In the middle of the night last night, when I couldn’t sleep, I started thinking about three subjects: income inequality, compassion and women.
Since joining the FB group GenFab in the past year, a group of midlife women bloggers, I have noticed a world of difference in perspective between those women who apparently have plenty of money, and those who struggle for what they have.
Then I saw this excellent piece by Paul Solman, which summarizes recent research into how having more financial security changes how we see and treat those with less.
First of all, I thought about how many of the GenFab crowd seem to believe the greatest difference between women is what they call the “Mommy War”, a disagreement between those who chose to stay home and raise their children, versus those who chose to have a career while raising kids.
This I find to be a false dichotomy. I believe the biggest difference between women in our country is between those who married well and never needed to get a job outside the home, and those who had to find paid employment to support themselves and perhaps their children.
Most women in the U.S. today don’t have the luxury of considering the pros and cons of getting a job, they just do. I believe the experience of being employed changes our outlook on just about everything else in life
I was raised upper middle-class and remained single until age 40. It never occurred to me that I had any choice but to support myself. Then I married a man with money. Some parts of my life improved, especially the nice vacations and the lack of money worries. When I divorced him and lost 75% of my income, I realized how little I had. Suddenly I felt much more understanding and compassion for those who struggle.
According to new research, “People who feel less well-off tend to act more charitably.” I understand this ethic now from an up-close and personal perspective, and with the ever rising income inequalities in our country, more and more are catching on.
I can see how those women who have been supported by others their entire lives have no understanding of financial insecurity, even though they must realize they may be only one job loss, heart attack, accident, chronic illness or divorce away from a very different reality.
In my experience, I have found divorce, job loss and chronic illness to be real eye-openers when it comes to feeling compassion for both myself and others.