Losing some of my (considerable) privilege

Privilege can manifest in many ways. Privilege is being able to afford childcare (sometimes literally every day!) Privilege is having family nearby, especially when they are willing and able to watch your kids. I have been incredibly privileged to have my in-laws living in the same city since our first child was born. They provided part-time (until 1pm) childcare for us for 3 years (one for our daughter and two for our son). They picked up our son from childcare when I had meetings at my daughter’s school. They used to take our daughter for a spend the night almost every weekend. They frequently cared for our sick kids so neither of us had to take off work (this was always a LIFE SAVER). And while they would never take both of our children at the same time (so we could go out together), we relied on their help heavily.

I’m sure we took their willingness to watch our kids for granted. We had never experienced life without them.

Now they are moving to Texas (tomorrow!) to help their daughter with her first born. We are about to lose our childcare privilege.

And I find myself thinking all kinds of weird and clearly warped things. Turns out, it sucks to lose my privilege, and I’m creating all kinds of stories about why it’s not fair. These aren’t my parents and this isn’t my extended family and yet… I have found all kinds of ways to lay claim on what has never actually been mine. It’s a strange and disconcerting thing, and I don’t like seeing this side of myself. I seriously am dealing with a raging case of entitlement over here. I’m trying to remain open and curious, to not immediately judge my thoughts so that I might actually learn from them, but it’s hard.

We forfeited some of our privilege when we chose to send our daughter to a struggling school in San Francisco. I wrestle with that choice every single day, wondering constantly if it was the right one. But that choice was ultimately ours, and we still maintain the privilege of knowing how to work the system if we are ever truly unsatisfied. If we suddenly lost that privilege, if someone took it away from us, I can promise you my reaction would not be pretty.

It’s interesting, these very tangible experiences of recognizing my privilege enough to realize my inappropriate reactions to losing pieces of it, but not being able to check it enough to ease the feelings of bitterness and injustice.

I’m trying to use all of this to find empathy for those people who are so afraid of losing their advantages in a system that made those advantages feel like inalienable rights that they persecute entire races or religions. I’m trying to hold on to this feeling of seeing something I know is actually totally fair and having it feel so very unfair. Maybe someday I will be able to use all of this to better understand someone, to empathize so that I can see where they are coming from, and they can better understand my point of view.

I don’t know. Maybe some day.

{Obviously the situation with my ILs is very complicated, but I can’t and won’t discuss details on this blog as it is absolutely not my story to tell. I’m just trying to write about how all this is affecting me, to tell my part of the story without betraying anyone else’s.}


  1. We have absolutely no family care. My family (who helps my sister with her four boys considerably) still resides in my hometown in Northern New England. I live in DC. My husbands family is local but everyone works. So childcare is only from my husband or I or a paid service. I get bitter when people talk about things that involve money bc we have to budget so much to childcare that we cant afford things that some of our friends who make much less than us are able too bc their moms or in laws care for their children for free. I try not too but sometimes … its too much!

    1. Childcare is so expensive. We did get “free” childcare except I had to work part time to get it, so it still “cost” us $15-20K depending on the year (I made more later). Still, it was less than what it would have cost if we were paying for a nanny or some other kind of under-2 childcare (which is MUCH more expensive here). I was so excited at the idea of my son getting into TK so our $2K/mo preschool bill would become a $550/mo aftercare bill but it’s not going to happen. Having said that my parents will still take my kids for me once a month so my husband and I can go out on a date. That is priceless.

  2. I feel just like B. The grandparents have zero interest in even seeing my kids and wouldn’t dream of actually taking care of them. The grandparents (who are all retired) prefer to spend their time on various other leisure activities (weaving, beekeeping, birdwatching, playing piano, traveling, attending the opera). Oh, and watching their other grandchildren.

    Obviously, they have a perfect right to do whatever they want and no obligation to spend time with my kids. But I’m totally bitter.

    On the other hand, I do recognize that I am extremely privileged in many ways. For example, I choose to sends my kids to an insanely expensive private elementary school.

    1. I think it would be very hard to have parents that were retired and wanted nothing to do with my kids. My sister has no relationship with my kids and that hurts, I can’t imagine my parents being the same way… I’m sorry that is your experience.

      And I feel you on the “they don’t owe me anything and have no obligation” but still feeling bitter…

      It would be nice to be able to afford a really nice private school though… 😉

  3. I wonder — in this case — if it’s privilege or expectation/interpretation. Yes, you’re losing child care and that second set of hands, but it feels like it is about something more than that. And yes, I am playing armchair psychologist :-).

    But is it more about an expectation was set up and now that expectation is being removed? If I always give you a meal when you come over, year after year, and then I suddenly stop without explanation, it’s understandable that even though it was never a contractual arrangement, if I set up that expectation, you may arrive hungry, ready to eat, and be confused if there was no meal on the table. So that would be an expectation.

    Interpretation would be an unspoken message you perceive (even if it’s not true) in the action. For instance, they are moving for her but they didn’t move for you (I’m assuming you chose to move near them vs the other way around), so you may interpret that as “they like her more.” It doesn’t matter if it isn’t true and they like the two of you equally (and they are interpreting her needs as greater than your needs right now). It’s how you’re interpreting the action. And while it’s up to you to set aside those feelings after you acknowledge them if they haven’t been proven to be true, I think it’s also understandable for your brain to go to that space first.

    But, again, playing armchair psychologist without the benefit of all the information. So disregard if I’m totally off-mark.

    1. Hmmmm. I see where you are coming from. There is definitely a lot of expectation and interpretation at play here. Thanks for framing it that way, it helps me to see it in a different, and more effective, way (I wish I could say more because I think it would help me to process it if I wrote it out, but I’m trying really hard not to bring any kind of details into this space).

  4. Saw someone pointing out that the privileges some groups/people enjoy (and don’t always think about) are really things we believe EVERY person should have. It ought not be taken away from any group but extended to all. Voting is important, encouraging others to vote helps. People on the lesser side of inequalities need you to see and act. Your PTO ‘Evening Out’ program was such an act. Thank you for making it happen.
    You always acknowledged what your in-laws did for your family, that they loved your children; you also admitted there were complications attached. That was helpful as a grandparent in trying to not overstep and remembering to express my gratitude for being part of my grandchildren’s lives. Not all grandparents enjoy this privilege, not all grandparents want this involvement, not all grandparents are able to do this for many reasons. For me, my grands are the greatest privilege I never expected to have.
    I am super glad your children have known their father’s parents, this will carry with them even when the contact is less frequent and less in person. This will not be an easy change for anyone.

    1. Yeah, as is always the case with grandparents, it was complicated. The fact that my in-laws have a very different dynamic with their kids (and extended family) than I do always exacerbated the complication (for me). The whole thing has just played in a such a mystifying way for me, and I can’t bring my thoughts or feelings to my husband because he is also processing all of it. I am so, so ready for them to just move away so we can all move on. The process has been very long and drawn out and confusing and I know my kids are suffering for it and I want it to be over.

  5. I’m so sorry this is happening. It must be very tough on many levels.

    About privilege, I personally sort of think the same way as Mel. I mean, to me it feels that personal and societal privilege are not the same. I recently had sort of a revelation regarding my own societal privilege (short story: I didn’t get intersectionalism in feminism and then, after reading men’s complaints about #metoo it suddenly came clear to me, through analogy, what women of color are talking about when they talk about white feminism) and that was sort of non-psychological and relatively painless. Whereas giving up personal privilege has typically been painful and stirred up all kinds of psychological distress. Not sure if this is related but your post and Mel’s comment got me thinking about this.

    1. I see the difference between personal and societal privilege. I recognize that they are different. But I also think a lot of personal privilege is wrapped up in societal privilege, because societal privilege provides so many opportunities that allow for higher levels of personal success. But I definitely see the difference and recognize that they aren’t at all interchangeable.

  6. I have no experience with childcare, but I can relate a little to your thoughts on family relationships & privilege. I am privileged in many, many ways, of course, but not in others (as is true for most of us, I think.) My family lives 1,000 miles away; dh’s mother died before I ever met her, his dad remarried & our relationship with stepMIL is complicated. BIL & SIL were starting their own family and, aside from a few years at the start of our marriages, lived almost an hour’s drive away. One of the main reasons we delayed trying to start a family was because I knew we would have very little family support or backup. I am not sure a lot of people considered that our reality was so different from theirs when they were pressuring us to have kids.

    I know people used to question why we never took a trip to Florida or Mexico or Jamaica, why we spent all of our vacation time going to visit my family. All I could think was that most of them had their family around them all the time — so of course they were then free to use their own precious two or three weeks of vacation time (& budget!) to travel to exotic locations, instead of using it to spend Christmas and a week or so in the summer with their parents &/or siblings. (I recognize that not everyone WANTS to spend time with their family, but that’s another issue…!)

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