I don't have quite the socioeconomic privileges of Moominmama, but I am consistently awed by the way her family loves their lives. I think it's wonderful that their privileges allow for such firsthand experiences.

I also greatly enjoyed Sweetsilver's account of her 2 years of self-imposed poverty to gain experiential insight to others less fortunate.

I am struggling with some pretty vast consumerism in my son lately, and am always trying to find balance between indulging and denying his endless material desires. We try to make what we can within the scope of having a toddler and homeschooling- makes growing food and building/creating things so challenging. I try to buy used from thrift stores as much as possible, but see the value in buying new items for the sake of longevity and warranty (such as our bicycles, car, appliances). I crave opportunities to be of service to those in need, be they friends, neighbors, homeless, etc. But there are pretty much no opportunities that I've found where children their age are allowed or appropriate. I feel that in a few more years, our opportunities will be more available, and hope to eventually involve them in Food Not Bombs and Habitat for Humanity. I give some of our snacks to beggars at stoplights when I can, and occasionally even think to make extra food just for such occasions. The kids notice and ask questions and we talk about it.

Thanks for this wonderful thread and all the thoughtfulness you've all contributed. So much to keep in mind and ponder. smile.gif
post #33 of 34

This thread really resonates with me because I feel so strongly that our attitude -- our decision regarding whether to see ourselves as privileged and in a position to give something to others, or "crapped upon" to the point where life just sucks and we should never even try to give to others -- plays a huge part in how we experience life. And it's been depressing to me that an important person in my life seems to veer so extremely toward the other end of the spectrum in his attitudes.


For the past few years, I've worried because dd1, who is now 13, seemed to identify so closely with this person and she'd often accuse me of not really being able to see reality. I didn't know how to communicate with her that I just see a different reality than this other person does. I mean, I tried to explain where I was coming from, but I agree with those who've said that there are some things our children just have to learn and decide for themselves.


Recently, I was greatly encouraged to see dd start developing her own opinion about friendship. One of this influential person's favorite lines is "Friends are overrated." In other words, people can and do hurt us so let's just not let anyone get that close. A few weeks ago, dd was badly hurt by one of her friends, and I was impressed to see her willingness both 1) to allow herself to cry and feel the full extent of her emotions, rather than just automatically transforming all the hurt into anger, and 2) to resolve that she had to keep on getting out there and taking the risk of opening herself up to new people, and not just withdraw.


Even more recently, she shared about another hurtful incident with me, but mentioned that she didn't want this other person to know about it because of what he'd say and how upset he'd be about her being hurt.


I think the willingness to take risks and give of ourselves to others comes from an inner sense that we are really rich and can "afford" to do so. It really has very little to do with monetary privilege. We are currently very poor, at least by U.S. standards, and I'm not ashamed to ask for and receive help when we need it, but I also feel like we have a lot to give. And I love that phrase "give forward," and the more we are given, the more eager I feel to pass it along as we see a need and are able to respond to it.


And if there's a potluck, I like to bring a dish of whatever I can make. If we stayed home we'd still be eating something, right?, so why not just bring a little something to share and enjoy the fellowship with others?


Now, if the people organizing the potluck say, "There'll be plenty of food so please come even if you can't bring anything," and things are kind of tight for us at the moment, I'm okay with going empty-handed and just enjoying one meal that we don't have to think about -- but I never want to communicate the idea to my children that we don't have anything to give. We're all privileged just to have each other and warm sunshine and air and water.


I'll admit that I haven't yet learned how to communicate this concept with my daughters without really annoying at least my oldest, but I think it's really a case of actions speaking louder than words.

post #34 of 34
I feel like I really have learned a lot from reading this thread, thank you.

My kids are pretty little (oldest is 7) so my approach has been what I think is appropriate for them. My priority as a parent is to build good character in my kids. I have thought a lot about how to foster empathy and an appreciation for their rich blessings, and I really think the key is practicing a habit of gratitude. We have done this a LOT through sharing what we are grateful for and doing gratitude challenges. We also practice service - first within the home then, as they've gotten older, in the community. They have discovered for themselves the joy in serving others. There are SO many opportunities to serve right where we live. I feel like they are really getting it. We read a lot and our 'school' stories (my oldest is homeschooled) focus on building those character values. Which in many cases involves dealing with adversity. We also have done an 'adopt a child' sort of program at a specific Ugandan children's home that our church partners with, and they have gotten to see a lot of photos and videos from Uganda, showing the good and the not so good conditions the kids have lived in. I feel like, at their young ages, these things have helped build a good foundation for increased education and service opportunities as they get older.
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