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The Experience of Social Mobility in My Family

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Social mobility is “movement up or down the social class leader” (Henslin, 2017, p. 279). There are three types of social mobility. One type is intergenerational mobility, it consists of upward social mobility (moving up the social class ladder) and downward social mobility (moving down the social class ladder). As stated by Henslin, the second type is structural mobility which is “the movement up or down the social class ladder that is due more to changes in the structure of society than to the actions of individuals”. According to Henslin, the third type is exchange mobility which is “a large number of people moving up the social class ladder, while a large number moves down, it is as though they have exchanged places, and despite much social mobility the social class system shows little change”. Social mobility is also the movement of individuals, families, or households like my grandparents, parents, and my siblings and I in an open system of social stratification.

My grandparents on my mom’s side are the first generation in my family. The social mobility they went through was intergenerational mobility. The social mobility went up and down based on where they lived and how they had to make a living for them and their family.

The social mobility my grandparents have experienced is they lived in Baghdad, Iraq for most of their lives and then end up moving around a couple of times. They had 7 kids in total, 4 girls and 3 boys. My grandpa owned a bar in the village and my grandma raised their 7 kids. My grandparents ended up moving to Syria because in their city there was wars and bombing’s going on. So, for them moving they had to start all over again in a new place. They had all their kids with them but once it got bad in that country, my grandparents thought it was best for them to disperse themselves around the countries. My two uncles went to Amsterdam, Germany and my mom and dad went to the United States. The rest of my aunts and uncle stayed with my grandparents to make sure they were safe and helped them out. My uncle soon after they settled in Syria, opened up a store for him and my grandpa to run. Business there wasn’t as heavy as it was back in Baghdad. My grandma left my grandpa for a couple of years to visit the United States to see my mom and our family here. She stayed with us for a couple years and saw what the United States had to offer. She loved being here but also hated being away from my grandpa. So soon after she went back to be with him. A couple years later, my grandma went to Amsterdam, Germany to stay with my uncles and their families. My grandma didn’t like being there alone, so my uncle went to Syria and picked up my grandpa and brought him to Amsterdam to be with my grandma. My grandparents couldn’t live without each other. The more they went up the social ladder, the more they had to go down and start over in a new place and less family around.

My parents are the second generation of my family. My mom has been through structural mobility because of her divorce. No one supported her decision and stayed by her side because she was the first person to go through it in the family. Ten years ago, they got a divorce for many reasons. I live with my mom and my two siblings. My dad was a part owner/partner at a liquor store that he owned with his brother and sister. My mom didn’t work at the time before the divorce, she took care of us. I don’t know much about my dad and what he does now but that’s what he used to do. My mom after the divorce, took us in and tried to make a living for all of us. We struggled finding somewhere to live and my mom finding a job. We ended up moving two times in the past 8 years. We lived in a 2-bedroom apartment for the 5 of us for 5 years and now living in a 3-bedroom condo for the 4 of us for 3 years now. My grandma stayed with us for 3 years while living in the apartment. My grandma had to go back a year after that because of my grandpa. My mom ended up finding a job at the Arab Chaldean Council as a secretory. She has been there for 10 years now. Before she was a secretory, she was a cleaning lady for the office. My mom has been through a lot. Going from being married to divorce, from not working to working, to living in a house to living in a condo, to taking three kids under her wing and raising us to be who they are today. She went up and down the structural mobility for many years with going through divorce, taking care of us, and trying to make living for herself and us. For my mom, nothing came easy. She had to work her way up and nothing was handed to her.

My generation is the third generation. We go through exchange mobility. I say that because while me and my sister move up the ladder, my brother stays the same and doesn’t change. I have two other siblings, a brother and a sister. My sister is the oldest (23), I’m the middle child (21), and my brother is the youngest (20). I have been through most out of my siblings. My health has been a big issue for 5 years now and I’m the only one who is sick in my family. I have two diseases called crohn’s and colitis which is also mixed up with psoriasis. I have been dealing with it on and off. I maintain everything in my life while having the diseases on the back of my mind. I work full time and go to school full time. Growing up, I had it hard because of what my parents went through and what they put me and my siblings through. My sister and brother took it the hardest. From my parents getting a divorce to me being sick with diseases that have no cure, it was really hard on them. My sister is a full-time worker. She completed high school and some college but didn’t know what she wanted to do so she kept working full time to help support our family. She took my parents’ divorce hard as well. She had insomnia and couldn’t sleep most nights because of the fear of my father. For a couple years, she has gotten through it and sleeps better now that she feels safe. For her moving up the social class ladder, my brother continues to move down. My brother on the other hand doesn’t work or go to school. He dropped out in his sophomore year of high school because he couldn’t handle everything going on in his mind. He has ADHD, ADD, and anger issues. He also might be depressed because he doesn’t leave the house at all. For my brother, it was hard for him to focus on anything. He just had this rage. He has little change from the exchange mobility, to this day he is like that. What we seen from my parents it was very hard to cope with because we were all so young, but we saw things that we shouldn’t have seen. We grew up differently than what our childhood was like. As kids, we barley had clothes, food, water, etc. My mom was doing the best as she can until she got back on her feet. Now, we have everything we could of dream as kids. Life turned around for us for the better and we all couldn’t be happier to be living under a roof with everything we need.

The ways their social mobility affected my ideas, beliefs, behaviors, and life experiences is by my grandparents made everything better because they supported my mom and helped us financially until my mom got herself back on her feet. My grandparents made me realize that family is what matters and for them doing what they had to do to survive, showed that with family anything is possible when were all together. My parents affected my ideas, beliefs, behaviors, and life experiences in so many ways. I didn’t get the childhood I dream of wanting as a kid, they made me see things in a negative way and never thought there was a positive outcome to anything, they shut me down more times than I can count, and I didn’t believe in things they wanted me to believe in. Seeing how they both raise us in their own different ways was hard. My mom wanted the absolute best for us, and my dad didn’t. He didn’t want us. My siblings did affect me because the way they turned out to be was hard on me and my mom especially my brother. For my brother to go through all that and not talking about anything going through his mind is hard to deal with. Everyone gets affected by these things just in their own ways.

Social mobility hits us all differently, it has its ups and downs in the social class ladder. The three types of social mobility are all different ways the social class ladder moves but there are only two directions, up and down. With my grandparents, they moved around a lot and had to start over many times to get where they are now in a healthy stable home in Amsterdam, Germany. My mom had to jump through obstacles to maintain a life for her kids and herself. For my siblings and I, we struggled all our lives but with my mom sticking by our side we got through everything. No matter how far up or down you go, you can always find a way to be in the ladder. 

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