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.

One in six married parents made 200k/yr or more in 2018

As ever, fresh from the ACS 2018 1-year estimates.

One in eight make 150-199k per year.

So for 2018, over a quarter of married parents of minor children had household incomes of 150k or higher.

The group for $100-149,999 per year, ticked up to 24% of all married parents from 23% in 2017.

In short, 51% of married parents made 100k a year or more as a household in 2018.

The 50-99k pool of married parents is still about 1/3, but just barely at 32% in 2018.  It’s evenly split between households making 50-74k and those making 75-99k.

The downward trend continues for married parents with household income of 49k per year or lower.  Only about 1/6 of all married parents fall into this range.  And yes, you’ll note it’s about the same as the total pool of 200k+ households.

Eight years ago in 2010, the breakdown was very different, even though the number of married parent couples was about the same (a bit under 23m instead of a bit more than 22m)

200k- 7% nationally

150-199k- 7.5% nationally

100-149k- 20% nationally

50k-99k- 37.5% nationally

49k or lower-28% nationally

For 2018 67% or 2/3 of all married parents had household incomes of 75k per year or higher.   

We’re in for a rocky ride for 2019 and 2020.  We’ll likely see 70% of married parents above 75k in 2019’s numbers and then the year after that a drop (but not a very big one, married parents weren’t the ones bodyslammed by job losses from the economy stoppages related to Wuhan coronavirus), but the family median will plunge, as solo parent families took it on the chin very hard.  Trends continue until they don’t and black swans are notable for their recurrence and their rarity.

The political middle vs. the true middle, married class edition

Just a quick note for something I hope to visualize eventually.  The political middle refers to where the media articles about families and money/income/tax matters tend to put generic examples of married parents.  It’s not the median (101k/yr), or the average (130k/yr) or even the middle 50% of married parents (as of 2018, 60k-165k for the 25th through 75th percentiles).

It’s typically a low number of 50-60k/yr.  Sometimes it’s higher, but generally a number along those lines is presented as the dead midpoint even if numbers like the above, closer to true middle numbers are thrown into a profile of 4-6 “middle class families”.