Recently one of my more prominent blogging colleagues CecilyK wrote a piece for Babble on how much it stinks being a work-at-home mom on a snow day – especially when the snow days are coming fast and furious this year. In a light-hearted way, it talked about how difficult it is to meet business obligations with a bored child in tow. I laughed out loud, related, and gave it a “thumbs up.”
But not everyone was so impressed. Dozens of readers blasted her for supposedly not realizing how lucky she is to work from home. “You are very privileged to work from home and not have to worry about childcare. Imagine being a waitress or retail worker, having a snow day, and trying to arrange safe and reliable childcare that didn’t completely wipe out your wages for the day. I’m not trying to be a bitch, but you have what many would consider an enviable situation.”
And that was one of the tamer ones.
Cecily didn’t respond to the comments, but I would venture to guess that she does know how lucky she is to work from home. I’m sure she also knows how lucky she is to have a happy, healthy daughter, a job, and an IPad. But does she have to preface every tongue-in-cheek rant with a disclaimer?
When I wrote a piece in April 2013 about the Top 10 Reasons I was Done Being Pregnant I was met with equal parts applause and scorn. Loads of women thought it was hilarious – in fact the top search for finding my blog is still variations on “I hate being pregnant.” But I also got quite a few comments like this: “So sorry that your pregnancy has you down. Instead of focusing on how much it sucks, you should probably spend a bit more time being thankful that you’re having a healthy pregnancy, because there are tens of thousands of women who would take all of those symptoms in a heartbeat and then some if it meant they could GET pregnant or STAY pregnant.”
I assumed it would go without saying that I was thrilled to be having my second child and that I knew she would be worth every leg cramp and side ache. But maybe I needed to say that up front?
The dilemma for any blogger, writer, or Facebook ranter, is finding the balance between expressing our own personal experience and sounding like an advertisement for first world problems.
But I believe we are all entitled to our own emotions, even if we are literally crying over spilled milk. No one can dictate how we should feel about our own life experiences, and keeping gratitude in check can go hand in hand with a light-hearted rant about being stuck in traffic.
Is it unfair for a marathon runner to complain about the agony of the race because he is fortunate to have two working legs? Is it not OK for parents to write snarky blogs about their children because tragically there are people who would give anything to have even one more difficult moment with their own? I think we should all be honest about our own personal struggles, even if they may seem trite to someone who is going through something far worse.
Because, let’s face it, if you have the ability to type words onto a keyboard, it could almost always be worse. And it’s the camaraderie we feel from other people’s stories that helps us get through some of the “small stuff,” from diaper explosions to cooking mishaps.
I wonder how we can tell our stories unapologetically while still being sensitive to our own overall good fortune. I know I will certainly try, but hope my readers will allow me a self-indulgent moment or two.