The Privilege of Opportunity

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In 2009, as a part of my job, I accompanied a summer mission team to the Philippines for ten days. I left the team, they had an additional 5 weeks stay, and headed home alone on a long 30+ hour series of flights home. On the longest leg from Japan to Minneapolis I sat next to a young Filipino woman and her toddler daughter. We ended up chatting for a long time – I learned about how she ended up moving across the globe to live in Minnesota and she heard about my hopes and dreams. I had been in my job for two years and I guess I was feeling restless and wondering what was next (typical young adult, right?). So I shared with her all the things I wanted next. I talked about one day owning my own vintage boutique, I talked about going to grad school for international studies, I day dreamed of becoming a home economics teacher and finally, starting a communal living space for Christians. Her response was simply, “wow, you have a lot of opportunities.” That response, even though I don’t think it was meant to, shut me up very quickly. Having hopes and dreams is not wrong, it’s incredibly good to dream and have goals. And she was correct – I could dream it, pursue it and potentially have any one of those dreams. But what she caused me to realize was that having access and hope to fulfill my hopes and dreams was a privilege – a privilege not many women have. 
Fast forward to yesterday. I have a commute that can be anywhere from 30 – 70 minutes depending on the day in the dense and unpredictable Chicagoland. To pass the time I enjoy listening to podcasts. As a Women’s Ministries worker I like listening to podcasts for Christian women, in fact in my job I host a podcast for women. As I selected yesterday morning episode the episode description ending up being the straw that broke the camels back. Another episode about a mom working from home. The Christian podcast world for women is saturated in this subject. I, as they say, literally COULD NOT. I couldn’t listen to another interview about another privileged experience. Before you go further, I’m not blaming or looking to shame the working from home mom, I’m frustrated that the podcast hosts seem to almost exclusively interview women of this description. Here’s an example of possible life descriptors:

  • Church planters wife
  • mother of 3-4 kids
  • mommapreneur
  • blogger turned author

And I’m sure now you can think of a few more to add to this list.
Am I saying their stories and experiences shouldn’t be shared? Am I saying their experiences are not valuable and significant? No, I’m not. I’m saying these experiences are privileged and do not represent the majority of Christian women and we cannot only highlight and feature these types of stories and women. (See the story of the Widow’s Offering in Mark 12:41-44 to remember the significance of all women’s contribution being valuable – not just the perceived ideal women.) There are just as many women that are of the following life descriptors:

  • Single
  • Married without children
  • Wives with spouses, spouses that are not able to be the financial load-bearer
  • Widows
  • Women just trying to make ends meet and survival is the highest goal

Again, I’m sure now you can think of a few more to add to this list.
In my fed-upness (that’s a word, right?) I posted the following status on Facebook:

“I can’t hear another Christian podcast for women that is about a mom working from home. I just can’t. ‪#‎christianpodcasts‬

A number of friends agreed and echoed their frustration, a number of them challenged me or misunderstood me, a few asked for inclusive – that’s always granted, btw. 🙂
So, for clarity’s sake here’s why “I just can’t” (if you need a further explanation):

I “just can’t” and here’s why: being a married mom and a wife isn’t every Christian woman’s reality or may not be her desire. Do I think their perspective is important and valuable, yes. Is there an imbalance to what type of women is celebrated and highlighted on blogs and podcasts? Yes, I believe so and that is the crux of my post.  The working from home stuff I “just can’t” with anymore is that so many of the women featured on podcasts are moms of like 3 or 4 kids starting non-profits or small businesses. Those are great things, so why does that bother me? Because it’s a very privileged perspective and experience. Having a spouse that can carry that financial weight so the wife can pursue her entrepreneur dreams – that is not the majority of families. I almost always hear the mommapreneur admit that they couldn’t do what they do without help – hired or otherwise. Again not realistic for the majority. Before I go on, I want to remind readers – I don’t have a problem with these women – not at all – I have a problem with their experience and perspective (which is privileged) being the most highlighted and featured Christian female experiences on blogs and podcasts. Please don’t miss that, it’s not them, it’s the bloggers and podcast hosts I take issue with.
I worked at the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Centers thrift stores for a short, but significant time in my life. In this job I worked side by side with women that I saw take 3 buses to get to work everyday, who don’t always have childcare, who can barely take six weeks of maternity leave because they couldn’t go without pay for that long (this is true for many women in the United States https://goo.gl/C0wqoG) . Who keeps their heads down and sorts our donations efficiently and with pride while managers and administrators motivate them for speed and dedication to perform at their personal best, working for a modest wage that defines working class. Women who feed you chicken and rice and tamales like you’re their long lost daughter.  Who spend more waking hours at work than at home (that’s most of us). Let the record show, in this particular workplace these women are shown opportunity for promotion and personal and profession growth. My point is to share the experience of women that have to work in the labor force outside of the home.
I’m not comparing these family experiences to shame the wives and mothers than get to be at home and start businesses. I recognize that a number of those families don’t make that much either and make huge financial sacrifices to make that their family reality. I genuinely think that’s wonderful and actually would love to experience that one day too.
I’m pointing out the imbalance of types of women featured on Christian blogs and podcasts. That’s really it. Not all women are mothers and wives that work from home and get to pursue their entrepreneurship dreams. That is a huge privilege only the few get to experience. Let’s keep putting the mic to the voices that experience the harsh reality of survival, that live a relate-able life, women that will make us feel normal and not like failures as women (or men for not living up to some unobtainable expectation as a sole provider). We need to include all women, not just the privileged.

The Widow’s Offering – Mark 12:41-44

41 Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. 42 Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins.[a]

43 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. 44 For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.”

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