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. Cynthia says...

    Ashley, what a beautiful piece. My parents were products of the Depression, and so they felt it was important to save something for a rainy day. They starting buying U.S. Savings bonds when I was a baby because they thought I might want to go to college. I did, and my dad was so proud of me, but he didn’t get to see me graduate, because he died from cancer my sophomore year. My mom was proud of me and proud of me for being a teacher. My brother studied auto mechanics in high school, then earned his plumber’s license, and welding certification. While I am financially secure, I still count my pennies, yet I will gladly help someone in need. My daughters grew up comfortably, but my husband and I didn’t give them everything under the sun, but they had a lot of fun growing up.

  2. Jackie says...

    Thank you so much for sharing this, Ashley! I didn’t even realize how much this type of anxiety is haunting me until I read the words you so eloquently put together. Both my husband and I grew up in families that are very different culturally and financially than our current life together. While we are fortunate to live more comfortably than our parents, we also chose careers that are not as lucrative as many of our friends. I didn’t notice the awkwardness of living with less than our peers much before, but this became more of an issue now that we have a child. We spent a lot less money than our friends on things that we thought we did not need as parents and as a child, like mountains of toys, baby gears, and expensive outings/classes. This is partly due to our limited budget, but also out of principles. I want our child to live a more comfortable life than we did as children, but there are also things we value from our more limited upbringing that I want to pass along. I never thought I would care about our limitations/choices, but the first time I brought my toddler-aged son to friends who have a significantly bigger home and rooms/yards full of toys for their son, he was so impressed and excited by the bounty that it felt like a punch in the stomach to me. I’m angry at myself for feeling shame when I shouldn’t. I’m trying to raise a child who is happy with just the way he is, trying to set a good example for him when at heart I don’t have any of the self assurance I want to teach him. Your story is helping me realize that even if I don’t have what I want for my child, I just need to be home for him. As difficult as it is to be strong for our children, sometimes it’s even harder to be vulnerable gracefully, to be there for them even when we don’t have all the resources and wisdom to provide them. I’m still struggling with this of course, but thank you for giving me insights that will help along the way of parenthood/daughterhood.

    • Em says...

      You put into words so many feelings I have about my own situation, thank you for writing what you did xoxo

  3. Andrea says...

    What’s hard in class passing (I belong to a “higher” class than the one I was raised in) is being required to reveal your social poverty by random questions. I was in a final job interview with the top guy in the agency and he asked me about myself–what my parents did, etc. I don’t think he was expecting the truth I shared. I knew that I had to answer honestly, but I knew that that honesty might cost me the job I wanted so much. Acknowledged or not, people place a lot of value on surrounding themselves with people like themselves.

  4. Amelia says...

    Oh my god the last two sentences just brought on instant tears. This is a beautiful and true piece of writing, Ashley. Thank you so much!

  5. Elizabeth says...

    I loved every minute of reading this. I am especially struck by your text to your friend: “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.”
    What a kind gesture of support and reassurance. I’ll be repeating “you only have to be their truest home” in my kindest self-talk voice when I’m feeling stumped about all things parenting.
    I’ll echo this: More, more, more Ashley!

  6. Abbey Leroux says...

    I’m not a parent. I grew up in a similar socio-economic group as my parents. But damn…. this brought me to tears. Thank you.

  7. Maureen says...

    This article blew my mind, thank you for writing it. I can relate. I grew up with very hard working, working class parents who moved to an “uppity” town (their words) because there was a good school system and they wanted better for us. My sisters and I all went to college, had music and tennis lessons, traveled, we never wanted for anything because they worked so hard to give those experiences to us. But they were so insecure about being working class (talked about how uppity all our friends and their parents were- constantly) that they made me feel like we didn’t belong there and kind of helped breed a reverse-classism? It made me feel very insecure…like I wasn’t like my friends or that well-off people just “didn’t get it”. But so many of my friends parents worked very hard too, they just went to college. I now live in a nice town, with a good school system and feel “comfortable” with where we are and hope I can give my kids everything my parents gave me. But I will always keep my eye out for those kids and parents on the outskirts and try to make them feel like “one of the gang…”

  8. Kit says...

    Having Ashley join your team was a very good decision.

    • Alicia says...

      Yep – I second that.

    • So agree!

  9. Laura McAllister says...

    What a beautiful and relatable post. Thank you for your words Ashley.

  10. Jaspreet says...

    So good!! I feel similar to my parents except that I have more cultural literacy than they did. They immigrated from India and then raised us in a very unfamiliar place. This is beautiful. I am so glad you are part of the cup of Jo team, Ashley!

  11. Aly says...

    Wow!! Wonderful article.

  12. Kristie says...

    I keep coming back to watch this post blowing up with comments. I am so, so happy to see such strong response. Congratulations to Ashley and to Cup of Jo. You handle hard topics with such grace, and devotion to inclusion just keeps broadening in scope. More, more!

  13. Lana says...

    Before my children were born, this was a concern. Happiness isn’t necessarily relative to financial comfort. I purposefully made sure my kids did not receive every thing their hearts desired, with the exception of books. They are now very happy, educated, well adjusted humans with no debt and terrific relationships. I’m a very happy momma. It’s important to be intentional and sensitive regarding this subject with yourself, loved ones and the world at large.

  14. Ashley, I’m a sap anyway (and a new mom) but this was such an incredible, honest, novel perspective. I am crying at my desk. Thank you for sharing this!

  15. Callie says...

    More Ashley please!!! This struck me to my core and is so relate-able.

  16. Meg says...

    So beautiful! This piece really speaks to me even though I am not a mom yet. I will save this for the day I need to read it again. Thanks for putting all these feelings into words so eloquently!

  17. Robin in NoCo says...

    More! More! More Ashley! I have fond memories of “all of the things to make out of WIC Cream of Wheat” breakfasts created by my mom. My parents were able to reverse their own fortunes (through a tremendous amount of hard work and favorable circumstances) so I am caught in the middle of “I grew up poor” and “Am I providing a life for my kids that my parents can be proud of” and, in the end, all I know for sure is that the real currency of family is love.

    • Victoria says...

      I love this. I also have fond memories of WIC meals!
      My new mantra is, “the real currency of family is love.” Thank you.

  18. Ella says...

    Thank you so much for sharing this. Over the last two years I’ve been feeling this sentiment acutely as I’ve become fully independent from my family. It is heartbreaking for me to feel like the life I love and have forged for myself, one my parents pushed me towards, has also created a gulf in my relationship with them, particularly my mom. This is more a result of how we are able to relate or not. This is not to mention the flipside of impostor syndrome that I feel in other situations. It is wonderful that you and your mother speak so openly about this, I can’t imagine acknowledging it head on.

    I’m wondering if you’ve encountered more of these feelings since becoming engaged and potentially planning a wedding. I will soon be in that situation and am struggling with how it will feel to bring two sides of my life together, not to mention the addition my partners upper middle class family.

    • Eunice says...

      Your words (and of course Ashley’s beautiful writing) resonate so deeply with me and made me teared up. The gulf between my mum and I is so evident now as I become more independent from her that it saddens me to the core. Confronting or acknowledging it is not an option as it will only widen the gulf between us.

  19. holly says...

    thank you for this article. i’m weeping as i write this. thank you.

  20. Lesley says...

    This hit me so, so hard. My parents did everything they could to set me up to have more success than they did (sacrifices and hard work that make me tear up to think about), but I never considered the shift in dynamics that would result when I achieved that success. I’ve been navigating these new waters with my mom for a few years now, and we’ve got it figured out for the most part, but the sense that she is “my truest home” despite the changes absolutely resonates with me.

    This is a perspective that none of my friends or partner share, so it’s wonderful to hear a similar experience from someone else. Thanks so much for this.

  21. YB says...

    I am actually going through a reverse experience and wonder how many people like me are out there but hiding. I grew up in a comfortable middle class home where my parents were able to provide for my brother and I everything we needed and wanted (within reason): education, extracurricular activities, books, clothes, vacations, etc. And as a result, I received a great education from a good university, went off to get a professional degree from a top-notch university, but then, got a job in public interest in NYC. It’s meaningful and rewarding work but living in NYC, as a single person paying almost 1/3 in taxes, working in public interest paying monthly student loan payments (my parents only paid for my university, which itself is something I am grateful for), it’s tough. I definitely have moments when I reminisce on the days I was under my parents’ wing and was able to pursue many opportunities without having to worry about how that would cut into the rest of my budget; which type of tomatoes to buy or not buy based on how much it costs per pound; how many more days I can hold off on buying certain essentials before I get my next paycheck, etc. I do think my situation partly has to do with the fact I am living in NYC as opposed to some other place where cost of living is much lower. I guess this is just an experience of becoming a real adult, living truly on my own, and my parents probably went through less financially comfortable periods too when they were first starting out. I can’t compare who I am now to my parents who were at a different stage in their lives. Anyways, don’t know how to end this thought, just wanted to share that there’s a reverse experience too. I don’t think my parents could have done anything different to make this transition smoother. They were just being loving parents giving their children opportunities that would edify them. I tell myself it’s just the reality of learning to become a responsible person!

    • Heather says...

      I know it doesn’t feel like it right now, but what you are going through will pass, and it’s a terrific gift. I think that people who go their entire lives without ever struggling to make ends meet cannot understand what most of the people in our country go through all the time. You will be a stronger, more responsible, more empathetic person for this experience.

    • Holly says...

      You aren’t the only one with the reverse experience. Mine is a little different in that I’m pretty sure that my parents never wanted for anything, never had the paycheck to paycheck experience at any point which was of course because they worked very hard but also because they started life off with no debt. When I got married, I married into a huge amount of debt (for college and law school) and we now struggle to make ends meet. It completely shifted the ideas about wealth I had growing up. I always heard and was always taught that it just took hard work to live a life of affluence. I see now how damaging that view is, because people at all levels of economic status or success work very hard and often just have different circumstances. Often I feel like my parents try to figure out what we are doing wrong to not be more successful or secure. I often look at myself that way and I have to put that view in check.

    • Em says...

      I am on the reverse of this as well. Similar upbringing, have a BA, but am not working in a “career.” Never had any issues with family (other than feeling like a dissapointment), until we had a baby. My family is so great and generous..constantly buying clothes and diapers for my son without asking if we need them. We are gracious and take them, but I often wonder if they would do the same if we made more money? Do they question why we don’t try to make career advancements to make more money? It’s been a dynamic to our familial relationship I wasn’t expecting.

  22. Amber says...

    This hits home. I remember a few years ago calling home to tell my mom about a job offer or promotion I got, and she asked how much the salary was (cringe). I was super uncomfortable, because I made more than she and my dad combined. But when I told her she cried tears of joy–she was so happy that I had succeeded. I still feel uncomfortable talking to her about my “lavish” lifestyle (which is really average in the expensive city I live in), when she still lives paycheck to paycheck and can’t afford most “luxuries.” Since “class jumping” (as another commenter called it), I feel an even further divide from my other blue collar, conservative, rural family members (grandparents, cousins, etc) who’s values are now so deeply in conflict with mine I feel we have no connection.

    Sidenote: So happy Ashley joined the CoJ team! I love and relate to her perspective so much!!

    • Amber says...

      Oh, one other thing: coming from no money, it’s hard to be in a “class level” with people who’s family’s have money. In my very expensive city (with one of the highest real estate costs in the country), my friends are all able to buy houses and take employment risks, because they have financial support (or the fallback option of financial support if they end up in a tough spot) from their parents (or grandparents, etc). While I’m personally in a very secure and strong financial position, potentially even stronger than that of some of my friends, and it feels really great to be fully self-sufficient, I’ll always feel like they have a leg up and I’m at a disadvantage.

  23. This is such a much needed topic and so refreshing to see. Having lived the last several years in San Francisco I’ve often said that poverty and class feels like the last taboo. You want to hear a record scratch at an SF happy hour? Tell what you think is a funny story about the summer that the gas was turned off because your parents couldn’t afford the bill that had racked up over the winter.
    My husband and I both came from working class families. Living most of life in the midwest I knew lots of people who were the first college graduate like me. It didn’t seem strange to me until my employer in SF literally dropped her fork at lunch when I said that my mom worked at a potato chip factory. “I thought you said you were raised around a lot of books”, she said. As if those things were mutually exclusive.
    My parents worked ( and still work) really really hard. They instilled a lot of things in me that made me excited to go to college specifically to learn. To have access to knowledge. For better or worse it was never about making more money.
    Often I feel guilty about the life I have, the trips I’ve taken , the things I take for granted. Other than a weekend trip my parents have never taken a vacation. I sometimes feel like it creates a gulf between us. At the same time I feel like compared to so many of our friends we are “the poor ones”. I feel like we all need to be more honest about class and it’s differences and the privilege that comes with it (or does not) .

  24. Beautiful Ashley.

  25. Thanks Cup of Jo for always bring such genuine and inclusive stories to my attention. <3

  26. Alex says...

    Interestingly, my husband and I are experiencing this in the reverse. We’ve chosen a service related career and don’t make as much as our parents. There can be some discomfort feeling like they believe we’re not providing a good enough life for their grandchildren. I think at in the end it’s important to emphasize the love we share and gently support the idea that more things will never make anyone happier.

    • YB says...

      I just shared about that too!

    • Caitlin says...

      I am also in this situation, not having taken a service oriented position but working in a creative industry, rather than having gone into something like engineering or law (my father is an attorney). My parents made it clear though that the main goal they have for us isn’t that we can have a better (read: wealthier) life than they had, but that we have the ability to choose for ourselves to follow our passions, whatever they may be, with whatever paycheck that provides. So although it is sometimes increasingly stressful to realize I am probably never going to make the kind of money I grew up having, I’m chasing my dreams, and that is all they wanted for us really.

  27. Ashley says...

    And you did it again, Ashley! Well done!! I am so touched by this incredible essay. I grew up in very different circumstances given that I was in and out of the foster care system. Since I am white and well-educated (I was very fortunate to go to UCLA on scholarship), it’s been easier for me to code switch into a different class, but not without some serious shame. Learning how to accept how my past so I may enjoy my present has been really difficult for me.

    Thanks for touching upon a rarely discussed topic. Congrats to you for your success, but more importantly, for finding a way of bridging two essential but at odds aspects of your identity. And, by doing so with grace and love towards your mother.

  28. Julia says...

    So, so beautifully written and and resonated with me as a 1st gen!

  29. Cathy says...

    What a wonderful piece. For me, this is reflected also in my parents’ immigrant status. My mom is simultaneously proud of how I’ve assimilated and also scared of how different I am culturally from her (we have settled into an understanding now that I’m an adult, but as a teenager, this led to really awful epic fights). And what makes it more difficult is that the things that are hard for me as an Asian American in a majority white environment, things that you would think she and I could connect on, we can’t because her experience in this country is as an Asian person just trying to successfully get through each day with limited communication abilities and my experience is an Asian-American raised here, having attained access to some of the most elite corridors of power in this country, dealing with microaggressions in my very white collar professional life. So while I’m not Chinese enough for her in many ways, I also can’t share with her the ways in which I am Chinese/Asian impact my daily life – in part because how does one explain microaggressions to someone whose ability to perceive them is limited and who doesn’t see the larger cultural context in which they take place, but primarily because she takes consolation in the fact that while we are not Chinese anymore, at least the trade-off for that is that we are fully American with all its attendant privileges, and I can’t bring myself to tell her that we will never be seen or treated as all-American. And class-wise, it’s not a source of contention for us at all, but nevertheless, I personally am very aware that I am now part of the class that they were part of in our home country, while my mom must remain part of the lower-working class in this country. The fact that she dropped several class levels to immigrate here, and I made up those class levels in my life here while she remains stuck is a really odd/sometimes difficult piece of knowledge to grapple with.

    • Cathy says...

      And I must add: It’s so great to have you as part of the Cup of Jo team!

  30. Jess says...

    yes! Thank you for bringing class discussion to this beloved community space. This is the post I’ve been waiting for. I think that class has become the hardest to talk about – harder then electoral politics, religion, race and even abortion, but it shapes our everything. I grew up upper-middle class and now work as a class traitor of sorts agitating for folks in poverty as a community organizer. My understanding that wealth is created in tandem with poverty has put a strain on familial relationships. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  31. VP says...

    This was a wonderful post. As always, the comments are so insightful and amazing too. I also related to Ashley’s post as a 2nd generation child of immigrants. My mother worked her butt off and hustled, and to this day tries to save money wherever possible (but also knows when it is prudent to spend money). I find myself at times feeling guilty for spending a little more freely than she ever did/would because, for the time being, I am able to do that. I wonder if my own kids will grow up feeling entitled or not realizing the value of good, hard work in order to make a living because they won’t lack for anything that they need. I don’t know how to navigate that quite yet, but like most things parenting related, it’s a game of learning on the job.

    Another aspect that I think alot of immigrant parents’ children face, in addition to class anxiety, is cultural anxiety. We tend to be in limbo between the traditional and often conservative values of our parents versus American values and freedoms. Whereas in America freedom and individuality reign superior, many other cultures value social interdependence, TRUE family values, and taking care of the other rather than the self. More so for girls/women, venturing out alone or with friends is frowned upon (gender always adds so many nuances!) Battling the cultural expectations of immigrant parents while trying to grow up as a regular American kid can be difficult, to say the least.

    I really loved this post, and look forward to hearing more of Ashley’s insights!

  32. D. says...

    This was beautiful and hit home for me. My parents came to the US as immigrants from Mexico with early grade school educations and barely speaking English. I am 31 now and practicing as a corporate lawyer at a very old Wall Street firm, which, in retrospect, seems almost impossible. The feeling of straddling different “homes” and ways of understanding the world is pretty weird, but it has also shown me that ANYTHING is possible.

  33. Sellers says...

    THIS. Ashley, thank you.

  34. Lisa says...

    This struck a chord with me. I didn’t grow up poor as such, more impoverished middle class. My father was from a well to do family, but always out of work. We then moved country when I was in my late teens and I went to university here. It meant that at university I was exposed to a completely different world which enriched me, but has also separated me from my parents. Most of the people I went to university with were from comfortable, upper middle class backgrounds whereas I had no safety net and my life was so different from theirs. I now have two children of my own and their life is closer to that of the people I went to university with. My son (at 2 years old) has stayed in multiple hotels. I didn’t stay in one until I was 27. Now I buy oats as a healthy breakfast for my children, but when I was at university it was because it was cheap and filling and would last me until pay day.

  35. Kristy says...

    This was. So. Good.
    Just reading the text you sent to your friend makes my shoulders relax.
    “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 tend to carry around a lot of guilt about being the only child – of five – who moved away from my family tribe. I worry about coming off as uppity and judgmental of my family – only because I’ve seen so many different perspectives since leaving. Your story is a soothing balms and brings good tears to my eyes. Thank you <3

  36. heather says...

    this piece resonated with me so very much. Thank you for your beautiful writing Ashley- and for all the thoughtful comments it inspired.

  37. Kimberly G says...

    I really identify with this. Don’t get me wrong, we still struggle financially, we still have fear, but my children don’t experience that. Our life is different than our parent’s lives.

    Every time I think of how different they have it, I’m proud. They will still have pain in their lives, at some point. They will still have stress, anxiety and fear. But growing up as a child without real fear, terror, or hunger is a beautiful gift. How I wish all children could have that.

  38. This is a beautiful story that surely resonates with many readers. Thank you for sharing.

  39. Bonnie says...

    Beautifully and honestly written. Thank you for sharing this thoughtful post, Ashley.

  40. AUdrey Johnson says...

    I grew up similar to you, however my children are now grown. I think my husband and I were able to give them a little bit of our “poorer” background and a little “middle class”. They have all ended up on different paths but seem to be well rounded. Hopefully we have done a decent job at it. Change is always difficult but more so when you are living through it.

  41. ximena says...

    beautiful post <3

  42. This just touched my heart in deeper ways than I can express. I just really appreciate and I am so thankful you wrote this. I can relate to how you were brought up and challenge deep fears of ever being poor again. But, my children are loved and provided for. I choose not to do things for them based on what I didn’t have (for example, they need to get on a plane before being 23 yrs old like me). Those are small 1st world things in the grand scheme of life. They can enjoy they’re lives without my pushing things I didn’t get on them. I’m learning to enjoy the little things this year with them.

  43. Nina says...

    This was beautiful. So in line with work I am doing with a psychologist who also does energy healing. Just today I was listening to a training on reversals (blocks that keep us from moving to a better place in life) and she talks all about this and how because of the dynamics of our family of origin we develop and have a hard time moving on from those roles. So interesting – serendipitous really. thank you for the thoughtful post.

  44. Kendall says...

    Thank you so much for this post. My upbringing was nothing like this. My family was upper-middle class (and has been ever since my great-grandfather chose medical school over farming), and I’m still in that realm, and raising my kids here as well. My mother, on the other hand, grew up poor with a single mother and married into a wealthy family, and it has been difficult on many levels. This description of the dynamic between the writer and her mother is so similar to that of my mom and grandmother and it was eye opening…especially as I am now seeing it with my husband and his mother. My grandmother and my husband’s parents worked hard to provide a better future for their kids, but then felt abandoned by them when they spread the wings they provided. I also think that their siblings were held back a little bit by their parents, almost in an attempt to not lose two children instead of one. It’s a dynamic I haven’t fully understood, but this went a long way toward opening my eyes.

    On the opposite side, I have relatives who abandoned their privileged life, and it causes conflict as well. It is really astonishing and heartbreaking that class differences play such a large role in family dynamics.

  45. Leah says...

    Yes! Thank you for this! I have often thought my children might be too happy, as well. My parents have always been unstable financially. That is what I knew and what I did not want as an adult. It is unsettling and challenging to see my kids growing up in such a different way but I am so happy we can do that for them.

  46. Jennifer P says...

    Ashley, thank you for your thoughtful, poignant, truthful post. My heart stirred reflecting upon my own childhood and my, at times, tumultuous relationship with my mother.

    When you write, “She also saw it as an attack on her place in my life,” you are writing about me. I realize I need to be kinder to my mother, to understand her lens of seeing, and to embrace her wholly and fully because she raised me to be this multifaceted woman — a wife, a sister, a mother, a teacher-researcher, a PhD student — on her own whilst navigating a new country with a borrowed language.

    From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

  47. Jen says...

    I love this post! Thank you so much for sharing. I couldn’t relate more – as an only child raised by a single mom, I feel this acutely. I wish I could help my mom more with money, or pull her into my world, and I have no idea how to navigate this with children of my own. Glad to know I’m not alone in this.

  48. Kristie says...

    Thank you. Class is always the most taboo of our differences. I, too, “jumped” and it is still work in middle age. Being reflected here is so meaningful to me. I am so grateful.

  49. Julie says...

    Thank you so much for this post. It’s such a weird thing to be dealing with parents who struggle financially, and have for the past ten years, as a new-ish adult who is financially becoming comfortable. It’s hard and weird for many reasons—like when I buy fresh groceries during the week and my mom gives me the side eye because thawed hamburger from the freezer and canned green beans were the fanciest we ever got. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this relatable post.

  50. Rachel says...

    I was sitting here, eating my breakfast and reading on my phone, and I got to the quote about giving your kids their truest home, and I’m gobsnacked. I’m crying over my eggs and coffee and I want to call my mom and drive to my kids’ school so I can hug them.
    Thank you for this. I’ll be going back to this quote for a long long time.

  51. Aude says...

    To all the wonderful commenters who always enrich my day when I have the time to read through their observations, I would like to recommend the “Awakened Family.” It’s a truly enlightening parenting book not focused on class relations but instead on loving your child in a way that allows them to live an authentic life. It has helped me shift the way I look at raising my girls, better understand the subtle ways in which my parents freed me despite our disagreements etc. Gifting a child the possibility to truly be themselves, disconnecting all our expressions of love from their achievements, allowing them to make different choices without invalidating ours are lessons valuable to all parents. I thought it was hard and wonderful and realised how much work being a “conscious” parent entails. But I think it would be helpful to all the mothers worrying that they’re not creating enough hardship for their child and those bemoaning not being able to give them the opportunities they themselves enjoyed. The gift of loving without conditions is the hardest one to give for parents and it takes SO MUCH work but it’s also the surest way to maintain” connection” over the years, which at the end of the day is all that we truly crave as humans.

  52. patricia blaettler says...

    This was a great post. I’m glad that both hubby and I grew up poor. We were self-reliant right from the start. It might not be an easy road, but it’s good for the soul. To know that you can do whatever you need without financial help from others is powerful.
    Regarding the ‘fresh fruit’ moment, in my family (9 kids) we only had powdered milk. Blech! I visited my older sister at college and there was a milk machine with fresh, free-flowing whole milk. I thought I died and went to heaven!

  53. WOW! I have never thought about this before. Thank you for sharing this unique perspective. This is just so well written. I just love the last bit, “Our dynamic may have changed, but she’s still my mama, my truest home. I’ll always fly back to her.”

    • Nora says...

      I feel exactly the same way! What a beautiful essay

  54. Kyle says...

    This is gorgeous. Thank you so much for sharing.

  55. Karen says...

    Ashley, thank you for the beautiful piece. As the bratty “i resent having two poor and uneducated parents” daughter of immigrant, hardworking providers this piece struck my heart with the power of a lightening bolt. Growing up with parents that have a 3rd grade education was challenging. I had to teach myself how to read and write (in both Spanish and English), while also teaching my parents how to be parents (translating at parent teacher conferences, doctor appointments, educating them on the “normal” social experiences of North American children such as dance classes, sleepovers), and raising my sister by myself since they worked all day. The truth is, this didn’t really bother me because I was conditioned to believe that it came with the immigrant territory. It only bothered me when I NEEDED THEM and they didn’t have the knowledge or resources to take care of me (homework, projects, math!!!!!, logical advice, educated reasoning, money). **expressing this in writing is actually putting me in tears** I also didn’t get the best primary education because the school system where I grew up was absolute garbage. So I resent them. I blame them for every flaw that i posses because I believe that “the grass is always greener” and I would have been smarter and more skilled had i grown up in a higher economic class with better resources. I went to college and don’t have the best job post graduation because i didn’t have the drive. I felt so DUMB among my collegiate peers. And now my parents have resent towards me for not being the saving grace to pull us out of poverty. Life is hard. Despite all this pain i still love them because they are my “home.” My goal for 2018 is to work on myself because I’ve spent 25 years working on them.

    • Aude says...

      Thank you for sharing with such lucidity and honesty Karin. This must have been painful to write. You sound like you’ve already started doing this work to free yourself.

    • Thank you Karin. I recently read an incredible article about immigrants that said something along the lines of ‘every time we hear a foreign accent in our midst, we should be struck by the bravery that it represents. Because a person with an accent is a person who left everything they knew and were comfortable with for something different. And hopefully something better.’ That was my first thought when reading your reflections. Your parents may have fallen short in many ways, but not when it comes to being brave. And judging by your honesty and vulnerability, it looks like they passed that bravery on to you too. Sending you hopeful thoughts as you seek change and healing!

    • Nicole says...

      Thank you for sharing this Karin. I work for the Migrant Education Program and most of my students are immigrants or the children of immigrants. I see all the time how family dynamics are flipped when kids have to “parent” in the ways that you listed. It’s not just a language barrier- parents have to figure out how to raise their children in a culture that may look nothing like their own, and with little to no resources to help them do so. I also see how difficult it is to be successful in school with little support and no “road map” to follow because of a lack of education in your family. You should be IMMENSELY proud of yourself for graduating college. No matter what job you accepted after, yours is a success story and it can only continue to improve if you want it to. And if you choose to have children, you’ll be able to give them the help that your parents were unable to offer you. Sorry for writing a novel here, but your story really struck me and I just want you to know that someone is rooting for you <3

    • Nicole says...

      Karen! Sorry about that

    • Kiana says...

      Karen, I feel you. My parents were immigrants and they’re pretty educated and always had jobs that paid decently (my father worked in a bank, my mom as a receptionist in a doctor’s office). But because having extra money was something new to them, they spent it irresponsibly and as a result, we constantly felt stressed and poor even though we were middle class. Nobody really teaches immigrants how to navigate American life, not just small things like permission slips, movie ratings systems, and how to use a microwave but also big things like how to do your taxes, how to apply for scholarships, how to finance a car. As a result of my own parents not knowing this stuff, I didn’t know it either. I basically had to teach myself how to be an adult in America.

    • Lauren says...

      Thank you for writing this. I’m mad at my parents, too, for similar reasons, AND I love them and like them with everything in me. Changing classes isn’t all rosy!!

  56. Kia says...

    So eloquently put, I feel every word you said . I’m the only one in my family to go college ,grad school and to own my in house and even to get married. I have 2 sisters and I think our differences in class hinder our relationships. I’m so envious of close sister relationships because I don’t have it.

  57. Sam says...

    This! Such lovely writing and the subject matter hits home for me, too. My mom recently moved in with me and my family, and now that she’s watching me raise my kids, and participating in their care too, this divide keeps bubbling up and creating tension for us. I’m struggling to navigate it, but this essay has helped me look at our situation from a different perspective. Thank you Ashley!

  58. Sara says...

    Tears. Thank you for such an honest, loving post. This is what makes CoJ so special.. thank you.

  59. Samantha says...

    I grew up middle class with parents who drove my sister and I across the city and province for music lessons and sports competitions and took us on backpacking trips around the world. There is no doubt that my sister and I were very lucky. But that didn’t stop my parents from teaching us the value of money. Those travels and competitive sports meant that we rarely ate out or went to the movies like our friends’ families did and although we did sometimes get new clothes just because, most of the time it required a justification of why it was needed. And the hotels we stayed in were very far from the luxury resorts some of our other friends went to with their families (I remember sharing our room with cockroaches and scorpions more than a few times). So there were trade-offs – definitely not hardships, but an understanding that having some things meant you couldn’t have others. We were also eventually given a small allowance proportional to our age and taught to manage that and any birthday money we would get from relatives, to save it and spend it on things that were important to us. So I think there is definitely a way to strike a balance between giving your children these luxuries and teaching them the value of money. I feel like we often underestimate what children pick-up from our actions and words. In my case, rather than taking it for granted, having those luxuries made me want to strive to be able to provide in the same way for my future family and that would mean having to be careful with my money and selective in the way I chose to spend it.

    That said, I can see how someone who grew up in an environment where money was a struggle and who undoubtedly was formed and strengthened by this experience would have their reservations about their children growing up with these luxuries. But I think that from hearing stories from their parents’ struggles, these children understand more than you would think about how lucky they are and not taking things for granted. :)

    • Vicky says...

      Samantha, thank you for this wonderful point of view: “So there were trade-offs – definitely not hardships, but an understanding that having some things meant you couldn’t have others.” It is exactly the guidance I need for my child who is growing up with greater financial security than I did.

  60. Janna says...

    Beautifully written post that hits true to home to so many of us, especially this part:

    “…She did her best for her kid. Because of that, I am required to do my best for my own.”

    For me, it comes down to defining what you as a parent consider best for your kids. In my experience, a lot of parents I come across equate money with being best for their kids (the more, the better – the more they pay their nanny, the better the nanny is; the more money they spend on classes, the better – that means their kids are going to grow up more successful, and so on). Being a very average middle class family in NYC, we have come to be comfortable with who we are. We can’t afford an expensive nanny or a ton of classes, but we also don’t think it’s necessary. All they need is love!

    We make sure we give our children plenty of love. We also make sure they are surrounded by a loving and kind woman when we’re working. My nanny calls me several times a day on weekends to check in if she knows my child is sick because she loves them as if they’re her own. That’s all we can ask for – and in my mind, we are definitely doing what’s best for our kids.

    When I was a new mom who had just returned to work after a short maternity leave, I felt overwhelmed with what was to come. Was I doing a good job as a mom? Was I giving my child everything she needed? My very wise co-worker, a mom of four, said: “Don’t get caught up in the craziness of NYC parenting. You and your husband have already done the best thing you could have done for her by being her parents. You are both smart and loving, and your daughter will grow up just fine!”

    I have come back to this comment more times than I can count, and have shared it with other new parents. What an empowering message to send with such a simple sentiment!

    • Aude says...

      The same parenting race that I understand happens in NYC is also underway in London. It’s all a big competition from conception to nursery to prep school to senior school to university. There are right and wrong ways, schools, holidays, books, classes and shows. I would like to ask whatever happened to the gift of time ? Time to grow up without being ferried every night to a different class? Time to be idle and bored and find a new game to play with a sibling? Time to be home with mom and dad or nanny and JUST BE. Earlier is not always better. It’s a long way to university and first jobs. I am trying so hard to remind myself every day to just let my child BE rather than try and engineer who they should become.

    • VP says...

      I love this! I too struggled with whether I was doing the right thing by sending my kid to daycare versus getting a nanny (something that many of my colleagues do). I get anxious hearing about all of the music/dance/sports/educational classes taken on top of school that parents put their kids through (starting at age 2-3!), all in preparation to get them into an Ivy league school some day. I wonder if I should send my kids to private school even though we moved to a county with excellent public schools. We all want to do the very best for our kids, and it’s true that we often think this is tied to how much “the best” costs. But experiences are also worth something. My kid goes to daycare, and I wouldn’t have it any other way because she is exposed to a social environment she loves. If she can go to an excellent public school and works hard, she can make it just as far as a private school kid. If she is stressed out starting at age 3 with activities, she may resent us for pushing her into responsibilities far sooner than needed. It’s all a matter of trusting that our decisions are good and right because they are made out of love and the best intentions.

    • Bv says...

      Ladies, if its any consolation, I’m surrounded by rich kid/ivy leaguers at work. And I’m here to tell you, that yes the initial leg up in life is probably helpful. But that doesn’t mean the die is cast for everyone else to have a mediocre life. Many of these people lack EQ or just plain resilience because they’ve never been told no, or failed at anything or had to struggle for something. I grew up in a non first world country, and while my parents expected academic excellence, they were not especially pushy, and no where close to NYC-crazy parents. I didn’t get to the Ivy league (but a very good liberal arts school), but I moved continents at 18, and have largely been fending for myself in a country where I knew no one. That was probably the biggest gift my parents could have given me. Who knows, I “may” have been more successful if they had pushed me more. But I’m pretty content with where I am, and I’ve probably far exceeded their expectations of me. Plus I got to have an actual childhood that allowed for lots of boredom.

  61. lauren says...

    Beautiful piece, Ashley. Thank you. “You only have to be their truest home” — such wise and true words.

  62. Leaving my small-town, working-class community to attend an elite liberal-arts college in the 1970s changed my relationships with my family permanently. They expected me to move back home after college and take any white- or blue-collar job I could get. I stunned them by moving to a city hundreds of miles away, to work in museum education and then as a writer/editor, and now I’m married to an Ivy League professor.

    I’ve only recently begun to try to understand and articulate a situation — “class jumping” — that I’ve been coping with for 30-some years. So, Ashley, you are light-years ahead of me and I thank you for this essay! I just knew I felt oddly out-of-place whenever I went home and that it was uncomfortable to be around my family a lot of the time. We have very different lives, tastes, habits, and goals. But our feelings for each other and most of our values remain the same, so I try to remember that.

    I confess I’ve only very recently tried to imagine the impact that my leaving home had on my family, especially on my late mother — a self-centered lack of empathy I regret. Please keep writing on this subject, Ashley! You have a lot to teach the rest of us, including some of us in our 50s.

  63. Meagan Binkley says...

    Just so beautiful.

  64. Micha says...

    This post resonated so much with me. Thank you so much for sharing!

  65. Lizzy says...

    Wow. This was so beautiful. Thank you for sharing your story.

  66. Maryann says...

    Love this post and the comments. So much to think about – I can relate to both upward and downward mobility trends in families as my husband and I are experiencing it both ways. The idea of your mother being “home” is so true. Thank you for this thought-provoking post.

  67. prema says...

    Beautiful post and I loved the advice given to the friend. Something that I will continue to work towards as well.

  68. Kate says...

    What if the reverse is true? What if you were very well off growing up but have less money as an adult due to career choices? Both my parents were doctors so we were very financially comfortable. My husband and I are both professionals but earn less than my parents made. This is the flip side of the equation.

    • Laurita says...

      Kate, I am navigating the flip side, as well. It is uncomfortable and brings up all kinds of ugly sides of myself that I wish didn’t exist but have to confront. My husband and I made career choices that would allow us the flexibility to be very present and involved in our children’s lives. We want for nothing, truly. But, I grew up with much more, the child of great privilege, and sometimes it just feels so different that I don’t know what to make of it. I wonder, is the fact that I am home after they come home from their (just fine) public school any better than if they came home from private school (which we can’t afford) to a nanny? Am I doing them a disservice? It brings up envy, competitiveness, etc that the peers I had all my life are no longer my peers. It is very difficult for me to admit.

    • Heather says...

      My husband and I do fine, but make substantially MORE than my parents did (there were times when I would go to a friend’s house to eat because we literally had no food — that poor), and substantially LESS than his did (his dad would sometimes order multiple entrees when they went out to eat – the steak AND the lobster – because he didn’t want to have to choose), so we are sort of without an anchor in figuring out what’s ENOUGH for our kids. My parents express that we are spoiling our kids by paying for music classes and soccer (and then there’s the whole topic of discipline…). His parents express horror that we’re sending our kids to public school, and criticize my husband for being a non-profit attorney (which permits him to be home for dinner at 6:30 every night) instead of a corporate attorney that would, in their words, permit him to “provide for his family.” We get irritated with all of them, but then also look around and can’t find a role model. It’s not always safe territory to look at your friends, because unlike your parents, you don’t REALLY know what your friends’ financial situation is. They might appear to be living large with regards to what they spend on their kids, but are actually in debt, or are being propped up by grandparents. Or they may seem like they are living a very modest life, but actually they are stuffing away funds for college. Anyway… we are still figuring it out.

  69. Dee says...

    Ashley, I appreciate your perspective so much. I find issues of class to be particularly insidious and less visible than race or gender, for example. I’m also so happy to hear your voice and your experience in the midst of all the other voices here on Cup of Jo. As a white daughter of immigrants, having grown up poor, I really identify with some of what you’ve described here and hope to hear more about these issues and experiences. I also recommend the series on class that Anna Sale did recently on the Death, Sex and Money podcast. I found it to be fascinating!

  70. Rose says...

    For me it is perhaps not so much class anxiety (I’d say I’m growing up lower middle class than my mum, whose parents were quite wealthy money wise, but poor emotional wise), as it is intellectually. My mum was discouraged (by family, society, and by internelization herself) from pursuing an education truly. She had kids with her first husband, and the marriage she now says, was an escape from her family. From then on it was ‘too hard’ to pursue a career. She got with my dad.

    I am following not a similar trajectory (I’m still in school, have had a ton of boyfriends, though I did live with nearly all of them, and was financially dependent on them) and education wise I’m the odd one out in my family. My dad and sister are in the more exact sciences (medicine and physics), my older sister is an interior designer. I’m a social scientist (or … rather, doing a post-grad to become one). And I realized recently I feel so fucking intimidated by becoming “more” than my mum in that respect.

  71. JC says...

    Ignore the typo :).

  72. JC says...

    I am on the opposite side. Our son and his wife live the lifestyle she grew up with-no money even though they have good jobs because they are so materialistic, live hand to mouth, don’t keep their house maintained, etc.

    It is not the way he was raised or we live our lives. They are childless by choice which is good because it would be very hard for me to watch a child being raised in that chaotic situation.

    It is a constant battle to not be openly critical of their choices/lifestyle and for it not to hinder our relationship. This is not something I would have ever imaged.

  73. Jenny says...

    This is such and honest and beautiful post and one of my favorites yet. My daughter is growing up with more privileges than I ever did and it is hard to describe these feelings. Thanks for telling your story xxx

  74. Such a beautiful post! I have definitely experienced this with my own mother, but not so much due to class (we were poor too but she has since moved to middle class later in her life as I did while growing in mine). Our differences are more based on the way we raise(d) our kids, our religious belief system (she is very Catholic, and I no longer am), and the way we approach the world. I tend to be a questioner: question religion, question doctors, question politicians, etc. She was raised to trust and have faith and to do what she was told. I’m not obedient, even though I was raised to be. And I don’t believe in raising obedient children — I want to raise my children to be kind and respectful and make good choices because it is right, not just because they were told. My oldest son has been struggling with anxiety/OCD/ADHD which we’ve really seen this year as we started at a new school that does state assessment testing starting in first grade and is really regimented with the curriculum (that’s a whole other hot button topic for me…) but he lashes out, has tantrums, and can sometimes come off as disrespectful when he’s struggling. My mom stayed with us for a while to help me while my husband was away for work and it was clear she thought I needed to teach him to be respectful and by “teach” she meant punish. Where she thinks he should never say “I don’t love you” and should be spanked or have things taken away, I see a very sad and struggling kid who needs empathy and a bigger hug. It is definitely hard but at the end of the day I remind myself that my job is nurturing and teaching my kids to be good humans and give them the coping skills to make it through life. If she sees my way as a personal rejection of her way, that’s on her. We have struggled in our relationship a lot since I became a mother and now, 7 years later, are finally realizing that we both felt rejected by the other and just want to be accepted and valued. I tell her that I know she did her best with what she had and but that I am choosing to do things a bit differently. It isn’t a rejection of her, but my attempt at doing my best at what I have in a different mothering generation. In the end, we aren’t that much different.

    • Kelly says...

      I have an ADHD child too, and some of the same behavior challenges. It’s so so so hard to do the right things for our kiddos as it is, and the judgments of people who don’t get it are just terrible! I just wanted to reach out and say you’re not alone! Find people in your life who do get it, to boost your energy for those like your mom that don’t!

    • Heather says...

      Girl, I hear you. I don’t have exactly the same struggles, but my parents and my in-laws ALL think we should be spanking our kids, and we don’t want to. When they are around I find myself getting really tense, worried that one of the kids will throw a tantrum and the grandparents will be sitting back clucking while I give my kid a hug and say all that REI stuff like, “I can see you’re really upset you did not get the candy when you wanted it.”

  75. Anna says...

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, Ashley. This is something I’ve navigated with my parents for the past 15 years and never really knew how to articulate it, nor ever knew anyone else facing the same challenges. This is the first time I’ve ever read anything around this, and to read the comments and to realise that other people experience it makes me feel so much less alone. I literally started crying when I read Ashley’s words, “She wanted me to have wings… she just never considered I’d fly away.” What a perfect description.

  76. Kimberley says...

    I haven’t even got to the comments yet because I am bursting with love for this post. Even despite growing up in a slightly different context, Ashley your words ring true on so many levels.

    My mum also supported me and my sister on a modest income, and because of this at my university I was entitled to quite a bit of financial support (that I didn’t have to repay). I saved every penny of this, and worked in my local hospital every single day of the holidays so that I could travel the world.

    I mostly went alone and volunteered, and I never regretted a single minute. These adventures made the woman I am now, and have even informed my career choices. Yet, this was totally foreign to my mother (who had worked continuously since age 16). It created a gap between us; no willingness of her to understand my desire to travel and live abroad (and probably not enough consideration from me as to why she did not).

    It felt like judgement. It made me feel like I was making poor choices. That I was unwise not to just buckle down to work right away, get married and have a family. I wanted her to show that she wanted more for me.

  77. Elizabeth says...

    Truly touching. Thank you for sharing your story. The last sentence was so beautiful.

  78. B says...

    I can very much relate to that. I know my children will have better conditions than I did but I don’t want them to grow up spoilt and used to have everything. I still want them to be a fighter, like I was, and to work hard, like I had to when I was a teenager. But I don’t know how compatible it is.

  79. Maija says...

    I’ve been thinking a lot about class lately. I’m a daughter of immigrant parents, and I’ve written a lot about living as a minority during my studies. Reading about other people’s experiences has given me tools for understanding my own situation, but I still struggle.

    I grew up middle class, but my parents didn’t. My parents grew up on farms, my mother not even having access to electricity or running water. I grew up middle class because my parents worked incredibly hard to provide for me. So for them, I am the “too happy” kid. They, especially my mother, struggle to understand my life choices. I’ve recently graduated with a double major and I’m trying to live my truth, but it can be hard to explain to someone who’s been working full-time since she was 16. I’m 24.

  80. Michaela says...

    I’ve wondered about this often with my partner. One thing that hit me reading the comments is that many of us seem to worry our children won’t be prepared for a hard world out there (among other concerns), but the fact is by allowing our children to be born with more privilege than us, the world probably won’t be as hard for them as we perceive it or experienced it. That’s the uncomfortable thing about privilege. I think we therefore have a responsibility to raise empathetic individuals who (at age appropriate times) can understand their privilege and use it to lift others up and fight for change.

  81. Jenna says...

    This made me cry and not because my mom isn’t financially stable but because of the beautiful description of the mother/daughter bond. How important that is no matter how much money says a lot.

  82. Maia says...

    I love every post on this blog; and yet, as someone who is an Asian living in an Asian country and whose exposure to America is largely through its books, sitcoms, movies and the multiple work trips, some of it always felt a little distant. So close and yet, not entirely 100% relatable.
    But this post, this I related to, a 100%. From a grandparent who started with nothing and relied on education and hard work to take him places, to my father and now, me, there have been gradual, steady improvements in our financial status, the quality of life, every step along the way. And yet, as I grow up this ladder, there is always a nagging doubt, a lingering sadness that I am perhaps growing away from my roots. Away from my need to be mindful of my money and resources. Surprise (followed by a mild degree of disgust) at my ability to afford so much that I cannot recollect how many dresses or pairs of shoes I own.
    This post was a gentle, timely reminder to go easy on myself. Thank you, Ashley.

  83. Beautifully written, and so very true. Thank you.

  84. Haive says...

    Another here who is in the opposite situation. Raised upper middle class, with extracurricular activities and international travel, as was my husband. Now we’re both in our late twenties, earning far less than our siblings and parents, in careers that we used to be excited about (environmental fields – we used to think we could have an impact!), but which turn out to be incredibly low-earning and low-reward. And we’re both slowly realizing that we’ve completely messed up our lives. There’s no way forward. No way to earn enough to do the one thing we dream of doing, which is travel. And who knows if we’ll even be able to afford having kids at this point. I know I have led a very privileged life, and that I am very lucky, but I can’t help but feel like I completely missed the boat. I was raised to think that all I needed to do was find a field that I was interested in, and that I would then have a happy successful life. Turns out I should have been way more focused on earning money from the get-go — that’s what lets you do things that bring you joy, not any job. It’s honestly just so hard to realize that I’ll never have the life I thought I’d have.

    • Elizabeth says...

      This resonates with me so much. I am in the same situation, and my parents don’t understand when I tell them that kids may not be possible for a long time or ever. It’s hard to feel like you made the wrong career decision, and you’re so far in debt you can’t turn back or start over in your education. You’re not alone, and it’s comforting to hear that there are others feeling this pain. I’ve been able to find joy in my situation and discover ways (scrappy ways) to do the things I want, but the life I wanted still seems out of reach. It’s even harder when your wealthy parents don’t understand this, but I’ve found that joy and fulfillment in life doesn’t always happen in the ways you wanted or expected. Hang in there!!!

    • Joyce says...

      I feel stuck in this way too, but there must be a way forward…

    • Liz says...

      I am in the same situation and it is very difficult. I work in a nonprofit and like what I do, but it is very hard being one surprise bill away from disaster. I have one child and I hate not being able to give him the opportunities I had. Plus my siblings both ended up marrying people of great wealth, and although I know money doesn’t buy happiness, it sure can take away some of the daily stress.

    • Lizzie says...

      This is not meant to sound patronizing, but something I have done to help alleviate the hopeless of not making *enough,* is volunteering. I would suggest helping serve dinner at a homeless shelter. Seeing families that love each other and enjoy life the same way anyone else would, despite very few material possessions, is a good way to give yourself a little perspective shift. This could even help scratch your travel itch, since you would meet new people and become involved in a community you are not already a part of.

      It’s hard to not see wealth as morality or success if your parents are wealthy. It’s an unintentional standard they’ve set for you to aspire too. Try to redefine success for yourself, outside of what has worked for your parents.

    • Lauren says...

      Thank you Ashley and Cup of Jo, for talking about CLASS! Well done on a touchy subject!

  85. Thank you for the beautiful written! your post just made my day

  86. Laura says...

    Great post.
    We also need to feel the approval of our family. That allow us to grow.
    Congratulations for the post.

  87. Maxine says...

    I grew up in a fairly privileged environment. My father is an accountant and I am a middle-class professional. And yet, my parents both grew up in working-class environments. I find it difficult to connect with my mum’s family and their different attitudes to education (or even things as simple as food). I find the class divide difficult to bridge and I feel ashamed by this divide. Zadie Smith, a British author, wrote an interesting essay on class and what you lose when you transition to a different class. I felt discomfort when I read her essay until I realised that this echoes some of my lived experience

  88. Stacy says...

    Such depth, compassion, and clarity. Looking forward to more posts, Ashley!

    This reminds me of the end of The Best We Could Do when the author realizes the trauma passed down from her parents isn’t impacting her son. Families are fascinating. Thank you for your poignant insight.

  89. Kala says...

    My Mom was the first person in her family to graduate from High School. I remember telling her when I was little that some day I would buy us a real house. She never wanted me to realize how poor we were. I don’t think she understands that I am driven to succeed because of the things I didn’t have growing up. I knew no one was going to be there to rescue me. I was able to buy her a house this year so she could retire. I still get all of my kids clothes second hand and do most of my shopping at Grocery Outlet, even though I can afford not to. Our heater went out and my toddlers were outside helping me gather firewood so we didn’t freeze waiting for the repairman. I wouldn’t be the person I am without having gone through hardship. Although I want to spoil my kids sometimes, I feel like it is my job as a parent to prepare them for the lows and not the highs.

  90. At the end of this post, tears I didn’t know where there, rolled down my face. I wish I’d read this for my past self, in a similar position with my now deceased mother. I read it tonight for my present self in hopes of passing on a tidbit of wisdom to my adult daughter who through some unwise choices, relinquished her teenage son, to relatives raising him in a different, more all encompassing way than she was able. Thank you and bless you for your transparency.

  91. Theresa says...

    Oh my gosh. I loved this. Thank you for your beautiful writing, Ashley. I am so glad you are sharing your voice on this blog. This really made me think about me and my parents. Much to ponder.

  92. Sarah K says...

    Beautiful piece that is prompting me to do a lot of reflecting. Thank you.

  93. Becky says...

    I’m so grateful for this post, because this is an issue I carry with me as a secret shame. I was raised by poor, uneducated parents in a house that was literally crumbling around us. One of my brothers dropped out of school at 15, and both my brothers are felons. I got excellent grades, graduated early and was accepted to a prestigious university. I was offered a partial scholarship but still couldn’t afford to go. I put myself through a local university (the first in my family) by working three jobs. My parents seemed incredibly proud of me this whole time, but I could feel the distance growing. Then my life fell apart — I got married and divorced, hooked up with bad men, and had a child out of wedlock — and I felt like their daughter again. In my late 20’s I sorted myself out and worked my way through grad school. I married a successful man and we moved to an affluent suburb. We are solidly middle class, maybe even on the upper end, and the distance between me and my parents now feels unbridgeable. My father especially, who loved me the fiercest when my life was in tatters, is angry and jealous, and he said some things to me this past Thanksgiving that I am finding hard to forgive. Adding to the loneliness, I really don’t know how to be middle class, either. And I have no one to talk to about any of it. So, thank you from the bottom of my heart for saying the things I can’t say, and for making me feel less alone.

  94. This brought tears to my eyes. You’ve put words to something that is so true in my life and the way I relate to my mother. Thank you x

  95. Britney S. says...

    Posts like this are what make this blog great. This is a problem I’ve struggled with, and I thought I was horrible for having some of these thoughts.
    Thank you for promoting empathy and understanding and connection.

  96. Ashley, you’re brilliant! This topic is so incredibly relevant, but your delivery of the message is touching and hopeful and authentic. Thank you for writing this.

  97. Nicole says...

    I so appreciate this. I was raised by two parents in a ‘fight for every rung on the ladder’ household, they clawed their way to take care of us through some hard situations. My climb has been easier and higher, in large part thanks to what they enabled me to do. My experiences with each of my parents, and my sibling, since making my own life have each been so different and challenging in their own ways. It’s helpful to know I’m not alone. Thank you, Ashley, and Jo for the important conversations as always!

  98. Daynna Shannon says...

    There’s so much more that could be said. I could compare my experienvelope to yours. I could tell you that text you sent your friend is not copied into my notes because it rings so true and so lovely. But mostly I need to say what a brilliant f**king writer you are. Please please write a book.

  99. Sarah says...

    One of my favorite COJ pieces yet and a topic I would love to see explored further. Class is such a defining attribute but I think we become most acutely aware when we move between classes ourselves.

  100. Cristina says...

    Love this piece, and thought of a recent series on the WNYC podcast “Death, Sex & Money” about class and “opportunity costs.” The series had different people define class and their conflicted feelings about it in a wonderful way – Ashley’s essay would have fit right in.

    Here’s the series! https://www.wnycstudios.org/shows/deathsexmoney/opportunity-costs

  101. Kel says...

    So personal but peaceful. Thanks, Ashley!

    In high school I rarely had money or much food for lunch. We had a family of 7 kids and lots of dried beans and thawed frozen milk. But sometimes! I was able to dig up a few quarters and could get from the grocery store a puffy everything bagel for 25 cents, 25 cents worth of grapes, and 25 cents worth of deli salad. Then I would walk over to the nearby park with my homework and eat in bliss.

    Such scrimping gave a contrast of deep enjoyment in simple things that I wonder if my comfortable kids will ever understand.

  102. Lindsay says...

    Thank you for sharing this – your writing is beautiful.

  103. Kathryn says...

    Thank you for this incredibly sensitive post. It has made me feel slightly less alone, which is one of the very best accomplishments of thoughtful writing.

    Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by JD Vance (2016) is a memoir about some of the themes explored here. Obvs not the exact same dynamics as Ashley’s family, but well worth a read if this post hits home.

    My grandparents were all Dustbowl Great Depression survivors. My parents became middle class and were (and remain) slightly bewildered to be there. The effects of economic hardship can echo for generations and persist in surprising ways, in spite of educational and economic opportunity.

  104. Alex F says...

    Ashley, I love your writing. I feel shepherded when I read it. I’m so grateful for it, thank you!

  105. june2 says...

    This was great. I don’t wait for my mother to ask me for help though, because she never will. I offer whenever I see a place where help might be welcome. Or in certain instances, I’ll just pay for things outright. While she would never ask, it delights her to no end when I am thoughtful in this way. And she certainly deserves thoughtfulness.

    An interesting book in a related vein is, Crossing The Tracks For Love: https://www.amazon.com/Crossing-Tracks-Love-Partner-Different/dp/192922933X

    • Yulia says...

      I grew up in a large family, and it makes my heart ache to think of how much my parents sacrificed to give us the chance to to be able to go to college (three of us went). Their financial status has improved as we’ve gotten older, but I try to enrich their lives with gifts and thoughtfulness like you do. I feel like I can never repay them, but I am happy to shoulder this bottomless, complicated debt born of love. That is what they did for me.

  106. Anne says...

    <3333

  107. Caroline says...

    I grew up with parents who saw hard work as the only means of surviving in this country. Now that I have a job doing the kind of intellectual labor that they never had the opportunity to even imagine, I often have a hard time not judging myself while thinking that I’m not working hard enough. This essay really resonated with me. Thanks, Ashley.

  108. Louise says...

    Beautiful and powerful piece!

  109. Kelly says...

    Oh my what a topic! Way to verbalize the complexities.

    It always blows my mind how these things get passed on to the next generation. My great grandparents were uneducated immigrants, proud to carve out a lower middle class American life. Subsequent generations have done much, much better financially. But the one thing that has been passed down is a primal fear of being broke. If the wolf isn’t at the door now, he will be soon. So you have to work, and save, and work, and save, and there’s never a comfort level. On the other hand my husband’s family was always broke, and they just don’t seem to care, and they view caring and being motivated to improve the situation somewhat skeptically. The psychology of it all is fascinating!

  110. Maren says...

    Beautiful! I’m in tears. This resonates so deeply.

  111. molly says...

    I adore this authenticity. Thank you for being real, and beautiful – humble and deeply kind. You are an inspiration to all of us.

  112. DJ says...

    I’m so glad Ashley is part of the team now. Loved this post, and this line especially: “She wanted me to have wings. She just never considered that sometimes I’d fly away.”

  113. Tricia says...

    Ashley – this is so poignant. No matter how any reader relates, to any or all of your points, your thoughts are so complete and I love that you leave us with a take-away that can be applied to all dynamics – family, friends, life in tough times or life in ordinary times. I think this is the best read on this site in a long time.

  114. jolene says...

    i was just talking with my husband a few hours ago about how diversifying (blank) changes things structurally to create space for more ways of meaning. he’s on a university hiring committee now and feels like he is pressured to turn down highly qualified candidates who are white to hire POC or women who just don’t have as strong of resumes or have enough publications. i was arguing that when that happens though, and you give those who haven’t had chances a seat at the table, then maybe one day, the things that are valued on a resume and the actual types of publications will change to embrace these different perspectives.

    this post was exactly what i was getting at. i’ve been reading forever, and love everything COJ but … this post! so beautiful, and it was made this community already feel more inclusive, and just different. ashley’s voice is changing what this community can look like already by speaking out. reading it, i felt like wow, poor people, and immigrants, and people with hard and complex relationships with their mother DO belong here and can relate, and i’m just so excited.

    • Jen says...

      Yes, couldn’t agree more!

    • Cathy says...

      Yes – same. I love this website and find all the posts thought-provoking and insightful and relevant, but this piece made me feel like part of an actual community.

  115. This is such a great piece. Thank you for sharing and you seem like such an incredible friend.

    The divide between child and parents hits hard. Presently I am hearing my child scream upstairs. I sometimes look at her and think she is spoiled, destined to be ungrateful. It is such a privilege to think about how to create a well rounded childhood. It is also something I take very seriously.

    You words hit home.

  116. jen says...

    I think we are conditioned to think hardship is good for you, builds character. I dont think it does. I had to work my way thru college, with my parents literally not giving me a dime. My kids arent having that. They are having money to spend, no worries about loans and nice trips. Yes, their life is better than mine was, not just different. I like it that way.

  117. Carmen B. says...

    Ashley, I just adore your contributions to this blog.
    In reading all these comments I realize this anxiety of class differences with parents is more common than I thought. Thank you for sharing this.

  118. Emily says...

    Beautiful. Thank you.

  119. Ramona says...

    One year I found a beautiful Christmas card I gave to my parents. It said, “They say we come into this world with nothing…but I had remarkable parents who fed me and led me, provided and prayed for me, loved and encouraged me…so really, I came into this world with everything.” I think that says it all.

    • MaryMargaret says...

      What a find! I am sure they were so happy to receive it.

  120. Eva says...

    Thank you Ashley, this is beautiful.

  121. Josefine Garcia says...

    Thank you so much for this post. Sometimes I feel so alone in navigating this space and this post really resonated with me in a very healing way. <3

  122. Frin says...

    Wow, this is one of the most best, most thoughtful articles I’ve come across on CoJ.

  123. S says...

    This made me tear up because I really relate. I felt this way through college and upon graduating. Neither of my parents had a college education and while smart, are not intellectuals. I always felt guilt and confusion because I thought I had picked up an elitist attitude. When in fact I had just been seeking to live a fuller and richer life – as my therapist would say. Thank you for articulating something so sensitive.

  124. Emily says...

    Oh, Ashley! This is so wonderfully written. It’s certainly a difficult topic, and you have done it such justice. Beautiful!

  125. Emily says...

    Thank you so much for this. I grew up very lower middle class (we had the values, not the money), and my children are growing up upper middle class. We have enough and sometimes a lot, and sometimes we don’t buy whatever we want to make sure we get through the month comfortably. Waaay different from my childhood experience! I worry that that struggle I grew up with is WHAT made me who I am, and that my sons will become a version of a well-off asshole that I can’t stand. Thank you for your perspective. It gives me hope!

  126. Courtney says...

    Really well said and thought provoking. I’m not a parent yet and not yet established enough to feel any huge differences, but I will keep this in mind moving forward. Thank you.

  127. JP says...

    Tears…tears! I can relate to this essay from my mother, me and my kids. Thanks for the beautiful writes!

  128. Erin says...

    <3 <3 <3

  129. Em says...

    Words cannot accurately express how thankful I am for this post, Ashley! I have been experiencing a similar, intense anxiety, especially in the past year since the election, bred not so much from a difference in class, but from a disparity in societal viewpoints and cultural perspectives. As Ashley points out much more eloquently than I, her mother raised her and guided her in her younger life towards the success that now sometimes pushes them apart. My own parents have always been, to me, such pillars of morality, justice, and compassion, and have pushed me towards educational independence and success with these tenets as a key vessel. However, it is in my adult, independent life now that they seem fearful of my experiences- angry even- and more close minded towards other cultures and equality, when that is never the way I was raised to treat others. I think they experience a real fear of me developing my own thoughts and opinions, even though I don’t in any way mean to be combative. When sharing my experiences traveling, meeting an interesting Cab driver, or teaching my diverse population of students, suddenly these tenets I express feel too “liberal” to them, as I live in NYC, and they- a more homogenized suburb. Learning to continue my own personal growth without always having my parents’ reassurance has been challenging. Reconciling the words they speak now with they way I was raised can be heartbreaking. Yet, reading this post was an incredibly comforting and validating reminder that other people experience this, that good people can disagree, and that despite these differences which at times feel like a giant chasm, our parents’ love is at the very core and kernel.

    • Ella says...

      I totally relate to your experience. It is really difficult.

  130. “You don’t have to be the best middle-class mother to your middle-class children. You only have to be their truest home.”

    As a mom, this might be one of the best things I’ll read all year. Of course you can cross out “middle class” both times and it’s still infinitely true. It brought me to tears. The entire post was wonderful, but this quote will stay with me for a long, long time.

  131. Kate says...

    What a wonderful piece of writing with such distilled emotion and truth. I’m so glad you have joined the site!

  132. Nessa Bixler says...

    Wow. Beautiful. This hits so close to home. I was raised in a family that swayed from poverty to very lower middle class. Life was always paycheck to paycheck or no paychecks. My husband has a similar background. We now both have professional degrees and have definitely crossed class lines. This struggle with parents is so real. While I love being able to help my parents financially, they don’t. I also get a quite ashamed that I don’t worry about finances as they did. Also I hide/gloss over the money we make and spend. Anxiety over money still plagues me even though our finances and budget are more than fine. I go from feeling so.prpid of what we have done ton so ashamed at the same time.

    In our cases, our siblings are in the same or worse financial situations than our parents. It has been hard to navigate family relationships and stay close. Things that sound simple, like coming to my daughters ballet recital become a point of struggle. We didn’t think to explain that most people would be in dressier clothes not jeans. We made our family feel bad by mistake and are learning as we go on how to make this work.

    It is a constant learning curve. And we are also learning the ropes in our neighborhood and kiddos schools. Please discuss this more.

  133. Julie says...

    I love everything that Ashley writes and look forward to hearing more from her.

  134. Jane says...

    Beautiful heartfelt story – thanks so much for sharing – so many of us can relate. Keep writing you have a gift.

  135. SB says...

    This is so beautiful, Ashley, and your words to your friend brought tears to my eyes. I am actually lower class than my dad and that worries him, I know – I wonder if we both can learn from your wisdom.

  136. Emily says...

    My husband and I can very much relate to this. We have done much better than our parents financially, and raising our kids was much different too. II’m echoing what others have said…..Gosh, you write so well Ashley.. Lovely, thought provoking piece that has me really thinking. Thank you.

  137. Chelsi says...

    Thank you for saying this.

  138. Are says...

    Gratitude. Thank you so much. Constantly thinking about this as my partner and i come from very different classes and are about to embark on marriage. looking forward to re-reading & thinking about this essay and its comments over & over.

  139. Mikaela says...

    I thought this piece very thought provoking, as well as the comment thread on downward mobility. The fact is that times are changing, and college isn’t the lifeline it once was. A college degree doesn’t guarantee you a job or a middle class life anymore. I recently read an article (http://highline.huffingtonpost.com/articles/en/poor-millennials/?utm_source=Subscribers&utm_campaign=e832b41ba4-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_11_14&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_4597fbbe0b-e832b41ba4-125783701) that compared the job prospects of ’07 graduates (50% had jobs lined up at graduation) and ’09 graduates (20% had jobs). It went on to say that those people who missed their career jump start during the recession will likely experience permanent setbacks (like making 10K less over a decade than peers who graduated in years around them) It’s not like the companies who we’re hiring in ’09 went back to those individuals when they started hiring again in ’12- no, they hired the ’12 graduates. I see this phenomenon playing out in my husband’s career and the careers of many of my peers and siblings. I know it’s popular among older generations to talk about how entitled young people are, but we were raised to believe that if you worked hard and went to college and got good grades, everything would fall into place. It’s been a bit of a shock to see that that’s not necessarily the case. I now have young children, and I wonder what life will look like for them when they are college age, and how career paths and dynamics in the world will have changed by then.

    • Jess says...

      woah, what a great article. This is my and my husband’s life. So much education, but never the right algorithm for the job – always another hoop waiting for us. We went ahead and had kids bc we felt like it was never going to be the right time – and i have no regrets about that, but man it’s really tough.

  140. Querube R. says...

    This was absolutely beautiful! I can relate on a million levels.

  141. Laura says...

    Eye opening and beautifully written. Thanks, Ashley! This is what Cup of Jo has been missing lately.

  142. JAM says...

    I would like to offer a different perspective on growing distant from parents. I was the first in my family to graduate from high school and go to college. My story is a little different in that I had to realize my parents were abusive narcissists. We communicated DAILY while I was at school and I sometimes had to fly back home when things got particularly unstable. When my younger sibling acted up, they asked me to rectify. At different points in my life I financially supported them. One of them systematically stole from me. One of them refused to come to my graduation. From early childhood I was put into inappropriate situations. After law school, I just let go and let the gulf that existed between us widen. My parents attribute this to me becoming a less dutiful daughter and that I “changed.” Um yea, I changed for the better. Our differences have little to do with the fact that they were working class or that I was exposed to books. Now that I’m a mom I can’t imagine doing that my kid. Thankfully, I have a wonderful husband and we’ve carved out our own life together. I have minimal contact with my parents, but am very close to my sibling. This works. I’m sad I don’t have the kind of extended family that I see others have, but I strive to be the parent I needed when I was a kid. In that sense, I WANT my kid to have a vastly different childhood and she already does.

    • @Jam, i too have/am experiencing a similar situation. Punished for wanting to grow and get my own money yet punished for not doing so and quickly whilst i was younger and living at home with my parents. I live in a two parent household with x2 other siblings, who were spoiled with the freedom of not having to bail my parents out when my mum pulled one of many bad financial stunts that we would leave us on the brink of homelessness almost every other month when she couldn’t afford to pay the mortgage (Bailiffs turning up at our door every couple of months to issue an eviction notice was the norm)
      Or fund a bill that needed to be paid whilst she purchased a new car on finance, when she couldn’t actually afford it. It was on me as the eldest child to save not for my own rainy day but for hers (theirs) and that was the pattern for a long time, until i moved out. She pushed for me to move out, once she noticed that i wouldn’t bend to her will but didn’t think it would happen too soon. I got tired of her bullying tactics she had in order to make me vulnerable to depend on her, (when really she depended on me ,especially after rxhausting all of my dads financial resources) and it was time to go!

      Recently she (they- mum and dad i guess) lost yet another home and have been living in hotel. My brother has been staying with me whilst they worked on finding a place. They have since found another place to move into but i fear the same agressive tendency she had towards me bailing her out will soon be passed onto my brother as he is the only sibling left in the home.

      Reading Ashleys storey has left me feeling overwhelmed, comforted and resentful all at the same time. I don’t have much of a relationship with my parents due to many reasons but the financial one is a key indicator, i’m better for it, but they’re (mostly she is) bitter because of it *shrugs*.

      I didn’t think or ever imagined i’d be parent to my parents when it comes to finances and i’m working on my damn near hardest to make sure that doesn’t happen when that time comes for me when i actually do become one.

  143. Jen says...

    This was a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing, and for reminding me that although as we grow into adults we may not always see eye-to-eye with our parents, that are our dynamics may shift and change for a variety of reasons—not just money, that our parents are our “truest home” and that we can navigate the new landscape with grace and patience.

  144. Katherine says...

    Really an incredible piece. More of this, please!!

  145. Lee says...

    Thank you for this moving post. I actually experienced the opposite because even though I went to college and neither of my parents did, I decided to become a public school teacher. As a teacher, I make far less than they did – and do – running a small business. It’s difficult because I know they hoped my college education and hard earned Master’s degree would earn me a financially rewarding profession I loved. Sometimes I worry that my parents see my choice as a mistake and my schooling as a waste. I have not done better than them in some respects – mainly financially – and I’m sure it concerns them. On the flip side, I feel education is my true calling and I’m lucky to have found it. It’s a matter of priorities really. The whole situation is most difficult when I start to wonder about how I will provide and care for them as they age with such limitations. For right now, the plan is to do what I love with love and take on the challenges as they present themselves.

  146. Anna Vitale says...

    “You only have to be their truest home. ” Wow – I can think and reflect on this for a long, long time. Thank you so much for those words, Ashley.

    All your words are beautiful. Thank you for sharing your story. Like so many others have said, it’s something that has for me been a sort-of thing but not really a thing until you articulated it so well. My mom grew up dirt poor in a town of 500 in Illinois and moved up to middle class. She raised nine kids while working (sometimes full time) and never had AmazonPrime or a Roomba (pretty much the keys to my sanity as a working mom of two). My husband immigrated here as a 5 year old and through the support of many went through school, graduated from an ivy league college and built and exited a number of companies. Navigating that from an in-law angle is particularly interesting, as you might imagine.

    And then, I think of my daughters and raising them. I was taken aback with my first daughter – from day one she was nothing like I expected her to be. She was and is fiercely independent with shrewd negotiation skills and she’s taught me time and again how to parent her, how to guide her and when to let her fly (in the ways that a 2 and a half year old safely can, haha). It’s such a good reminder that as a parent I’m not here to direct my children on the path of my choosing or even always to parent them in the way I’m most comfortable! My girls are on related but independent paths from me and often they’re guiding me on how they need to be parented. They may be filthy rich one day or dirt poor, and I just hope that I can be open to their guidance and will always be that truest home for them.