Little Bun and Class Anxiety about raising him
I wrote about my own current social class experience with being uncomfortable about my parents knowing for certain that I have reached upper middle class status, solidly in the column of “rich” (I guess? I don’t feel like it) when compared to most of the population… and it got me thinking about Little Bun.
I was raised pretty much middle-class (with strange “rich people” tendencies like the fact that my father never worked, yet drove a luxury vehicle in the 6-figures.. .and kids at school found it weird he had a crappy minimum wage job but we had a huuuuuuge house and a fancy car).
And now I think it’s clear by the numbers that I am upper class.. (again, not something I have internalized yet), and now I worry (all the time) about spoiling Little Bun.
I worry that he will grow up thinking that everyone lives in the sky with parents who don’t seem to ever cry, stress or scream at each other about money.
Or that Mommy and Daddy never have to say things like:
No more money left until payday.
We’ll have to really cut back, we can’t afford that.
… Or to not see us do frugal things like use potato sacks for a pot scrubber, although I do cut my own hair but Mommy is always well-dressed (like super well-dressed), and that we have really nice cars…
I worry he won’t develop that grit, that ambition and that drive to reach the next level because… he is already living at the next level compared to most of the population here.
Of course, we aren’t decamillionaires like the people we live with in the building but maybe being in the vicinity of these folks with so much money, Little Bun might then get the WRONG IDEA that we HAVE money like that, when we don’t.
I worry about not properly teaching him about money.
I worry about not teaching him the right values, unconsciously, because I do consciously try to tell him:
No, Mommy has to save for that.
We cannot buy pounds of stickers every week, baby and have you go through them like water.
Stickers cost MONEY.
We also consciously do not spoil him toy-wise, but is that enough?
Will he learn enough just by not having an abundance of clothes, toys and everything his little heart desires?
As he gets older, he will (maybe?) realize that we don’t have a mortgage, and things are paid, and we do have money. How do I mitigate that knowledge? By repeating to him:
Don’t forget. Mommy and Daddy worked hard for all of this. You’ll have to do the same.
Is it enough?
I don’t buy everything for him when we go out, I make him put things back and I don’t treat him all the time.
His “treats” are when I print coloured pictures of things he likes to learn about — planets, numbers, etc…
He goes into a store, and people are so surprised that he isn’t on the floor screaming his head off for candy or whatever is on the shelf. Little Bun doesn’t even KNOW that you can buy this stuff at his age right now.
He thinks it’s just stuff on display to play with, and then put back and say “Bye Bye, Mr. Cat, see you next week“, and Mommy and Daddy like to touch things but we only seem to buy food and “boring” things.
But as he gets older, this is going to change. He’s going to learn from outside influences and friends and I am going to have to navigate how to explain to him that no, his friends may go to private schools and so on, but he is in a public school.
Or that his friends go on vacation every other month, skiing in Europe or going to islands where their parents have second and third homes, but we “only” go to Europe once a year for 3 weeks to a month to only stay with family and not to travel around like global nomads.
I feel like his whole perspective on money and social class is already going to be out of whack because he’s going to be comparing to people who have way more than him, and yet, what we have, is way more than what most people have.
Personally, I don’t want to move and live in a cheaper neighbourhood (I still want to enjoy my money and my hard work), and I don’t want to force him to live in a shack when he is 16 to learn what the real world is like.
How do I explain to him that what we have is already in abundance and not what most people have? How do I show him that?
Will he even get it?
These are all things I worry about.
I grew up middle class (teacher and banker as parents) and had a mix of public and private schooling. I was older in private school so things were more noticeable (tweens onwards). My parents were comfortable, but chose not to buy new cars (ever). My father was from a strongly working class family, left school at 16 to get a job. Mum was from an upper class family where her father paid for her private university (only for his daughters, not his sons!) So they were from two worlds. When I was jealous of the new European cars; large denomination notes in the friends’ mothers bill folds. My parents explained that we all make choices with money, and their choice was to travel with us. Overseas. Regularly. And in NYC when I felt so poor in a department store, Mum also told me that many people SEEM rich, but are living on credit. I recall that conversation so clearly.
Dad still thinks Mum spends too much. Dad’s father saved money on the pension! Dad also understands that they are comfortable now. That it’s ok for her to be frivolous. And I think Dad’s learnt from her. He bought a Bose sound system. Definitely not a need. But something he’s seen as valuable. And he really does use it a lot. Oh – and for the past decade? They’ve got the much coveted BMW. Second hand every time, of course!
We have always had plenty of money and our kids grew up not knowing any different. We lived well and continue to live well. All of my kids went to college and proceeded into professions that serve others. They are well aware of how lucky they have been in childhood and are not spoiled brats. They all make their own money (6 figures). Children only pick up on negatives when YOU point it out. THEN it becomes an issue.
For me, it’s all about knowing how. I grew up middle class and married “upper class”. But I know how to live off of rice and beans. I know how to not buy clothes and get epic deals. I know how to save money by hanging clothes to dry, unplugging the microwave, getting freebies, using coupons and loyalty cards. I know how to budget. And as long as my kid knows how to do these things, I figure it’s all good.
Valid concerns though. I enjoyed the Old Money Book by Byron Tully. Rather preach, but with some good advice too.
I think your middle class is showing :P.
I doubt rich people wonder whether their kids will grow up spoiled. I think that the rich mindset is to teach your kids to reach out for the things they want, even if they have no rights to it. On the one hand, this leads to Donald Trump, spoiled brat baby of 72, on the other hand, this leads to the Rothschilds (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-17/rothschild-puts-next-generation-in-charge-with-promotion-of-heir). In either case, entitlement in children is a feature, not a bug.
I figured if I had children, I would teach them the same: reach for the things you want. Be entitled and don’t stop working for things you want. And I would also teach them that the strong protect the weak. That is your privilege to help the ones that cannot help themselves. That if your shoulders are the broadest that means you should carry the biggest load. Be ambitious but don’t trample on weaker people to get to the top. Help out whenever you can, but don’t hurt yourself in the process.
I’ll just teach them that and hope for the best.
My parents were mortgage free the majority of my childhood, didn’t work FT generally, and didn’t fight/stress about money. They were extremely frugal though! I have no doubt that you’re going to raise a level headed boy who appreciates what he has; hopefully/presumably at public school he’ll also be exposed to kids less well off who have less than him, as well as those who have more?
You are doing the best you can. And from what you have written, you are not afraid of telling your kid “No” when necessary. If you are concerned about how to teach your kid grit, the value of hard work, etc there are several ways to do so:
– Summer jobs (the dirtier, the better)
-Volunteer Work (Peace Corps, Red Cross, etc)
– Chores and more chores!
-Explain to Baby Bun the pitfalls of planned obsolesce that manufacturers use to turn their stuff into useless junk in a few years.
-Humility, Self-Worth as a Human Being , either through books or through travel.
You can turn the class anxiety into a “thank God I don’t have to do _________ to get _________” moments of appreciation. Or have Baby Bun visit places where poverty is rampant and learn from people who survive day to day from them.