Friday, November 27, 2009

Classist Oblivion

There are many reasons that I am anti-capitalism but the effects of classism inherent in capitalist societies are my biggest gripes. Lately, the effects of classism have been painfully apparent in my own life. The most significant situations have come out of my hasty return to work 6 weeks after my daughter's birth.
I didn't really have a choice. We weren't (and still aren't) able to make our rent every month. It is by God's grace that we have kept food in our stomachs. Many of our bills are going unpaid and with child support and taxes being garnished from O'Neil's check (the result of choosing food and shelter over other bills) there was little left for us to work with. Even our oil company has held all oil shipments due to a residual bill from last season.

So, on October 6th when Kenisha was 6 weeks and 1 day old, I put on my uniform and cried as I kissed my baby goodbye for the next 7 hours. That was the first time I'd been separated from her for more than a half hour since her birth. She wasn't even fully adjusted to taking breast milk from the bottle. I had no choice. She would not like the abrupt change anymore than I did but the alternative was for us to face an eventual eviction. We may still be evicted but at least we are doing all that we possibly can to prevent that from happening.

As I cut through the mall on my way to work the morning of my return, I saw mothers and their young children in strollers exercising in a circle near the escalator. I physically felt a stab in my heart as I watch these mom's playing with their babies as they worked on returning their abs to their pre-pregnancy state (or possibly better). Why do their babies deserve to have their mother's with them? Why does my baby deserve to be at home sucking from an unfamiliar plastic nipple and wondering why her mother isn't there to nurse and comfort her?

If you remove class and money from the equation, what have those mother's done to make them more worthy of spending this time with their children than me?

My return to work has been hard and little gains have been made financially since my return to work. I am not making enough to cover the difference the garnishes made in my partner's pay. I am not making enough to pay a babysitter to watch Kenisha while I work. I'm struggling with the fact that once my mother-in-law leaves I may quite possibly have to quite work to stay with the baby since childcare is out of our financial reach.

The two pictures below are of the place at work where I express breast milk before I start taking tables. I can't begin to state the number of problems with this arrangement. The most poignant of all being that I am preparing my baby's food in a public restroom. What makes my child deserve to have her meals prepared in a bathroom, while other's have their meals prepared in shiny clean kitchens? There are no logical ways to answer these questions. The only answer is that I'm working class in a society in which only the upper class is entitled to the protections and privileges that all humans deserve.

As I walked through the mall, I watched the stroller strides moms assemble once again as I was on my way to orientation for yet another retail job. I had to leave my daughter without feeding her fully in order to catch the bus on time. I'd be hard pressed to say I wasn't depressed this morning. I am quite close to tears. These women with their children work to keep themselves fit while spending time with their children. I have to leave my baby girl at home for a second service oriented job that pays very little. I'm still trying to figure out why I am here. It's going to cost me more in childcare than I actually make once my mother-in-law goes home.
The stroller strides moms are now singing "the wheels on the bus" as they exercise with their resistance bands. They are completely oblivious of my existence; comfortable in their happy bubble where no one worries about how to buy groceries or if the rent will be paid this month.

Classist oblivion is certainly a luxury available only to the upper class. I believe that this that the choice to employ such a luxury is just that: a choice. With every other news story reporting on something recession related, these women must be aware of the toll this financial crisis is taking on those less fortunate than themselves. So what does it mean that despite the fact that many are being forced to make choices between shelter and food, the upper class spends the equivalent of a week's worth of groceries to exercising in a group in the mall (where many people walk for exercise for free). They are certainly supporting and flaunting their own superiority.

How do we, as feminists and as parents, work to end this oblivion? How do we get people of the upper classes to see us? And when they really do see us how do we get them to understand our trails? More importantly, (and certainly the most difficult task) how do we get them to care once they see and understand?


  1. When my bub was sixmonths old we moved to a remote area in australia - we were told there was childcare there - and it turned out there wasnt - so at the time Maia just came to work with me and I breast fed in the office in front of everyone whenever it worked mostly until some nice fat white male dinosaurs couldnt take it even though I worked in a different building and did a WH&S audit so I quit..but by that time my hubby was on better money so it was ok - but here in Australia you get $5000 baby bonus when a child is born - healthcare is heavuily subsidised - and if you can work you get child allowance unless the other half earns to much ... I dont know quite how you are surviving mentally as much as anything doing what you are doing

  2. It hasn't been easy but I try to be optimistic and as long as my family is healthy I am thankful. I also try to look at it from an intellecutal standpoint. Had I not had these experiences, I might not have the same perspective or passion about social justice.

    Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my blog!

  3. Hi Steffi. Your blog is amazing. I read through your most recent post and this one. I will need to come back and read more. You have been busy.

    Motherhood is certainly challenging enough without having to feel the financial strains that is normal for so many of us. I certainly wish I could be a stroller stride mom too. While I do enjoy working, I am unable to stay home with her for financial reasons. I find it frustrating when I (and you) end up not having a choice -- whether that is that we have to work or that we have to stay home.

    I can't imagine living a life where I was free to make a decision one way or another.


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