This is First World Fridays #FWF (check out the first FWF here – it was a wild success!) where I share the frivolous stuff that I allow to occupy my mind, and I turn it into an expression of gratitude. Please do it the same – in the comments, Facebook, Twitter, privately within yourself. Tag it #FWF (yes, I’m asking you to tag your silent prayers) and let’s start a revolution!
When it comes to quality of life, I can’t complain. But I will: I live in Astoria, Queens, New York, which if you live in NYC you know has become one of the “up-and-coming” hoods, full of cute gay guys, hipsters and — now — yuppy families (pointing at self), many of whom can buy the not-so-charming row houses for $1 million-plus. When I divorced I bought out the big, pretty pre-war apartment my husband and I purchased and remodeled. The building is beautiful, my apartment comfortable, affordable and in the middle of a rich community of friends, family, neighbors and acquaintances. My living situation is at the top of my gratitude list.
So in this #FWF I’m STARTING with my gratitude.
And yet! Yet every day is a source of anxiety starting when I walk my kids to school. We pass heaps of garbage bags awaiting trash pickup, and even more filth littering the streets. Then, when I go on my morning jog I map a route based on the least-disgusting streets. It’s not only the cigarette butts and greasy take-out napkins that bug the crap out of me — it’s that the residents and business owners lack the decency or pride to keep their neighborhoods tidy. Or that the city allocates enough resources to do the same. This is no way to live!
Then there is the inherent issue with raising kids in the city: They don’t have a backyard. Whenever we go to a large park, forest or beach, Helena takes off like a wild horse, thrilling in the freedom of open space. We frequent playgrounds and forest preserves, but I am always with them, supervising. They don’t have green. They don’t have space, and they don’t have independence.
Deep down I know they will grow up fine, despite these shortcomings. It makes me feel bad that I’m not giving them an idyllic childhood with trees to climb and neighborhood blocks to explore. But those ideals are not what they once were. The overprotected kids movement means that children aren’t running wild in suburban communities like when you and I were growing up. Trees are deemed too dangerous to climb, streets too scary to stroll alone. And we are all burdened with abundance of homework, shuffling to scheduled after-school activities and safety paranoia that keeps children under direct parental supervision into their tweens and beyond.
And the bottom line is that my kids live in a nice, safe place. They attend good schools and are surrounded with good people who love them. Millions of children grow up in urban apartments and most of them turn out perfectly fine.
In short: my guilt and worry, when put into perspective, misinformed and little naive. And, let’s face it: Petty. First World Friday, y’all!
Now your turn! Please share your #FWF, and also #Gratitude!
About #FWF: Each week I will post here about the annoyingly frivolous thing I worried about the previous week. I also vow to devote that energy into an expression of gratitude. Two things are true: Sharing openly that which we are ashamed of (in this case devoting time and energy to silly stuff) frees you from that shame, and gives others the permission to do so. Also: The only way to be happy is to be grateful. So post here, on social media, or privately within your family, circle of friends, or even within yourself your own #FirstWorldFriday. Remember – In one breath purge your silly worries, in a second express gratitude.
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post’s ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.
A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.