Why I Complain About My First World Problems

MB Sanok

Yes, I have First World problems. I tend to complain about simple things that are truly unimportant in the grand scheme of things, and this may make me seem like a petty, spoiled person.

Truthfully, though, no one is limited to silly, stereotypically middle-class American problems. Along with my latte growing cold and Netflix not carrying the show I want to binge-watch, I do have “real” problems (unless you’re the optimist who labels them opportunities). My daughter has autism; I live on a street where criminal incidents involving either something or someone in the neighborhood have occured;  my son has a nut allergy making me a voracious reader of labels and paranoid interrogator of others who offer him food; an enormous tree fell on my house four years ago, almost totaling my car and damaging my house, which insurance didn’t completely cover; both my parents developed cancer a total of three times (breast cancer twice for my mom; my father succumbing to pancreatic cancer within a short amount of time, dying when I was almost nine); I am estranged from some relatives for complex reasons not necessarily involving me in the dysfunction that is family.

Yet I am surviving and flourishing in my life and content to be me.

When I sweat the small stuff and complain about the mall traffic near my house which hinders me from returning a pair of pants to that specific mall for which I can’t find the receipt, it’s actually a respite and temporary distraction from my real problems.

I complain about trivial matters in order to avoid dwelling on the large, scary unknowns and past harrowing situations that may eat me alive. When I allow my anxiety to rear its ugly head, I develop physical problems, like the acid-reflux disease that afflicted me soon after a problem in my daughter’s class occurred involving Child Protective Services.

Focusing on the inanity of First World problems relieves me from thinking about child safety issues, the economy, Ebola, or any other daunting malady that I cannot singlehandedly conquer.  I do so for the same reason that people obsess over the plot twists and death toll in The Walking Dead or how the Eagles/Giants/(insert sports team here) can’t consistently get it together and win or how big Kim Kardashian’s butt is or isn’t according to the time of day. How can we avail ourselves of life-threatening problems and global issues when the answers are beyond our knowledge, capabilities, and limited resources?

Of course, I worry about these very real issues and wonder what my part is and how I can help.  I wish I were that one person to abolish these problems, but I’m not Sarah Connor from The Terminator, after all. Honestly, some days the most I feel I can do is to wash my hands thoroughly, follow the rules, and bulk up the economy by buying stuff I don’t need — like the pants I now need to return. And is that really helping? How can I obsess over the extremely tough issues, making myself feel useless, sick and sleepless, when trivial problems can be resolved easily and succinctly with my own current skill set?

Here’s the upside to my ability to sweat the small stuff and complain about trivial matters with colorful gusto:  it gives me the energy to contribute in small, meaningful ways to the greater good.  I volunteer for a few different non-profit organizations.  I raise awareness by talking about autism and other important issues close to me. I donate unneeded belongings to charitable organizations. I recycle. I’d like to think that I’m making a difference in the world, no matter how infinitesimally small. I’m sure I’m not doing nearly enough, but it’s overwhelming and frightening to think of the problems that I cannot resolve today or tomorrow as opposed to obsessing over the fact that I’m missing the latest Glamour magazine that never arrived in the mail.

I love it when my greatest problem focuses on what to prepare for dinner when I despise cooking or the fact that my kids hoard junk and won’t allow me to toss out the ripped Barbie dress because it’s the perfect outfit to go out with Ken in the pink, plastic convertible. That’s when life is excellent and worthy of cheering on!  If I focus on the stupidity that daily life as a boring, middle-class housewife can bring, it means things are good! I’m happy! Anxiety and depression are not at an all-time, red threat level high!

So I will embrace my First World problems while secretly obsessing about the very real worries that affect me personally and the world in general.  If this enables me to contribute in small ways that create positive change, it’s the least I can do. If I can be part of the solution — complaining aside — and not another First World problem, I am thankful for that.



Why I Complain About My First World Problems by M.B. Sanok

This post was syndicated with permission to BonBon Break Media, LLC.

M.B. Sanok is a freelance writer and stay-at-home mom living with her family in South Jersey. She is a contributing writer for Jersey Moms Blog, and her work has also appeared in South Jersey MOM magazine, MetroKids MomSpeak, and on BlogHer. In her spare time, she volunteers for the International MOMS Club, a non-profit support group for stay-at-home moms.