Motherhood

Class Anxiety: When You Live a Different Life From Your Parents

Class Anxiety: When You Live a Different Life From Your Parents

A friend and I were hanging out at the playground, as her little boy jumped from one structure to the next, when she turned to me and said…

“Sometimes, I wonder if he’s not a little too happy.”

I didn’t know what to say. He was a good kid as far as I knew, only causing the requisite amount of trouble to be considered a healthy five year-old. Was there even such a thing as a child being too happy? “Of course, I do everything so that he can be happy,” she said. “But I grew up poor, and I worry I’m not preparing him for the real world.”

This I understood. In fact, it was something I was also dealing with on the flip side. Even though I’m 31 years old, in my family, I am the Too Happy Child.

As we continued to walk and talk, I was able to get to the root of my friend’s worry. “I didn’t grow up middle class,” she said. “I grew up in survival mode. I don’t know how to raise middle class kids.” Her words hit me right in the gut.

I was raised in a working class structure, just like my mom, who spent almost 25 years working as a confinement officer at the local jail. She would work whatever shifts brought in the most money — and in the months leading up to Christmas, even more than that. There was little time for homemade meals, so we ate fast food or packaged meals that would allow her to spend more time sleeping, doing house repairs, or whatever she could to make us all a bit more comfortable. She was on her own with four children to raise. I was her oldest child, and we both wanted another kind of story for my life.

Once I went to college, things began to change. Even at my medium-sized Midwestern university, I was exposed to new ways of understanding the world around me. I took my first flight; then I took another. I started going to therapy. When a former teacher saw me during winter break and asked what my favorite part of college was, I answered her honestly: I could get fresh fruit whenever I wanted.

My roommate and I were good students, and we were also the poorest young women on our floor. During the day, we worked and studied. But some evenings we holed up in our room, laughing, eating pizza and candy from the dining hall, and talking about the families we feared we’d left behind by coming here. We worried we were losing our tribes.

Back home, my mother accused of me of rebelling, when I didn’t see it that way. I didn’t eat fast food much anymore because it didn’t feel good to my body, and I let my natural hair grow out because I was no longer afraid of it. Because my mother wasn’t helping me pay for school, she had little say over the choices I made outside of her house. I only saw myself growing up and having adventures. Wasn’t that what she’d wanted for me? Of course it was. She wanted me to have wings. She just never considered that sometimes I’d fly away.

My mother — like my friend from earlier — worried she was losing her child to a world she didn’t know how to navigate. To her, I was too happy. To her, happy people stop paying attention to danger. I don’t believe my mother or my friend are very different from most parents who want to be the guiding force in their children’s lives for as long as possible. But few want to admit how a class transition can challenge that role.

My mother was torn. She saw my exposure to new things, and my delight in the world opening up to me, as proof that she had done something right while raising me. She also saw it as an attack on her place in my life. There are certain aspects of the way I was raised (hitting out of anger, etc.) that I would never repeat if I became a parent. Not because I’m angry at my mother, but because in my mind the point of all of this — the point of her sacrifices in my childhood — was so that I could have a better life experience, and so could my hypothetical future children. I don’t begrudge my mother for what she didn’t know or wasn’t able to give me when I was growing up. She did her best for her kid. Because of that, I am required to do my best for my own.

This past weekend, a week after our initial conversation, I texted my friend a note: “You don’t have to be the best middle-class mother to your middle-class children. You only have to be their truest home. Maybe they’ll experience the world much differently than you did, but they will always know where home is.” I could send her that message with confidence because I know it to be true.

Over the years, my mother has become more and more comfortable with our changing roles. Her need to be my guide in all things has reduced (a bit), and I don’t condescend to her to prove my competence as an adult woman. I make it clear that she can always ask for financial help because I have enough, and if I don’t, I’ll say so. She makes it clear that needing my help will never feel as good as she wants it to. Paycheck to paycheck is the language we used for most of my life. Now that I’m have financial stability, we are learning a new language together. Our dynamic may have changed, but she’s still my mama, my truest home. I’ll always fly back to her.


P.S. Home as a haven, paying for your parents, and seeing your body with fresh eyes.

(Illustration by Alessandra Olanow for Cup of Jo.)

  1. Nancy says...

    Even though I was estranged from my mother during the last decades of her life and am a childless (not by choice) senior, your warm brilliance touched me. Tears rolling.

  2. Claire Johnson says...

    Thank you for this little piece. I grew up hungry, wearing my brothers’ hand-me-downs. It wasn’t until taking a college psychology stress test that I realized I had been living in a constant state of “high stress.” (I maxed out the test) It was weird to graduate college because somehow I didn’t think I was going to live that long. Now I’m in my early 30s and raising four little ones of my own with my husband. It’s hard to believe the life we have. We have food. We have clothes that fit and are in good condition. Our van is amazing. I’m learning new ways to parent other than what I grew up with. It’s a whole new world for me and I rejoice with ALL OF MY HEART that my children won’t worry about their next meal or feel bad for wanting to join sports, music, the arts or any thing “extra.” My heart is more than happy.

    This piece made me cry because of the gratitude I feel. Yes, be home for your children. That is something that extends beyond classes.

  3. LJ says...

    As a British reader it’s so interesting to get an American perspective on class through the comments and to see how differently it’s defined in the US. In the UK class has almost nothing to do with money and resources and lifestyle. I grew up in an extremely comfortable household (private education, lots of foreign travel, nice food, nice clothes, eating out all the time, au pairs, living in one of the most expensive parts of the city, parents paid my rent and living expenses through university and afterwards and sometimes still help me out now etc) thanks to my Baby Boomer parents’ success. I’m part of a generation that in the UK will be the first to be less well off than their parents – I’m 37, have zero chance of owning a home until I inherit one and struggle as a freelance journalist to make ends meet. But it absolutely would not occur to me (or anyone in the UK) to say that I was a different social class to my parents. I was born and raised what in the UK is referred to as middle class (we use the terms differently here, I’m guessing the US equivalent term would be upper class or upper middle class) and no matter how much better or worse my circumstances become, nothing will change that. It’s just ingrained in your attitude, values behaviours, the language you use, your accent, the confidence you have. Here people who are working class can make a fortune but will still think of and refer to themselves as working class. And middle class people who are broke would never say they were no longer middle class.

  4. Vanna says...

    I’m currently struggling with the class differences between my parents and me, but I’m having a hard time shaking the guilt I feel about it. Thanks for this post, Ashley. I find solace in knowing that others have found a balance and that it’s attainable.

  5. Bekah says...

    Thanks for this beautiful post-Ashley, you articulated this phenomenon so well! I was also raised by a single mom. We had all of our basic needs met, but lived payday to payday and money was a constant and real worry. I’m now in a different class bracket and I’ve struggled as a parent–wanting to protect my girls from feeling financial worry and to give them advantages and little luxuries (new clothes! dance classes!) that my sisters and I didn’t have, but also worried that they will grow up unaware of money, or without the grit or work ethic that I believe I got from growing up poor. Something that I would love to hear more about, which some others commenters mentioned, is how couples navigate class difference. I grew up poor while my husband was raised solidly upper-middle class. When we met we were both in grad school, and our different financial backgrounds didn’t feel like a big deal, but our different experiences and values around money have become more significant since having kids. Maybe a topic for a future post?

    • Sharon says...

      I can very much relate to this. I grew up poor and my husband grew up upper middle class. We see the world very differently. We view money very differently. We view priorities very differently. I would also be interested in seeing how other live this

    • Katie Hill says...

      I’m in the same boat too! Definitely a topic that could use further exploring.

    • CG says...

      I can totally relate to this. My husband and I grew up with different financial values. My husband grew up with parents who worked hard but didn’t save, and tend to mirror his parents financial values. I have parents who worked hard and saved (and somehow we had a good life as kids – though growing up I always hear my mother tell me “no we cannot afford that.” Only to understand later that we could afford it, but my mother just wants to save money and teach us the value of thriftiness, since she grew up poor). Once we got married, we had long discussions and fights about how to save money until we came to a certain point wherein we have a family financial system that somehow works for both of us.

    • Janet says...

      Bekah, I totally feel you on this! My partner was privately educated, while I went to state schools, and he assumed that our kids would go private too – that was an interesting conversation…

      I also find that not having money doesn’t scare me as much as it does him. I’ve survived on very little – I know I can do it again if I have to. I’m much more comfortable with the day to day finances than him but investments are out of my scope as they never seemed a possibility for me until fairly recently.

      I like to think that we balance each other out.

    • I’ve experienced similar issues in my relationships with men who grew up in different socioeconomic classes than my own. It’s a topic not covered nearly often enough. I too would love more posts on on class anxiety in general, and especially in dating and relationships.

    • Sam says...

      Yes! I’d like to see this topic discussed too. I’m in the same boat.

  6. Irina says...

    I’m with those posters who are faring worse financially than their parents. My parents tend to equate success with money; not necessarily being wealthy, but at least leading a comfortable life. They feel sorry for me because I don’t have the financial cushion that they do, and I resent being pitied.

    I definitely have to scrimp and save, especially now that I have a mortgage, but in some ways I feel financially more free than my parents. They rarely allow themselves any luxuries, preferring to save instead. While saving is definitely a wise decision, and may be necessary, it feels so liberating and satisfying to indulge in a treat, even a small one.

    • Erin says...

      Same. my parents were way more successful at my current age than I am now. And i think it’s taken them a long time to really see that times really are different. But they also see that I’m trying and doing what I can do to be successful in my own eyes. And they’ve come to be happy for me.

  7. Kim says...

    this is great and explains a lot of the issues I have with my parents and couldn’t articulate. ESPECIALLY about food.

  8. What a beautiful way of looking at life. My hope is always to see my kids expand into a bigger life than my own.

  9. Heather says...

    This is beautiful and touching Ashley. Thank you so much for sharing your mind and your heart with COJ readers. I am so looking forward to your next piece of writing for the blog. <3

  10. Kristy says...

    One of the BEST posts I have read on Cup of Jo!! Such a true voice.!

    • Justine says...

      I second this!

  11. Sarah says...

    Beautiful. In tears.

    • Ker says...

      Me too. Ashley, thank you for this.

  12. Kelly says...

    Thank you so much for this. It is something I struggle with and I have never really been able to name it.

  13. lindsey says...

    tears in my eyes..

  14. Allison says...

    I really loved this, Ashley. While my personal struggles between leaving home and adulthood haven’t necessarily been regarding shifting class, I’ve felt similar incongruences between the way I was raised and the way I’ve chosen to live. I grew up in the suburbs of Washington DC. At 23, I left the East Coast to go to graduate school first in Texas and then in Oregon. I spent four years living away from home in two completely different cultures. And then, at 27, I decided when I graduated from my MFA that I was going to stay on the west coast. By that time, I’d become vegan, I was taking walks in the beautiful evergreens every day, and I was starting to shun capitalism and an emphasis on material goods. I wanted community, I wanted connection. I landed a job with one of the largest animal rights organizations. Then, I fell in love. Since then, visiting home has been a challenge. I don’t live the way my mother raised me and I can feel a tension every time we talk. I think, though, it’s only because I’m living a life she’s so unfamiliar with: I don’t eat meat, cheese or dairy. I don’t own a TV. I get plenty of fresh air, exercise and meditation, and I constantly read. I rarely drink, and at night, after work, I teach myself French or I go for a walk beneath the stars (which I can actually see!). In the end, it’s not that one way is better than another; there are so many paths and I think, sometimes, parents don’t expect their children to choose one different from their own.

    • Maria says...

      Just wanted to chime in and say your life sounds amazing! I also think that siblings, along with parents, can also have certain expectations. I sometimes feel like my brother must have grown up on a different planet than me, with the immense differences between our grown up lives.

    • sasha says...

      Allison, I’ve taken a very similar path. My parents seem baffled by me at times. I try to remind myself that understanding is the heart of love, and that they are doing their best. And also try to understand my own children and their choices, while loving them unconditionally.
      And everyday I feel grateful that I was given a heart that can feel these things. As much as I think my path has diverged from theirs, it’s my experiences as a child that opened my heart to empathy for other beings.

  15. Lucy in England says...

    This is such magical honest writing. Ashley I can’t wait for your book.

    I think there are flash points of change, looking back. My father quit his job after a hostile takeover and I vividly remember being told that there wouldn’t be money for nice things anymore as a result. That has stayed with me, the frugality and worry about money, even though he set up a start up that transformed all our lives financially.

    I also think about generations. Both my parents grew up poor but back then free education and university was their ticket out. Watching my mother’s relationship with her late mum and my daughter these lines of love tangle us all so deeply. At the heart of it all I guess is the question of how can someone I love so much and I think I know be so utterly different from me, the person who made them.

  16. Jenny says...

    Oh how I love this post/article/piece of writing. It just resonates so much, and makes me ache for my mother (she passed a few years ago).

    I also grew up in a poor family and am now in a more comfortable position. I moved away from home, went to college, grad school, lived in Europe, went to therapy. And yeah, although my mother was happy for me, we experienced some tough times navigating this road. And I’m sure we both made plenty of mistakes processing what it meant. I wish I had the powers to reflect so honestly and with compassion and kindness for my mother at the time, the way you do, Ashley. And I wish my mother understood that I’d change at all with these new experiences- I think she just felt my changes was a personal attack on her- and that equaled that I didn’t love or value her. Even as the years passed and I became a mother, I don’t think we ever fully resolved these differences, which is so damn unfortunate.

    Thank you so much for writing about a topic I don’t know that I’ve ever read about. I can’t wait for more.

    • Sharon says...

      I could have written this word for word…. except that I would not be so eloquent. Thank you for saying exactly what I wish I had resolve with my mom before she passed

    • Kimberley says...

      Jenny, I just commented above on similar feelings. Love the way you articulate this x

  17. E says...

    Yes yes yes to all of this. My familial relationships fortunately haven’t been strained as a result of class mobility, but I’ve struggled a lot with guilt over the lifestyle that I’m able to lead as a result of my parents’ and my own hard work. (Should I just let myself enjoy a SoulCycle class if I can afford it? Should I forgo annual international vacations in the name of “keeping it real”?)

    When I think about motherhood in the future, I’m afraid that I will trivialize my children’s struggles, as they (potentially) won’t be as challenging as the struggles I faced in a lower class family growing up in a rural community.

    I’ve often listed for clues as to how some of my role models handle this transition (so curious as to how Cheryl Strayed and Oprah feel about accepting good fortune after coming from such humble beginnings).

    Would love to hear more about this topic from your team!

  18. Katherine says...

    Ashely, thank you so much for your vulnerability and candidness. Clearly this resonated with many, myself included. You are navigating these tricky waters with grace, empathy, and compassion. I so appreciate your perspective and how you so beautifully describe something that can be heartbreaking and complex. Please, more more more from you, I absolutely love everything you write and am so glad you’re a part of the CoJ team. Your voice is valued, so very much.

  19. Sara says...

    Thank you so much for this! I relate so deeply and now that I have my own daughter– I have even more appreciation for my own upbringing. I constantly ask myself how my husband and I will embed her with the value of hard work and appreciation when at heart, she won’t have to naturally work for it because we are in a position to provide more for her than I had. Beginning at 16, I worked two jobs and paid my way through college by continuing to work two and sometimes three jobs. There is a drive and determination in me and a pride in how hard I’ve worked and how far it’s taken me– will I be able to make sure my daughter has a comparable work ethic, drive, determination, and ultimate pride and confidence in herself despite raising her in a different social class than I was raised?

  20. Stephanie says...

    So excellent.

  21. Meg says...

    This is so real to me (as in, I’m currently working on a dissertation on social class identity and experiences because I think about this all the time). My husband and I just bought our first house, and even though I’m still in grad school (so we’re currently living on one income, and anticipate having two incomes for most of our future), we already have a higher economic status/ standard of living than either of us did as children.
    I often feel like I’m an outsider at our Appalachian-working-class family get togethers, but also like I don’t really fit in with many raised-upper-middle-class grad school friends. I’m always interested to hear other’s experiences of competing identities, or of feel like they have feet in multiple worlds.

    • Ker says...

      Good luck with your dissertation! Let us know when it’s published; I’d love to read it and I’m sure many others on here would too.

    • Amanda says...

      As a newly minted professor from a blue collar family, I’m here with you. I’ve made some intentional choices over the years to manage those identities, but it’s hard. Academic spaces often don’t feel inherently welcoming so I work twice as hard to make a place for myself in them. It helps to find “your people” and I’ve found that connecting with other academics from working class backgrounds has been key.

    • Emma says...

      Oh boy. I can relate to this! My experience of class is all over the place. Both of my parents were in the first generation to go to college (and I think may have been the first on either side, period). For them, it was relatively affordable and they both have Master’s degrees and certificates besides. They sent me to private schools for some years, gave me many, many kinds of lessons (piano, organ, voice, ice skating, horseback riding, French, drawing, ceramics, etc.). On family trips we mostly visited museums across the country.

      My mother grew up in Appalachia and has passed on a sense of extreme thrift to me. Both of my parents have been ambitious their entire working lives to make more money and be able to provide a more “cultured” upbringing for me. Meanwhile my partner’s family has a background of more wealth and–more importantly–education than mine. Both his parents trained as architects. In many ways I can relate more to his family–who read, pay attention to global events and politics, are involved with the arts–than my own.

      But there are times when I feel SO outclassed, like when we went to an extravagant family wedding (his side) last summer in Cape May. Several of my cousin’s weddings have been in my grandparents’ garage.

      We both work blue collar jobs, but sometimes I do feel this sense from him that he expects some kind of higher satisfaction from his work–I definitely am looking for meaning in my work, but I don’t expect it–I expect a lifetime of toil. For me, that’s the biggest difference.

  22. Sarah says...

    My parents grew up poor and uneducated. I was the first to get my degree. I felt so unprepared for professional world. It was an entire culture shift and it took years to learn Now I’m married with a daughter. Instead of worrying about money, I’m think about all the skills she won’t learn because she has access to money.

  23. Jessica says...

    Wow! Ashley, you are such an insightful writer and a fantastic addition to the CoJ team. I can’t wait to read more from you!

  24. christina says...

    I can relate to your story but the one thing I don’t agree with is your statement “…I would never repeat hitting out of anger etc”

    It’s easy to say that but you don’t have children and don’t know how it will be/how you will act. I hope the same for me in my head, I don’t have children yet and have not hit animals or people like my mother did, but using such extreme/invariable terms like “always, never” seems… self-righteous?

  25. Jessica O'Malley says...

    Thank you for this. I’m a regular reader and love everything on Cup of Jo, but this truly touched me.

  26. Volha says...

    great article! I am an immigrant, a mother and this resonates with me a lot on many levels.

  27. Ashley says...

    What a beautiful essay Ashley. It really resonated with me as well. I want my kids to have to struggle some and in my suburban wonderland it is challenging to know what that looks like.

  28. Milan Lee says...

    I really appreciated reading this post. Thank you for putting into words something that I’ve been dealing with. We all do the best with what we have.

    Also, I would be very interested to read and learn from the perspective of experienced parents, or in this case, from the voice of the working class mother. What are her hopes and fears for her children?

  29. Rachel says...

    My husband and I have talked about this a lot. We both grew up living paycheck to paycheck and now that we’re in a better place we see the people around us have no perspective for the people who weren’t born with money. There has to be a way to teach some compassion and social consciousness without experiencing lower class living, but we’re not sure what that is yet.

    • E says...

      Yes, would love to see/hear more on this.

  30. Lily says...

    Simply beautiful, Ashley. Thank you.

  31. This is beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  32. KS says...

    I’ve been struggling with this more and more lately, especially as I begin to see the (truly modest) monetary rewards of not only my years of effort, but of my mother’s as well. It hit me pretty hard around the time my salary matched hers – she’s a public school teacher eligible for retirement, a job she’s been passionate about my entire life. I haven’t told anyone in my family about my recent raise, because, in the end, I just don’t know how to communicate it. And I don’t know what will follow.

  33. Did anyone else think of the book, “The Glass Castle,” after reading this post? It’s a great book that touches on this very theme, for those who liked this article and are looking for more real-life examples of this.

    • Yes! I had the same thought. Such a good book, I was so sad when I finished it.

    • A says...

      Yes!! Such a great read!

  34. Rebecca says...

    This piece makes me feel understood. What a gift.

    Until I had my daughter, I thought I had reconciled my past sense of class position with my present. Having her has driven home, nearly every day, that I now enjoy privileges I was never raised to expect. It has been surprisingly unsettling.

  35. Alice says...

    Ashley’s writing is an amazing gift to all of us. Thank you.

  36. Ramona says...

    I love how honest this is.

  37. Renee says...

    Thank you so much for writing this. I grew up in a very rural part of the country. My dad grew up in a house without running water and for Christmas he was lucky to receive an orange. He dropped out of high school to join the Army. He got his GED because the Army made him and then he went to community college and was a blue collar worker. My mom dropped out of college during her first year. She worked as a secretary. They always told me to go to college and I did. I went on to earn a doctorate degree. There were many challenges with my relationship with my mom. She was always jealous of all my friends and their parents who had gone to college. My parents had very little in common with anyone I knew once I became an adult. It wasn’t just money. They didn’t have the same interests. They didn’t read books or go to the movies or concerts.

    I wonder if my children will have the same academic drive I had. They may not see college as the life line I knew it to be.

  38. Chelsea says...

    I loved reading this. What a beautiful perspective.

  39. Leah says...

    I’m at the same place as Ashley’s friend. I grew up poor’ish, not hungry or without shelter, but in a single parent household with my mom struggling to provide for three children. I’m from a small town and she always had an embarrassing ugly, clunker car. I went to my friends’ houses to play instead of having them over. I feel that it made me who I am. Now, my husband and I are financially stable and provide so much for my son that I never had. I worry that he will feel entitled, even though at his school there are many kids more well off than we are. I want him to want things or experiences so it will push him to achieve and not be complacent. It’s a weird place to be.

  40. Hannah says...

    Ashley,
    I deeply relate, and have never read a writer encapsulate this particular ‘thing’ so effectively.
    I was raised in a very large, truly poor family.
    At 31, I still grapple with guilt when I spend money on basics, not even a lot of money but enough money. We have plenty, but I struggle against the poverty mindset. Not just in material things either; I was deep in thought just this morning about do I ‘spoil’ my kids with my attention and engagement? My own upbringing was so poor in that regard- neglect and absence of my parents(both physically and emotionally as they strained under the load) deeply formed and affected me. I shouldered a proud counterdependence which I have learned(through therapy!) deeply impacts my ability to bond, maintain normal boundaries, give and receive love, etc–so obviously I would want that to be different for my children, but will they miss out on the advantages a sterner upbringing might have in a hard world?
    I love bringing it back around to making a ‘true home’. That got my heart like, “YES. That is what is needed. That’s what I need, that is what they need.”
    Thank you CoJ, for bringing Ashley to us! I’m printing out this article and adding it to my story journal for my daughter.

    • Charlene Maxwell says...

      I love the idea of a story journal, can you tell us a little bit about this?

    • Milan says...

      <3 My projection of my upbringing onto how i raise my kids has also been on my mind lately. We all do the best with what we have. Loved the "true home" part too.

    • A says...

      I would love to hear some more about a story journal.

  41. Amy says...

    Thank you for sharing. You have inspired me to write about the complexities of class, income, education and social status in my own family that have been on my mind since I left home 25 years ago.

  42. Sue says...

    Such great sentiments. Thank you Ashley for your beautiful writing! And great to see this resonates completely with so many coj readers including me. I grew up lower middle class but went to college, then medical school where I met my husband. Now we have an upper middle class life and worry our two teen daughters have a privileged life and they will grow up feeling the pressure to keep up with their current lifestyle.

  43. ana says...

    Excellent article. Cup of Jo is the best read, year after year.

  44. Denise says...

    Great post Ashley! I also have such a fraught relationship being a different financial class from my parents. You captured that weird tightrope walk perfectly. I also think a liberal arts education sets me on the other side of the fence politically than all my family before, which is also directly tied into the economic class issue. In this very us vs. them political climate it’s an odd place to be – over the fence from my tribe, yet right where I want to be for myself and my cohorts and my “hypothetical future children.” Thanks for a great thought provoking post!

    • Oh Denise – this is exactly what happened to me too. With a liberal education & a good salary so much of the world has opened up to me that changed my viewpoint on the world considerably from the blue-collar us versus them world that my parents still live in. It’s tough to talk about things and keep conversations going when your life is going so well – and they’re still making things work. I try to practice as much compassion at all times & spend some time processing the things they say when things go awry.

  45. Miriah E. says...

    So, so beautiful. I will try everyday to be my children’s truest home. And yeah, I’m crying. Thank you Ashley.

  46. This piece resonated deeply. Thank you for sharing this, Ashley. I love reading your words!

  47. jenn says...

    whoa. talk about turning your brain upside down. one commenter said “not feeling like you belong at ‘home’ anymore while the new ‘home’ you’ve built for yourself has its own alienation if you’re surrounded by people who have never had to struggle just to survive”. i agree, it’s SO hard to relate to coworkers and friends sometimes. climbing the social ladder is rare in some industries. it seems that it’s so much more common that money breeds money, partly (mostly?) because access breeds opportunity. breaking that stereotype (whether it’s climbing the social ladder or falling down) brings it’s own challenges that we often don’t or can’t articulate. ashley nailed it.

  48. Sandra says...

    This is just a fantastic piece.

    Our son is definitely growing up in a different “class” than my husband and I did. One of the things I think about a lot what we will/won’t do for him as he becomes a young adult.

    When I first moved to Chicago after college I was in near tears at the prices at the grocery store. My mom begrudgingly gave me about $25 for groceries to cover me until I got my first paycheck. Part of me thinks I would just buy my son his first groceries. But part of me remembers that learning to stretch a jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread or a box of cereal into a week’s worth of meals taught me so much resilience. I’m definitely a stronger person from learning to live with very little.

  49. Reem says...

    This was so beautiful and touching and insightful. This is something I’ve thought about in the abstract, but never put into words. And not necessarily with class, but with culture, as a child of immigrants. There are so many ways this can apply. Thank you for this!

    • I’m a Reem, an immigrant too, nice to meet you!

  50. Mira says...

    Reaching out to congratulate you on writing a terrific essay, Ashley. It really touched me. It’s a conundrum: I want my (future? potential?) children to be like me, or rather I want them to understand me, but how could they without living through the poverty that I did? (Obviously, I would never wish poverty on anyone, but still, these are things I grapple with…)

    On a related note, I would LOVE to see more pieces like this on CoJ. A younger version of myself would have envisioned myself with kids by this age (early 30s). Instead, having children feels fiscally and emotionally irresponsible to me, at this point and place in my life. On paper, it could work, I have a wonderful and committed partner and (somewhat) stable job… but the permanence of the choice to have children scares the shit out of me… All this to say, I recognize that CoJ is a community for mothers but I would love to hear perspectives about pre-motherhood, if that makes sense.

    Thank you again, Ashley, for writing and sharing this!

    • Annie says...

      Agreed!

    • Inga says...

      Same here! I am also in my early 30s and slowly coming to terms with the fact that having kids may not be what I want in life. While I do enjoy the parenting posts here (and the comments underneath them in particular! so much wisdom!), I would also be here for anything on pre-motherhood or, possibly, being single and not hating it : )

      That said, thank you Ashley for this really thought-provoking essay!

    • Kay says...

      I loved this article so so much. It touches on a concern of mine that I’ve had for years now. I’m so different from my parents in so many ways and its because of the privilege their sacrifices have afforded me. How do I pass that mindset down to my future children when I’m not in the same place my parents were? It’s such a typical conversation amongst first generation kids, which I am. This article reminded me of the TED talk that also spoke to my soul: https://www.ted.com/talks/tan_le_my_immigration_story I definitely cried while watching it, bc I felt her story so much.

    • Maria says...

      Me too! I recently turned 30 and, being eight years happily married, don’t expect to have kids any time soon (maybe even never). I live in an politically unstable country and wish to emigrate, besides, I’ve only just begun my career as a scholar. I love and cherish your motherhood posts, but it’s becoming more and more challenging to be childless being 1. healthy, 2.not very poor, 3.over 30, 4. having a supportive partner and 5.when all my friends have babies.

  51. Liz C. says...

    this is beautiful. thank you.

  52. Laura C. says...

    And what happens when it is the opposite? What happens when you were middle-class raised but then after college recession hits you so hard that byou can’t find a job for almost ten years? What can I do for my kids? I only have love to offer them, but all the struggle and the instability that we are living (we have to move and we don’t want to) is not good for them at all.
    When you mase a promise to yourself that you won’t be like your parents and you end up being worse. What do you do?
    Thank you Ashley and CoJ community. You are a happy place for me.

    • This is similar to where I am coming from. My parents are both retired professionals. We grew up with a lake home, a hobby farm, private education. I am so grateful to all of their hard work. My husband and I live comfortably but cannot imagine affording a lake home anytime soon. I think this is why passing on your religious beliefs, values, cultural traditions, is so important. Those integral identities have a far better chance of surviving than shifting economic situations. The sad part is, we are prone to trade those things in for “the spirit of the times.”

    • penelope says...

      We are in the same boat, and this article kind of irked me in the sense of “first world problems”.

    • Gen says...

      Laura,

      You have “only” love to offer? That is an amazing gift that not every parent is capable of giving. That’s the best thing you can give a child. If you always have love to offer, you are that true home that Ashley talked about.

      I don’t mean to wash away your experience – you describe a difficult scenario and that is a real thing, and painful – but as someone prone to damaging self-comparisons, it pains me to think you’re labeling yourself as “worse than.” You’re reading and participating in CoJ – that’s doing your homework on self-development, community building, and The Many Ways To Parent 101. That – plus the love – makes you sound like a super solid parent to me.

      Moving and feeling unstable can suck. How you handle it will teach your kids hella survival skills that will guide them through whatever life hands them.

      Hang in there, give yourself a pat on the back, and keep spreading that love to your kids.

      Gen

    • Katie says...

      We are in a similar spot. We both come from middle class families and we have struggled so much, often from things totally outside of our control (having a son with outrageous medical bills before aca, 3! Job layoffs because the offices unexpectedly closed). We work damn hard and are trying to give our kiddos more stability but it’s been so hard to communicate politiely to our families that we are actually poor and so we can’t do x or spend y at Christmas, etc. I’ve taken comfort that while I wish the finances were different I know I’m loving on my kids in a way I wished for as a kid.

    • Laura C. says...

      THANKS all af you for your kind words. They make me feel better and stronger to carry on. I hope Joanna and the CoJ team are aware of what a solid and fantastic and cohesive community they have built with this site. I love thinking that thanks yo this site, I have friends in the US and all over the world!❤️

    • Maria says...

      I hear you Catherine, but please bear in mind that a lake home is a luxury unattainable to most and you were lucky to be raised like that. But its ok not to have a lake home.

    • Gen says...

      Jo – maybe this is a topic for the future? My understanding is that we’re seeing the first generation to, as a whole, do worse than their parents financially. The opposite of the “guilt over my good luck” story is the “heartbreak over my bad luck.” The system in this country is increasingly stacked against the middle and lower classes – as it has always been against people of color – and more and more folks are slipping “down” the economic ladder.

  53. Marlena says...

    My talked about this all of the time. She grew up in extreme poverty, the child of undocumented workers, and me in working to lower-middle-class times. By the time my sister came along 13 years later, they were middle class and my sister had endless books, clothes, and trinkets. When I grew up my grandparents purchased my winter coat and I was allowed two pairs of pants in the fall.

    The difference for her and now me is we had a chance at college. It changed her trajectory, despite having me in college. It took her ten years to finish college, but I have seen the changes from wearing her hand-me-downs until clothing came from my grandparents, to now where I live in the neighborhood I selected in a college town.

    My grandmother cleaned homes until she was 72, and I sit in an office (albeit doing work I love). I will never forget paying for the bus with pennies from my own savings because my mom didn’t have cash, and I’m also glad my daughter doesn’t have to experience that. Maybe she will one day, and I hope others will meet her with the compassion with which you write about here.

  54. Sonja says...

    Wow!

  55. Anna says...

    More posts and perspectives on the complex, and often heart-aching, relationships between mothers and daughters, please…I grew up feeling like the only person in the world who didn’t view their mom as a fuzzy, warm, safe place with whom I could let my guard down and find comfort; in fact, even as an adult now, I often have to put on my mental/emotional armor before seeing or talking to her. It’s always brought a veil of sadness to my life and made me feel more alienated than I’d like to even acknowledge. As I got older (and through therapy) I realized more why my relationship with my mother (who immigrated to the U.S. as an adult) is so complicated and that it is completely normal. Because at the end of the day, you and your mom are just two flawed, complicated humans who are trying their best, and maybe at times are too tired to try their best. But of course, certain things still hurt and hearing people call their mom their “best friend” never fails to feel like a punch in my gut, for some reason.

    • Emily says...

      So true!

    • CL says...

      Anna, I hear you. My single mother had and has myriad mental health issues that impacted everything in my life as a kid, layered with our poverty. Numbing out became the default for me, my version of protecting armor, which locked me out of so many other positive emotions. I’m just coming to terms with what this means for my relationship with my mom as an adult. Messy and complicated, but full of moments of small grace too. Thank goodness for therapy.

      Lots of love.

    • Milan says...

      SAME <3

    • Tami says...

      I understand this Anna….as much as I love my Mom we will never have the relationship that I’d wished we’d had. So many years have passed but not much has changed for us. I’m her only child and, sadly, she doesn’t even really know me (even though she thinks that she does). Even sadder, my son is almost six and she’s only seen him a few times since he’s been born.
      I admire you for being able to put on your mental/emotional armor as you navigate a complicated relationship.
      I don’t have the strength and I know it will be one of my biggest regrets later in life.

    • E says...

      YES. Really want to read more about this. I have a messy relationship with my mom, and with a new daughter I’m realizing I don’t have a great model of how to do things.

    • C says...

      I understand Anna. I am also the daughter of an immigrant who grew up very poor and came here as an adult. I think the trauma of war, abuse, poverty and the change of a brand new country was all too much. When she had daughters she must have ached for all she lost and would never have as I have mourned my losses. It is difficult and impossible
      To reconcile the fact that we may never have that true home in our mothers. But I find that it does feel easier at times. I strive to make myself that true home for my children and worry often about my ability to do that. I know I am changing the patterns of my family. To name the pain and to move through it again and again, to live every moment (ok maybe not every moment!) actively aware and trying to be present and loving, is the best I can do. A quote from Pema Chodron has stuck with me this week: to allow yourself to be exactly as you are while recognizing your and everyone else’s boundlessness. ❤️

    • Anna says...

      Thank you all so much for sharing your stories and thoughts. In addition to learning that we don’t necessarily need our moms for comfort, it’s also nice to know that we also don’t necessarily need our moms to help us heal the heartaches that we have with our moms — hope that awkward sentence made sense. CoJ really does have the best community of readers/commenters. Much love & hugs to you all.

  56. Jess says...

    EXCELLENT article! One of the best I’ve ever read on Cup of Jo. Love it.

  57. LeighTX says...

    This is so, so lovely. Thank you.

  58. Carolina says...

    Ayyyyyyy. At work, trying not to cry. I grew up Mexican lower middle class and then American lower middle class when I moved to the US. My Mexican dad instilled in me to never act like a “rich girl”. Don’t be wasteful. Have good manners and be respectful. Appreciate every opportunity (everything is an opportunity). Don’t complain. Don’t be entitled. Don’t be a smart ass. But, have a sense of humor and work in your sarcasm. Only buy after exhausting all other options (reusing, making, borrowing, etc). If you buy something, it should be good and cheap. Etc.
    A big part of me wants to raise my kids the way I was raised. Nothing higher than lower middle class neighborhoods. Part of me wants them to struggle– just because my struggle taught me so, so much. I fear that if I don’t, I’ll inevitably raise spoiled, privileged “rich kids”. Yknow what I mean?

    • Moni says...

      Unfortunately, I don’t think it is possible to create a false struggle. My parents tried with my sister (we have a 13yr age gap and the conditions i had growing and my sister 13yrs later were drastically different). My sister grew up in a huge house, was driven everywhere and when she was sent off to college they tried to tell her it is ok to live in sub-par conditions. She was angry and confused as to why things have changed. But for my parents, who always link my success to their frugal life at the time, this is a puzzle as to why frugality cannot be ‘taught’ when the parents have all the conditions to give their kids a better life.
      I hope it makes sense what i wrote

    • KSM says...

      Beware of the false struggles and restricting children below your true status. You will end up creating a confused kid who will forever struggle with his identity coz his surrounding was something his parents made him apologetic about. I love my parents but I wish someone had told them this. We always lived in our parents time comparing and judging our surrounding to what they told us ‘true reality’ of life was (their times and their ways, mostly money and status oriented). As a result while every other kid was living his childhood, we had this constant guilt for no reason. Also as a kid it was confusing and so unnecessary. Jerry sinefield’s line from one of the episode (probably with Sarah Jessica Parker) had stayed with me (something on lines of , not exact words) “parents want their children to have similar growing up to theirs, that they got out of. So basically they want them to get out of it but only ‘the way they did’. Isn’t their a certain narrcisicm to it. “

    • Amy says...

      This resonates with me so much, the idea of “creating struggle” for a more privileged next generation. I’m a kid of working class immigrants, and my husband and I make more money now than my parents ever did. I constantly feel torn between being proud of what I’ve accomplished and being ashamed of my privilege, and what kind of ridiculous privilege my future kids will ultimately grow up in. Ta Nehisi Coates had a great interview on Marc Maron recently where he talked about consciously exposing his son to adversity, but a different kind of adversity to what he himself grew up with (i.e. moving his American kid to France and making him face the challenge of going to a completely French-language school, vs. growing up in urban Baltimore during the crack epidemic). Chris Rock also touches on this in his “Tambourine” special, where he talks about if he had a son, he would punch him in the face every morning just to get him ready for struggles of the real world. Oy.

    • Amanda says...

      I know what you mean. I realize that “creating struggle” is not realistic but I’ve always wondered if my kids will miss out on some of the strengths and values that I got from struggling economically.

      While I don’t think you can create struggle, I do think you can model your values when it comes to having money. My husband’s family is probably upper middle class but is thrifty. They’re very thoughtful and cautious on what they spend their money on. He and his sister both had to work in high school and both had to find scholarships for college. They had support from their family, but there were some reasonable limits to that support. I feel like both of them have a more level head about money and more awareness of class than they might have otherwise. We talk a lot about how we want to install values and empathy into our future kids some day.

    • Anne says...

      I find this comment thread so interesting- my husband grew up upper-middle class but his parents raised 3 incredibly hard workers, even with the privilege that surrounded them. His parents could have (and I think in many cases, would have) given their kids more of a financial head start in early adulthood if the kids would have accepted the money. He and both of his siblings had private college tuition paid for in full. They all worked hard so that that (MASSIVE) advantage worked for them- they all had jobs during college and saved like crazy. What I’m saying is, I know it’s possible to raise kids with big advantages and still have them come to recognize and embrace the value of hard work. Their family motto was “To whom much is given, much is expected” and I think they really walked the walk on that.

  59. Allison says...

    This is one of the absolute best posts y’all have ever had (and I’ve been reading about 10 years). THANK YOU! Great blog!

    • Hannah says...

      I AGREE.

  60. Breeze says...

    Crying while I read this. This impacts my life almost daily. It sounds like you had peers going through similar things, but when you don’t it can be an incredibly isolating situation and hard to cope with, especially when you’re young and still in college. There are so many layers to these situations and its almost never talked about., so thank you for writing this.

  61. Jordan says...

    Ashley’s voice is like a breath of fresh air on CoJ! I LOVE it. Thank you!

  62. Mo says...

    I’ve been a loyal reader for years, and this is the best piece I’ve ever read on this site. It resonated with me profoundly, and I was choked up reading it. Thank you, Ashley.

  63. Annie says...

    Another facet to this conversation could be class differences between partners. I grew up at the very bottom of lower middle class and my husband grew up more upper middle class. Because of this we often differ on how to spend money, even simple things like he buys new clothes when he needs them and I make do with what I have or shop at thrift stores because that’s what I’ve done almost my entire life!

    It could be an interesting way to explore the same topic from another angle.

    • Reem says...

      That’s fascinating.

    • DIANA says...

      Yes, this is my greatest concern with finding a partner! Money, Religion, and Sex compatibility.

    • Hannah says...

      YES. That’s me and my husband. I was initially so baffled that he had no trouble making his needs and wants known—I was always used to making do, needing as little as possible, etc.
      (this applies to both material and immaterial needs. )

    • Karin says...

      I would also love to read a post on this – my husband and I have a similar contrast in our backgrounds.
      LOVED this post BTW.

    • Sam says...

      Yes! When I first met my husband, I lied to him about where I lived and other things about my family. I didn’t want him to judge me right out-of-the-gate, and I was embarrassed. While we tend to have similar spending habits, the class difference is tricky around holidays and other family events, especially when gifts are involved.

  64. Venn says...

    I cried, and cried so hard reading this piece. This resonated so well with me, beautifully written, Ashley. I see my parents once a year on average because my brother and I live across the world from them. I’ve just returned from our annual vacation with them, and with each passing year it becomes more obvious to me how different our lives are. I am so much more financially secure, even at the age of 28, than they were in their 40s and 50s. I love being able to treat them to nice hotels and the occasional lavish gifts. My brother and I left home at 18, and never looked back. We never considered the impact of an empty nest we left our parents with – with full force we embraced the life they worked so hard for us to have. So we now live very different lives to them, and because we don’t see them very often – many an argument ensues from the cultural differences we now have. I love them dearly, and as Ashley put it, they will always be my truest home. Thank you for this essay. Few things make me weep this much, but this piece hit me right in the gut. Your writing is a gift.

  65. Kat says...

    This is so poignant, especially for International Women’s Day. I also just read this article (https://slate.com/human-interest/2018/03/for-women-of-color-work-life-balance-is-a-different-kind-of-problem.html) on the entrenched class and racial inequalities of being able to ‘choose’ time over making money.
    I’m not a parent but would like to be one day, and I wonder how I will manage my own journey of caregiver time with paid work time.
    I think our culture has parenting ideals that are so blind to the realities of how these ideals are achieved, and to be honest, I think so much of our culture’s parenting ideals are still tinged by outdated patriarchal concepts of what the main caregiver ‘should’ be doing. Raising children is not a selfish or leisurely act!

  66. Erin says...

    Stunning writing, beautiful essay. Thank you for putting words to something that otherwise seems so intangible.

  67. Kristen says...

    This is just so lovely and honest and true. My parents (especially my dad) was raised poor and in a volatile environment. Everything my parents have done has been to ensure we would have it easier, better than they did and not repeat their mistakes and hardships. I recently talked to my parents about this and my mom made a comment about a recent financial decision my husband and I made which turned out to be a very big blessing, which we could do because of graduating without college debt (thanks to my dad’s second and third jobs). My mom was complimentary but I also wanted to ensure that she knew it was because of her and my dad. The decisions they made to do things differently, allowed us to do things differently. I know there’s this feeling of pride from them, but also a bit of uncertainty as we are in a very different place in life then they were at our age. And the thing is, I want MORE for my kids too – to travel and eat organic and experience so many things I didn’t find till later.

    • Milan says...

      I admire you for doing this! I forget to show gratitude toward my parents, for many of the reasons discussed in the comments, and it’s something I’d like to change.

  68. Sarah says...

    Thank you so much, Ashley. I tear up whenever I read one of your posts. I have felt disconnected especially from my mom now that at 33, my husband and I (and both my brothers) make more than my parents ever did. We come home and like organic produce (never HEARD of it before college) and clothes from indy designers or whatever and I often feel like they don’t like it, or feel like we’ve left them and shun what they gave us. But they gave us everything. My parents double mortgaged their home to send us all to college without loans (a fortunate situation, I know), and I really thought Old Navy was the height of quality growing up. I worry that they see us a huge snobs now who aren’t grounded in reality, and I don’t ever want to condescend to them, but sometimes I think I do without realizing it until later.

  69. Brook says...

    Sometimes I feel like my lifestyle is extravagant when I compare it to my parents’ lifestyle. They were immigrants who came to America without knowing English, without knowing if they would be able to make it, but determined to do whatever it took to give me a better life. My mom told me that she loves seeing and hearing about the things we indulge in that she doesn’t and sees it as a success because I have an appreciation for things she’s never been exposed to. She says that knowing how to spend money and enjoy it is a luxury that she’s glad she was able to provide to me.

  70. Melanie says...

    This is such a great piece and voices so many of the feelings I have about raising my daughter.

  71. Elise White says...

    What a lovely piece. So much of this resonated with me, both as an upwardly mobile child raised working class, and now as a mother raising middle/upper middle class kids. I loved your text to your friend. Thank you for extending that grace to us.

  72. This is one of the most personally poignant essays I’ve ever read on CoJ – a thought, or more feeling, I’ve grappled with so many times without really understanding that it could be put into words so beautifully. I sometimes even harbor guilt over the relative opportunity of my life compared to my parents, for fear that it/I will be understood as “soft” or “privileged.” But I try to remind myself that we still always hold where we’ve come from, and that opportunity doesn’t mean easy or without its own sort of grit. With opportunity comes learning and exposure, which can be delightful but also really challenging. And certainly, nothing to ever feel guilty about.

  73. Erica says...

    Wow, what a beautiful piece. No one ever talks about the changing roles we experience as we get older, the roads to becoming an adult child we all must navigate. Thank you for your words, your insight. They resonate deeply.

  74. B says...

    Just wanted to say that I loved reading this. Being a parent can bring a whole mix of feelings. Even when you really hit the mark, and open doors for your child that were not open to you, it is so understandable that there can be a feeling of loss commingled with the pride we take in our children reaching new heights.

  75. DIANA says...

    I have a similar (but different) problem. I grew up very working class to two immigrants who worked restaurant and construction jobs and were never able to buy me anything on a whim. My parents went back to school to get college degrees at an older age and now have the combined salary of an upper class household. I came home one day from college to find a huge flat screen in my little house and it seemed to have happened overnight. My dad now spends like a Gatsby, tries to insist on solving all of my financial needs, only drinks sparkling water – and it’s a huge shock to me. My mom now attends lots of fancy business galas and has a closet full of designer dresses. I’m doing well for myself financially (woo health insurance), but I still cling to that penny-pinching lifestyle I was raised with. I know they have worked hard for all of their success, but I find it harder to relate to them.

  76. Kelli says...

    Fighting back tears, nods, and smiles. Thank you so much for sharing this perspective. There’s so much in the news about how millennials are the first generation to do worse than their parents, but for a lot of us, we are grappling with the opposite but still incredibly valid concern of doing better financially than our parents, particularly when our parents still live paycheck to paycheck. Thank you, Cup of Jo, for your diversity of opinions. It’s what keeps me coming back for more among the literally hundreds (thousands!) of other blogs out there. These posts and this community is a home, too.

  77. Carrie says...

    I literally feel a soft glow around me when I read Ashley’s writing, it’s that beautiful.

  78. Meg P says...

    Lovely essay on class & growth & motherhood and love. Thanks for writing & sharing it!

    I teach at a community college and see my students struggle with this experience often – wanting to make their parents proud, wanting to earn a better career and more opportunities – but also feeling tension or even backlash from their families for changing too much. It’s a hard line to walk for the kids & parents as well.

    It’s very interesting too to think about what you said about your relationship changing and improving as you grew up. I’d love to see more on CoJ about navigating relationships with our parents as adults, and all the joys and frustrations and surprises that brings.

  79. Keegan says...

    This piece was so beautiful. It moved me to tears and made me think of my wonderful yet difficult relationship with my own mama. Thank you Ashley for sharing your story.

  80. L says...

    I love this. Growing up, my parents had a strict budget but we were always comfortable. I never worried about not getting something I needed, but I mostly got hand me downs and didn’t have the clothes or toys that were popular. Now, I’m 26 and my husband and I make more money than my parents and a lot more money than either of my siblings. I am able to do a lot of things that no one else in my family can afford, like international vacations, nice dinners out, expensive high quality clothes, etc. and it makes me feel a little bit uncomfortable.

  81. Ellie says...

    Thank you for writing about a topic that isn’t discussed much and for sharing so openly! It was refreshing.

  82. CateA says...

    This rang so true to me. I was raised by parents that emigrated to the US as adults and had their kids here. Although we weren’t poor, I do feel like they look at me like an alien sometimes, as I’m an American that has adopted the mores/attitudes/habits of this society. The feeling of ‘alienation’ from your home tribe (your parents) can be hard to swallow at times. If you don’t feel like you belong when you’re with your family, then where do you belong?

  83. ashley says...

    everything you write is so vulnerable and beautiful and needed in the world. ❤️

  84. Lauren E. says...

    Such a beautiful piece. I’m not necessarily in a different income bracket than my parents but I moved away from my hometown and live in New York now, and am doing so many different exciting things that I think my parents never even dreamed of. And now that my husband and I both work in industries that don’t really exist in my hometown, I know I could never move back. And my parents REALLY don’t understand that. Every time I visit I have to explain again why I live in New York and why I’m never moving “home.” So while they raised me to dream big, apparently that meant big enough for the hometown but not so big that I left.

  85. I was so moved by your text, thank you so much for sharing it.

    I am 32 and live in another country with a very different culture than the one I grew up in. I also feel that my parents cannot relate to many things I am going through. But I totally understand what you said about your mother being your true home; it truly is like that.

  86. Charlotte K says...

    This is one of the best things I’ve ever read on this site. The line “…happy people stop paying attention to danger” says so much.

  87. Sarah says...

    this is so lovely and so raw. thank you for sharing.

  88. Love this article. Good mantra to follow.

  89. Thank you so much for putting into words – beautiful, genuine words –
    what I have felt for years about myself and my family. You made my heart swell with gratitude today.

  90. Laura says...

    Beautifully written…

  91. Catherine says...

    Thank you for writing such a relevant post. Isn’t this what our parents wanted for us? A life better than theirs? Then the struggle on how to parent the next generation occurs. I love being the truest home… transcends generations and topics really.

  92. adriane says...

    What a beautiful piece. Thank you Ashley!

  93. Sarah says...

    Well this is perfect. Wise and true and resonates like a bell. THANK YOU. Beautiful writing.

  94. Amy says...

    Crying at work. Yay. This hits so close to home. Thank you, Ashley.

  95. Anna says...

    Ashley, this was thoughtful and wonderful! I live a very different life than my parents, and I’ll be thinking about this for a while: “She wanted me to have wings. She just never considered that sometimes I’d fly away.”

    • That line also touched me deeply.

      Thank you, Ashley, for such an emotive and resonating piece — and thank you COJ for bringing such a powerful voice onto your team! :)

  96. Jill says...

    Wow! This is spot on. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and taking on this issue so tenderly.

  97. Robin says...

    So beautiful and thoughtful <3 <3 <3

  98. Moriah says...

    Ashley – thank you so much for such a powerful piece. It made me feel quite emotional. I grew up poor on a farm with six siblings, and I often feel a lot of guilt about the excess in my life now. My annual salary when I was 25 was more than my parents (combined) ever made. It’s complicated – it was hard, but I’m really grateful for the skills and tenacity my childhood gave me. I don’t have kids yet, but I guess I don’t exactly want everything to be “easy” for them. Like you said, the thing to focus on is a warm and loving home. A true home. Thank you!

  99. Ruth says...

    I have been a regular visitor to this site since 2011, and honestly this is one of the best pieces I’ve read. Bravo for bringing on Ashley. Her work is always thought-provoking, engaging, and substantive.

  100. Maegan says...

    What a beautiful piece. Thank you for writing with such honesty.

  101. J says...

    OMG, yes. Instead of you’re too happy, I get you’re too SMART. And it isn’t always a compliment.

  102. Meg says...

    Thank you for this. I was fascinated to read this. What a topic! I too was raised [essentially] “poor” and often struggled growing up to make sense of the world…spending SO much time pretending to be part of the middle class and embarrassed to be poor. I then – finally – got to a point where I was comfortable with myself (I’m nearly 40…) and happy to have had the experience of being raised poor. I honestly don’t think I would appreciate the things I do in life had I not had the upbringing I had. I no longer find it a source of embarrassment, although it’s interesting to see how differently my older sister and I view our upbringing. She spoils her 14 year old daughter because I think she felt so deprived growing up. I (although childless) think it was probably the best thing to have happened to me and don’t think I would be as well developed and such a hard worker…appreciative of all that I’ve had in life. Anyways. Thank you for such a wonderful post.

  103. Katherine says...

    This is beautiful, Ashley. Thanks for sharing part of your story.

  104. Of course, so beautifully written, Ashley. My husband and I have spoken of this often. For him, it’s raising our kids in more comfort than he had growing up. For me, it’s similar but more so, the idea that we have an American home (or, our version of American anyway). I’m a first gen-er and sometimes I think it’s hard to understand for my parents to see how differently we do things.

  105. Jessie Buckmaster says...

    I appreciate this. My parents are working class, and worked hard to give me opportunity. I went to college and got a degree where my first year working I already made as much/more than my parents. I still find myself carrying guilt about my lifestyle, being able to afford higher quality stuff and healthier food, traveling more than they ever were able to. They worked with the resources available to them at the time to be able to give me (and my brother) a step up. I’m still navigating this tension.

    • Moriah says...

      I’m in the same boat! Sometimes I feel like such an entitled brat to be going on exotic trips and buying expensive clothing when my parents worked so hard just to give us a home and food. Even though things are manageable/more comfortable for them now, I realize that I could give them a small portion of my income and it would make a huge difference to them.

      This is a great topic, but it makes me emotional!

    • Amy says...

      Yup! I feel so guilty when I hear that my dad, who should be nearing retirement, still works 60 hour weeks with no savings. I’m 34 (single, no kids), and I make double what my dad makes. He’s so derseveing! But, I went to college and chose not to have three kids before I was 30, like my parents did. My choices (and hard work and luck!) got me here, by I still feel such guilt.

  106. lauren says...

    Oh my goodness. No need for specifics, but this hit home on many levels and reading that the role we can be as mothers- the truest home- brings tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing

  107. aga says...

    Wow, this brought tears to my eyes. So good <3

  108. Kathryn says...

    I love this. Ashley, you have such a wonderful way of approaching difficult subjects with such grace xx

  109. Stephanie says...

    Thank you for naming and discussing something we don’t talk about much in America- class.

  110. Kelly says...

    I literally never, ever comment. But wow. This piece is amazing. The honesty and vulnerability and the beautiful way you shared your story. This is why COJ is my favorite blog. Ashley, I am so glad you’re part of COJ now!

  111. So beautiful, Ashley. I related to so much of this. Parents seem to want us to do better, have more, but when we do so, they sometimes seem to feel as though we aren’t true to our upbringing anymore. Ironically though, I have found no matter how comfortable I am now, I can’t forget the feeling of being poor. I find myself worrying about money because it’s automatic. When you’ve lived in “survival mode” you begin to feel comfortable in that even though it’s not actually comfortable at all! I’m happy my children don’t have to live like that, but yes, I also worry about them missing out on the true satisfaction of wanting something so, so badly and doing the hard work to get it.

  112. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this. I’ve struggled with this my whole life. I don’t want to live as an adult the way I grew up and sometimes that feels like a slap in the face to my mom who worked so hard to give us what little we had.

    There’s also another tough side of it: not feeling like you belong at ‘home’ anymore while the new ‘home’ you’ve built for yourself has its own alienation if you’re surrounded by people who have never had to struggle just to survive. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not the hugest problem, but it sure can be lonely.

  113. Becca says...

    Lovely. Thank you so much for sharing this perspective. There are many things about my childhood my daughter does not have to navigate… powerful to think about how quickly things change.

  114. Elizabeth says...

    I wonder, too, if it’s worth thinking about downward transition, too.

    I was raised in a home that was on the top end of what’s considered middle class by the numbers. We had the lovely middle class life of the 90’s – private school, McMansion in the suburbs, international vacations, new but not super high end cars for our 16th birthdays – but I now live in a city neighborhood in Detroit where the average home sells for around 40K and I’m married to a blue collar tradesman. We are comfortable, don’t get me wrong, but my life isn’t subsidized by my parents so I live very differently than my parents did. My husband works hard in a very physical job, we drive old cars, and we worked really, really hard to pay off our student loans.

    I have, I realized a few years ago, essentially fallen down the class ladder without realizing it. I wonder how my kids will feel when they realize we live very, very differently than my parents do. I wonder how they’ll feel when they realize my husband does manual labor as a job and that he doesn’t drive a desk like their cousin’s parents do. I want to give them the same “vocabulary” and situational awareness that my parents gave me growing up that makes me feel comfortable in any situation. I want them to see the world and be at home in it. I want them to be invigorated and not exhausted by the work they do. I want them to go to great schools and have that upper edge from their great schools. I can’t give them everything I had and I feel guilty about that. I try to replicate it at home, but I feel like there’s a current I’m swimming against when I try honor those things in my life. A chorus of voices saying “why do you want anything better than this?”

    I think about all these things but I don’t really have any answers. I guess, like everything, it’s all just a series of choices and deciding how hard you want to fight for it.

    • Elizabeth says...

      I reread this and now I think it sounds whiny. I truly don’t mean it that way – I think that my thesis could really be summed up in this:

      Class mobility goes both ways, and I see that the cultural literacy Ashley writes about is often a product of environment and not just parentage.

      TL;DR: Even though I am literate in the things that the middle class needs to know it’s not automatically translating to my children – I have to work really, really hard to transfer that to them and teach it to them because the environment we live in is not conducive to it.

    • Erin says...

      Elizabeth– This doesn’t sound whiny at all! Not at all. In fact, I thought your comment was very generous, to yourself and your family. I think downward mobility is such an important part of this conversation.

    • Lane says...

      Same here, Elizabeth. I’m lucky enough that my fairly well-to-do parents are super involved in my kids’ lives, and are very happy to provide for extra curricular activities and items that my husband and I can’t afford on our teacher/secretary salaries.

    • Rebecca says...

      Thanks for showing this side of the conversation Elizabeth – I have a very similar situation where my life is not at all on the scale that I grew up in – my dad is a physician, my mom never worked, whereas I’m married to a police officer and work full time. Like you, I have more than enough, but my parents are always suggesting that I do things with my kids that they did with me – travel! Fancy camp! And I simply don’t have those kind of resources. It’s an endless source of frustration in my relationship with my mom because she has no concept of what it is like being a working mom. Anyway, I don’t mean this to sound whiny – and I didn’t think yours did either! But I do appreciate both sides of the mobility issue.

    • Nora says...

      I don’t think it sounds whiny at all! I was thinking the same thing as I read Ashley’s piece.

      In addition to career choices we make, our parents’ generation dealt with a different economy and many of them did very well doing things that are somewhat out of reach now. And the economic sorting that’s happened in the last 20 years makes raising children harder now, too.

      That said, I’ll bet your kids are absorbing your middle class literacy more than you realize, even if their behavior reflects their peers’ culture.

    • Sophia F. says...

      Elizabeth, this is me. I grew up in a very privileged family in DC, and other than the car when I was sixteen, had everything you described. I married someone from a working class military family who ended up at a military academy and was the first in his family to go to a four year college. Socially and financially, he has classed up while I have classed down, to put it in crass terms. We both still struggle to navigate these changes with our family, dancing around our ownership of a home in a cool neighborhood of an expensive city with his family (partly thanks to down payment assistance from my parents), trying to explain to my parents why we can’t visit more/pay for enrichment classes for our kids/go on date nights when the reality is that we have to pay attention to our money in ways my family never did. We’ve been together for twelve years now and it’s still hard.

    • Meghan says...

      I agree so much with all of this. My husband and I are natives of Northern Virginia (i.e. one of the wealthiest, most expensive areas of the country to live in), and we still live here. My dad worked his way up as an engineer while my mom was full-time at home while also doing side jobs (childcare, etc.). We never wanted for anything, but at the same time, we rarely took vacations, were the last family I knew to move into a single-family house (instead of a townhouse), etc. However, I was extremely blessed to have my parents pay for my in-state undergrad college tuition in full.

      Now that my husband and I have two young kids, we are living on less than $100,000 a year (that’s with my husband’s full-time job, his side job at our church, and my part-time job while I am also at home with our kids). The median household income in our county is over $125,000, and many people make much more than that. I feel like all the facets of finances and family life and how those things intersect are so hidden, even among close friends, and it can be lonely to feel like I am the only one of my “middle-class” friends who can’t afford things because of our budget. I would dearly love to have a 3rd child, but our budget right now literally can’t afford it, unless we make huge cuts in our spending, stop saving for retirement and/or deplete our savings….

    • Tina says...

      Doesn’t sound whiny at all! In fact we are in the same boat. Both my husband and I come from immigrant parents who did rather well for themselves. We grew up upper middle class and now we can’t give the same lifestyle to our children. Sometimes it really gets me down and it’s hard to fit in. The hardest part is school, we went to great schools and now my kids won’t. It really points out the injustices in our school system and how messed up this country is when it comes to prioritizing our future generations. At the same time it’s a very good lesson to the old naive version of myself. As a result I hope I’ve become less judgmental as a person since I’ve experienced “two different worlds.”
      COJ team, one of the best things I’ve read on your site!! Thank you!

    • claire says...

      Elizabeth, thank you for mentioning downward mobility. I grew up in a very similar situation (private school, international travel, used-but-nice cars at 16). My dad was lucky enough to have ended up with a career that allowed him to give me and my sisters a comfortable childhood despite the fact that he didn’t finish high school. We certainly never wanted for any necessities. As an adult, I now appreciate that, even though my parents could afford the things we wanted, we didn’t usually get them. If we *needed* new shoes, my mom took us out and bought them no questions asked. But if we simply *wanted* the new cool shoes everyone had a school, we had to wait until we had outgrown our current pair. I remember being the only 16 year old at school who didn’t get a BMW or Mercedes for my birthday…instead I got a great used Honda that took me all the way through college.

      Despite the education that my dad’s career was also able to afford me (engineering), I have had to come to terms with the fact that I will never have even a fraction of what my parents had. At this point, I don’t plan on having children because I just don’t know how I’ll be able to afford them. I can barely afford housing and food and I have a higher salary than most of my peers. If this sounds whiny, I apologize. I’m actually perfectly okay with having less than my parents did (I’m happy with my life :)…but they aren’t. They can’t understand how I still haven’t managed to attain the life they wanted for me even though I’m educated in a practical field and work very hard. This is a common trend among most of the people I grew up with. Our parents had a lot and we have just enough. Our parents can’t seem to understand how we’ve “failed” to become (financially) successful. When we discuss it, my parents get frustrated because they can’t blame my decisions…I’ve made the “right” ones. So, for now, we’ve stopped talking about it. I hope that they’ll eventually see that I’m okay with the life I can afford, that I have a different definition of success, and that that’s what’s important.

    • Sophie Roland Heiðdal says...

      So glad you brought this up Elizabeth, thank you. My parents are MUCH more financially comfortable than my husband and I will ever be. I was raised in an upper-middle class household outside of London – my father a dental surgeon and my mother a housewife. Private school, exotic holidays in the Caribbean, seemingly bottomless resources, and now…. well, if my husband and I can make the rent each month we’re doing well! We’ve made our own set of choices that have been geared more towards personal fulfillment rather than financial stability (my husband training as a carpenter, and me leaving my well paid office-job to seek more creative and calmer work options). And I wonder if this focus that our generation fixates on ‘do what you love/ find your passion/ adore your job’ has warped our tolerance for careers that are perhaps not going to light you up, but certainly provide an substantial financial cushion (like my father). I’ve been too busy asking myself ‘am I happy’ instead of ‘how much money does this make me’, and that’s resulted in us having profoundly less. Many of my friends are in the same position – with well off retired parents, and very little in their bank accounts, having reached for emotional wellbeing over security.
      I worry that we’re a generation picking ourselves apart, full of existential angst, neurosis, and self indulgence that generally tends to leave us financially unstable
      On the other side of things, I couldn’t be prouder of my hard working handy husband, and couldn’t be more thrilled not to no longer be going half mad in a super stressful job that required me to stare at a computer screen for 10 hours straight. So much less money, but definitely a more wholesome life, focused on wellbeing. Is it worth is? I hope so.

    • A says...

      This doesn’t sound whiny at all. I have followed a similar path. I also always pictured children and now, while I still want them someday, I feel anxiety and an an immense pressure to make bigger jumps in my career so we could someday afford what I had growing up and more. I have more opportunity to do this than my partner for various reasons. I hope to build a life that allows us to live within our means but still afford to take some time to travel (the only thing I can think of when I ask my self what my passion is) and raise kind and happy children without stressing the hell out over money all the time!

    • jules says...

      Wow. You nailed in one sentence something that actively caused issues for me for at least 10 years after high school, and still causes the weirds sometimes:

      “I want to give them the same “vocabulary” and situational awareness that my parents gave me growing up that makes me feel comfortable in any situation.”

      I never had that, still don’t. Still often feel like an outsider who doesn’t belong, despite having had great success outwardly.

      Much to chew on for MY next therapy session. Thanks.

    • Felicity says...

      I live in Australia – and this is similar to how I feel. ‘Generational decline’ is a phrase that haunts me. I can’t give my sons the live I gad in the 90s – but I hope I can give the, the essentials, which boils down to education.

  115. Stasha says...

    This is one of my favorite things I have ever read on this blog. Thank you!

  116. Amber says...

    This is beautiful. Thank you. In many ways this is the story of my mother and I — and it’s hard going home when I feel like the odd one out, the one who is too happy, the one who has sooooo much (when really it’s not THAT much, just a new ‘enough’). I didn’t realize that’s what this is, but it is — class change. How bizarre.

    Thank you for giving words to this odd feeling, and to the fears I won’t be surprised to encounter when my sweet baby comes into the world this summer. I appreciate you.

  117. Gosh, I loved this. Always so happy to see one of Ashley’s pieces pop up here.

  118. Anne says...

    Wow- great piece! This hit so close to home for me. I grew up in a working/middle class family where both parents worked really hard to keep us there. My first year of college, things hit the skids for my parents (long-term job loss, lost a lot of their retirement savings in the stock market, had to sell their home at a loss). They definitely tried their best (and I admire and appreciate all that they did for us as kids) but a lot of their economic lessons they have tried to pass on aren’t actually very sound (falls into the category of penny wise and pound foolish, if that makes sense). It’s been tough because my husband grew up upper middle class and got great financial habits and advice from his parents. This came to a head when we were planning our wedding with both sets of parents. Mine were and still are very quick to jump to “well of course you agree with his parents, they can give you whatever you want,” which wasn’t true. We are now much more financially secure than my parents were at my age or are now. I have never forgotten about how I grew up and the shine has not come off a lot of parts of my life now (being able to buy clothes on a whim, go to the grocery store on an as-needed basis rather than once a week with a strict budget, write a check for something and not have to call the other person immediately to tell them that money would be coming out of the account). What I’m trying to say is, it’s a very peculiar feeling to find yourself in a higher economic class than your own parents, especially if you’re still close. We haven’t discussed money with them (but they know some things, like what we paid for our house), as they are both working now and seem to be maintaining well and have a few extras (they just went to Florida for a week to visit friends). That said, my husband and I have discussed the ways in which we would support my parents if asked. I really appreciate this topic and your perspective- thanks!

  119. Angela says...

    Oh, Ashley, you do have a gift.

  120. Laura says...

    Love this story, and I’m glad you explored this topic so gracefully. I have a flipped version of class anxiety. My parents are very wealthy, and I am not. I was drawn to non-profit work, then decided to go to pursue a PhD in my thirties. My husband is an artist. They have helped me financially on a number of occasions, giving me an enormous safety net. I feel incredibly grateful, but there is a fear there for both of us: that the investment will not quite pay off. I admire you so much for making it on your own, and I know your mother must be so proud!

    • April says...

      I can relate to this. My father was a physician, but (in part) because I had the freedom to do what I loved, I chose to pursue a less lucrative field (journalism) and my husband just finished his PHD. We now live in a very expensive area on the coast where buying anything at all is much more difficult than the Midwestern town I grew up in.

      Many of my peers are also figuring out how what to do when the economy has not treated them as well as their parents. Things like freezing eggs, delaying children, etc. come up often since many do not feel like they are in an ideal financial position like their parents were.

      Would love to hear more about this side of the spectrum.

  121. Jenna says...

    Ugh. Tears. I love reading pieces that give me words for angsty feelings I have that haven’t yet taken shape.. This is definitely one of those pieces. Thank you for writing it Ashley!!

    I have seen this struggle in my own life – I am able to provide so much more to my daughter than I was ever able to have as a kid. Sometimes I question whether I should give her these things (not always or solely material things) or not, and that tends to bring a certain aspect of guilt with it.

    However, the struggle has opened my eyes and made me more empathetic and understanding toward my own mother since I can now see that she struggled with the exact same things and made the best decisions she could make at the time.

  122. Sarah says...

    This hit the spot with me too Ashley. My childhood was poor with a family always in flux. My own children are now adults. I navigated the middle-class school mums, the unsettled feeling when with others that had a longer (I wont say better) education than me, and the minefield of living and socialising amongst people who had grown up with so much more. I lost my original tribe – but that was my choice. I have a new tribe now. I too have the worry that my children have ‘had it too good’ but I’d rather it was that way round than the other.

  123. ashley e says...

    Beautiful. And true,

  124. Paige says...

    Love this. Thanks for sharing.

  125. Laura says...

    Loved this and the reflection it cause me to have between myself and my own mother. My mom moved to the US at around 21 without knowing the language and to start her family with my father. She left home at around 12 because she wanted to pursue her education. In the states, her education didn’t count so she had to start from scratch. She often tells me stories of her childhood and honestly it sounds like a lifetime completely unfamiliar to me (“we had to wash our clothes in the river!” “I had to work in the fields!” “I didn’t taste a pizza until my late teens and I started eating it with a fork!”). And every time she recounts her past, she does it with such fondness, as if a better childhood had never existed. She lived in a different time when comparing your life wasn’t as common as it is now with social media, and she loved it. You can’t miss what you don’t know. Anyway, it fortified her character and it does make me wonder how soft I am compared to her. I know my own version of struggle but then she has hers. It makes me wonder if both of our struggles are equal in value.

  126. Kathy says...

    Agree with all these comments. Such an authentic voice. I love ashley’s Writing. Thank you!

  127. Linds says...

    Beautiful! Bravo, Ashley!

  128. Lourdes I. says...

    Yes, yes, yes!!!!! I have a similar experience with my mother and my HUMBLE beginnings. I’m a mother now and I constantly struggle with this issue, too. Please continue to share your experiences, Ashley! We read them, feel them, and cherish them.
    Thank you!

  129. Meredith Whitfield says...

    God I am so glad Ashley is on CoJ.

    • Me too!!!

  130. Tara says...

    Ashley, I saw this tweet from the Cup of Jo account and knew immediately who wrote it. I love coming to COJ daily and I am by turns taught something, entertained, filled with admiration or filled with emotion. Your writing makes me feel all of these things at once. Thank you.

  131. Carolyn says...

    Oh, Ashley! This piece, wow. As a mama (middle class, white, in my 30s) I am always worrying about “doing it right.” This is a particular ache of motherhood, I believe. As a adult I can see how my own mom’s flaws and struggles wounded me and I’m really terrified of how that will play out for my sweet boys. Am I bound to hurt them too, albeit from my own stuff? (UGH.) One time I heard that one of the gifts that moms give to their kids is that of demonstrating repair, restoration, forgiveness, which can only come from mistakes or conflict.

    I LOVE your concept of mothers being a true home for the kids. I will be pondering that, thank you. I’m trying to say is that maybe home isn’t the place where we are totally free of our struggles or conflicts (even between mama and kiddo), but rather the safest, truest place to find healing and forgiveness and a million second chances.

    • Meg P says...

      Oh yes, let’s have home mean that for our kids and ourselves, Carolyn!

    • Lindsey says...

      “Repair, restoration, forgiveness.” And, “healing and a million second chances.”

      Home.

      LOVE LOVE LOVE.

  132. Amanda says...

    I’m so happy Cup of Jo has added Ashley’s voice to this blog! Articles like this are one of the many reasons I’ve been a loyal reader for so many years, and what keeps me coming back for more. Thank you!

  133. Ansley Clark says...

    Thank you so much for this. I also hope to see more content like this in the future!

  134. Lindsey says...

    Love, love, love this real talk! I was just thinking yesterday that we hadn’t heard from Ashley in a bit-so glad to have you as a Cup of Jo contributor!

  135. Liz says...

    I find myself dealing with the reverse situation: raising my child in a lower class from that in which I was raised, and trying to deal with only being able to give him lesser opportunities. It’s stressful!

  136. JB says...

    Yes, I feel this so much. You kids have so many privileges and opportunities that I never had. We work hard to provide for our kids but then I wonder what that is doing to their work ethic, their values and their outlook.
    I also would like to say thank you for the word on not being condescending to your mom to show that you are capable. I need to learn this.
    Beautiful writing.

  137. Lindsay says...

    Yes! my fiance and I have talked about this MANY times. How our parents always said things along the lines of “we want better for you” but when that happened there was a shift in the relationship. Especially for my fiance who is one of the three boys. It is very obvious that his dad is VERY uncomfortable with the fact that his children are making more than he ever did and providing things for their children that he never could. It is a strange dynamic that we are all still trying to navigate.

  138. Karen says...

    Thanks for sharing – its important to talk about class and privelege!

  139. Such an interesting topic and so beautifully written.

  140. Caitlin says...

    Ashley, thank you for this beautiful and thoughtful essay. I have struggled with this transition myself, and this post couldn’t have come at a more poignant time. I was raised working class and saw achieving an education (graduating from college, earning a PhD, and now living life on the tenure-track) as a means for survival and an opportunity to give my future children a better life than I had growing up. I am blessed to have a mother that always supported that vision, but it certainly changes how I interact with my family and friends from “before” that transition. I’m fortunate enough to now be in a position to help my mother financially, but I’ve had the wind knocked out of me as well in terms of how much responsibility I feel to help her, and whether what I can do will be enough.

  141. J says...

    I really enjoyed this piece. I hope to see more content like this– reminds me why I’ve been a faithful reader for over five years

    • Sarah says...

      Me too!

    • Jen says...

      YES. I’d love to see more on this topic please. I really struggle to relate to my first generation immigrant parents, especially now that I have kids of my own. Would love to see how people navigate between all the nuance of family and culture.

      Thank you for this post.

  142. TJ says...

    Dang, Ashley, you are an amazing writer. Thank you for sharing your experience and your words. ‘You only have to be their truest home. ‘ Oh man…love this.

    • Katie H. says...

      Yes, so beautifully put!

    • Kathleen says...

      I second this. What a wonderful reminder to have about the truest, most important part of being a parent. Thank you, so much.

  143. Love this!!!

    • wendy says...

      Third. Love this piece Ashley! More please! :)

  144. Wow — thank you so much for writing this, Ashley. I also resonate with your experience in that my parents grew up in poverty-stricken Korea, in a post-war economy that devastated their parents’ generation’s ability to provide for their children. My mom, being the youngest of 7 children, grew up sharing every grain of rice with her family and receiving a hard-boiled egg for Christmas. I am only beginning to uncover what that difference in experience must have been like for her raising me and my brother in a middle class family in California, where I got to attend school for free with air conditioning and daily meals, where our family sure did scrimp and save every penny (old habits die hard) but I never had to worry about fresh fruit, or about the $20 field trip fee . We did have our myriad of struggles of being an immigrant family in a very anti-immigrant culture, but I don’t dare equate that hardship with poverty in the US. And now, my husband and I face the dilemma of having children in the future where they will have parents with multiple higher ed degrees, who speak fluent English and are independent of their help in navigating US infrastructure of credit cards/healthcare/taxes, and doubly more so never have to be concerned with the life of penny-saving. We don’t know what it’s like to have that life; we don’t know how to have children in that type of privilege. I guess a part of me is afraid of not having that connection with my very own offspring — what will we have in common beyond our physical genetics? Will they see the world the way I do? And those questions make me circle back to my mom and dad’s experiences; what did they gain, and what did they lose, by bringing me to this country where my Korean is whittling away by the day and our cultures often clash?

  145. Anna says...

    Polka dots in my eyes. x
    (And, please, more on class transition.)

  146. Laura G. says...

    this is beautiful. i love ashley’s writing.

  147. Barbara says...

    Beautifully written.

  148. Jade says...

    I am Loving getting to know Ashley more and more through the lens of her writing. This essay feels very close to home to me.

  149. Karen says...

    This is so beautiful, spot on!

  150. Emily says...

    Beautifully written Ashley! We are so lucky to have your voice as part of this community.