Why I’m raising my kids lower-class.

I know that raising your children to be relatively independent at young ages is associated in American society with the parents being unable to do any adulting whatsoever, but it’s important to T.W.O. and I that the kids be adaptable.  It’s more important than the constant humiliation and embarrassment over the fact that our kids do a lot for themselves and are expected to handle a large amount of household maintenance.

And it is difficult, because the brunt of “bad parent” falls entirely and solely on me as a rotten mother and on our mixed marriage (what, you thought Lion’s Den liberal white women were ok with it? LOL!) as a sign that black women basically can’t do middle-class parenting.

The fact is, teaching your kids to cook without doing it via an instagrammable class you spend $100+/kid on is considered low status and a sign you must be a drunk/druggie or “unstable” poor or an unstable poor drunk/druggie.  Expecting them to do household chores without paying them is also considered a similar sign of not-so-secret dysfunction.  After all, how can a kid do housework and ace all the schoolroom checkboxes if they have to pick up a broom now and again?  Just ignore the elephant in the room that in many other high-scoring countries, kids doing chores is part of the school attendance deal.

I don’t know, I’ll ask my kids after they skip another couple of grades.  Of course, grade skipping is also de trop and Doing Smart Wrong as well, unless it’s going straight from K to college.

My kids can do yardwork safely with edged tools, hand wash dishes, load a dishwasher correctly, load and run a front load or top loading washing machine correctly, including handling borax, and my oldest can do basic clothing repairs by hand or using a sewing machine.  Given a small spatula for the very youngest, all my children can cook on a stove top, griddle and can handle campfire cooking.  They can sweep, vacuum, and use kitchen cleaning products safely and correctly.

They can forage effectively and safely with a guidebook.  They know what barks and berries are edible without one.  But since we didn’t pay through the nose to have them taught these things, we’re trash as parents for not letting them have their own tablets and smartphones.  No, I have no kids aged 10 or older.  Yes, you’re viewed as a suspicious or bad parent for not giving younger children private electronics like tablets and smartphones.  Ironically, a lot of the judgment comes out of not being like actual lower-class parents who ask for and get these things out of the well-funded (but never “fully funded”) school districts in the area.

The giant caveat to all this is that Montessori parents aren’t remotely like this despite general very liberal tendencies and are pretty chill overall.  But there’s no way we can do K-12 Montessori and meet our kids where they are educationally.  It’s a great pedagogy for elementary level work, but it wasn’t designed for beyond that and I think it’s suboptimal that an entire secondary-school Montessori model has arisen in many locales.  But it was helpful in teaching our kids how to learn and they’ve shown a lot of adaptability to other learning paths.

Ultimately, my husband and I are not special, privileged people who can afford to use the public schools plain-vanilla and trust the system.  We’ve never been able to plug-and-play with private school either.  Our kids don’t do well following the normal parenting approaches where we live.  And we could have a seven figure household income and we’d still be considered lower-class for the way we’re raising them because when it’s all about “only people credentialled in this thing, even if this thing is making fishsticks, can teach it and the only valid way to learn this thing is from them and never anyone else or via self-teaching”, well, obviously we’re no good, bad, deplorable parents for not doing that.

Our household will never be middle class.  Our household will never be upper middle class.  I don’t know how I will explain our permanently low socioeconomic status to our kids when the time comes, and perhaps it never will.  Sometimes you don’t have to say anything for kids to figure out the social dynamics as teenagers.  And hopefully they are secure enough in having adaptability and competence that they don’t even care.

2 thoughts on “Why I’m raising my kids lower-class.

  1. The fact is, teaching your kids to cook without doing it via an instagrammable class you spend $100+/kid on is considered low status and a sign you must be a drunk/druggie or “unstable” poor or an unstable poor drunk/druggie. Expecting them to do household chores without paying them is also considered a similar sign of not-so-secret dysfunction. After all, how can a kid do housework and ace all the schoolroom checkboxes if they have to pick up a broom now and again? Just ignore the elephant in the room that in many other high-scoring countries, kids doing chores is part of the school attendance deal.

    Our kids are 12 and 13 (the minor ones) and they are nowhere nearly as capable as yours. They can cook a full dinner, keep things clean, do yard work (mower, weed whacker, etc), and can even handle a few power tools. Our older ones weren’t either, and I can clearly remember other middle class moms in school groups or on the PTA finding the amount of chores our kids did as wholly unacceptable. These moms, nice though they were, even cleaned their pre-teen and teen kids’ rooms! I cannot count the number of times I heard, “We believe school is their job.”

    It’s a little bit better in the homeschool world, but just barely. I find it kind of weird that a family like yours would be considered “lower socioeconomic”. I suppose at the end of the day class distinctions aren’t about what you have, but how you are viewed in relation to the surrounding cultural norms.

    For us, it wasn’t really a calculated decision as much as that we were raised that part of the exchange between parents and kids was that kids take on some of the household workload as their contribution to the family. It not only made our lives easier, but it made sense to us, so we simply continued the tradition.

    We now live in a world where kids are trophies to be shined and kept sparkly for display and conformity to the outside world, with the ultimate prize being getting them into a good college. People parent accordingly, and chores don’t often fit into the plan. Practical skills are secondary. Besides, the kids will all be rich enough to pay other people to do that stuff.

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