Parents Are All Really Alike, You Know

Ok, this one is too easy.


Articles like last week’s NYT piece, Teaching Work Values to Children of Wealth test my patience:

A whole coterie of experts has sprung up in the last few years to coach the children of affluence into the working world. Gibraltar offers classes in “financial life skills” that cover topics including saving, preventing debt and how money affects friendships. J. P. Morgan Private Bank offers what it calls “Next Generation Leadership” seminars.

This may seem unnecessary, unfair or worse to parents with fewer means and just as many concerns about their children’s futures. But the central issue for all parents is the same: how do you raise children who are productive?

I beg to differ.

I learned a strong work ethic, but not as some abstract value.  I learned to earn enough money to buy my own clothes in high school, to pay my way through college and graduate school, to cough up the down payment for my  first house years after friends had cashed their parents “gift” checks for their down payments, and now to support aged and nearly  indigent parents.  No one had to hire consultants to teach me those things — my parents taught me by showing me their empty pockets every day of their  life, by sharing the single bathroom with their four children, by never, ever taking a vacation.

I’d learn to be productive or I’d starve.

There really were no other choices.

I deeply resent this “we’re all just alike” language.

My students who are working themselves through college can’t find summer jobs this year.

But the daughter of the “chief executive of Gibraltar Private Bank” has been coached into landing a retail job that she doesn’t need so that her parents can atone for the first 18 years of her life in which she apparently learned nothing about the value of the many luxury goods in her life?

My parents would be appalled that any child had to learn the value of work via any means beyond actually working hard.

And they’d be furious that anyone would dismiss the vast economic and cultural differences between the parents of those coming very late to such lessons and themselves.

My parents hoped that their car would hold together long enough for them to drop me off at college.

Their “central issues” were about how little their “hours of hard work” yielded for them, not whether their children appreciated the “hours of hard work” that went into buying their luxury SUV.

I grow weary of the wealthy arguing that deep down inside, we’re all just alike.

Those who hire “work coaches” for their wealthy children should not have the final word on such things.

And I think that it’s worth asking why it seems important to them to assert otherwise.

11 thoughts on “Parents Are All Really Alike, You Know

  1. momsomniac November 3, 2010 / 2:23 pm

    “I’d learn to be productive or I’d starve.”

    And this is why I sit silently through all the funny “first job” stories I hear at work and from DH’s family. When one becomes upper middle class after a life-time of being working class, it’s like a secret identity.

  2. Grace January 27, 2011 / 7:03 am

    Hi Jane,

    Just a quick note to say I’m extremely glad I found this blog. I’ll be following it from now on. My current blog is fairly new, but one of the issues I’d like to focus on is class limitations in the creative sphere. Correcting basic classist assumptions is the critical place to start, from any angle, and it’s very heartening to find people who are talking about this.


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