Thursday, October 24, 2013

But these are first-world problems.

but these are first-world problems

But these are first-world problems.

I almost write this every day in my posts. Sometimes I go so far as to type it out, but then I end up deleting it.

I try to be honest when I write. I try to present, in true sincerity,  my joys and struggles as a motherless mother.

And one of my biggest struggles is reconciling that these are all first-world problems.

How do I balance working from home and intentional mothering? First-world problem.

Sell my car or keep my car? First-world problem.

How do I get my child to go to sleep more peacefully? First-world problem.

Developing creative ways to take pictures with my child? First-world problem.

How do I decorate my mantel for fall with only a dollar? Are you kidding me? FIRST-WORLD PROBLEM.

I feel this strong tug of gratitude sprinkled with nausea as I think just how first-world these issues are. Just how first-world MY issues are.

And at the end of the day, I continue posting about them. Sure, these are first-world problems, but that does not make them less real, less honest, or less relatable. At least that is what I rationalize so I can sleep at night.

Earlier this week I spent a couple of hours volunteering at a local homeless shelter for women and children. Before you start to throw any admiration my way, I was just folding newsletters in a corner.

I sat there folding, making small talk with the other volunteers, some of whom are homeless themselves, and listened to the conversations around me.

Conversations about making sure children were picked up from school safely. Conversations about earning points for the shelter store, where the women can get makeup, household items, gift baskets, etc. Conversations about medical care. Conversations about where families were staying that night.

It was uncomfortable. Really uncomfortable.

A few of the children climbed into my lap to help, handing me stickers to seal the newsletters for mailing. My stack of newsletters wasn't folded as neatly, the stickers not quite lining up, but I thought it was important that my new friends had a part in it. Marshall would have gone straight for those stickers too.

Some of the mailing stickers stuck to the table where we were working, and I couldn't get them off later. That made for a great metaphor, because I haven't been able to get that shelter experience out of my mind either.

I walked back to our neighborhood to pick up Marshall from preschool, and then we walked back to our apartment. Our apartment, which felt safer and warmer and nicer and bigger than it ever had.

And I thought about the struggles I had seen earlier that afternoon and the struggles I experience daily, both in our first-world country, both so different. How can I even begin to compare them? What's my place in all of this? How do I help without coming across as a member of the oppressive class?

I don't have any answers. I'm not sure how to reconcile the two.

But I am sure I will visit the shelter again.

I am more than certain that I will be uncomfortable.

And I hope those stickers are still there.


  1. Wow!
    How touching sad and amazing. Should not be a world problem at all

  2. I do volunteer work too, but I started doing it at the local domestic violence shelter a few years ago instead of the homeless shelter. I'd have liked to have stayed helping at the latter, but it was getting scary to just pull up to the place, much less go in it, and I couldn't take the kids. Someone def. needs to do something, I wouldn't feel safe there if I was homeless. Very sad. :( Your work IS admirable. Anything we do to help others is admirable, and what we should do when we live in a first world like we do. :)

    1. Thanks for your sweet words! And for all you do volunteer as well!

  3. I think what you did was amazing. I am sure many of us can relate to how you felt. We all do have our problems but there are people who have it worse and there is always something we can do to help. I'm still learning each day how to appreciate even the smallest things in my life. :) Thank you for sharing. (Facebook:TJ Sims)

    1. I'm still learning too. :) Thanks for your thoughtful comments!

  4. Wow. The first thought of mine when reading this was, I hate the term first world problems, but I totally understand where you're coming from. We've had some really tight times around our house, but no matter how lean things are, I let my kids know that we always have more than a lot of other people and we always have enough to give, even if it's a little bit of money or just our time and love.

    1. You've piqued my interest! What about the term "first-world problems" rubs you the wrong way? I know someone who hates the term "outreach."

      I love that thought about always having enough to give--what a beautiful sentiment to teach your kids!