Most of us go into parenthood with the best intentions. We want better for our children, and we work incredibly hard to make sure that we not only give our children more opportunities than what was afforded to us as kid, but that we raise children who're able to, one day, tear down the socioeconomic barriers that keep opportunities out of the reach of others, too. But we're not perfect. We're human. And there are ways us parents actually reinforced class stigma... without even realizing it.
In The Playdate: Parents, Children, and the New Expectations of Play, Tamara R. Mose explains that playdates and children's birthday parties have evolved into carefully-crafted and specially-planned networking events for parents. These events can help caregivers organize and expand their circles, providing those of us who spend the majority of our time with our children an opportunity to connect with other parents. As a result, a play date or a birthday party ends up being about much more than just a fun activity for a child.
On the one hand, the evolution of the play date is great. These activities give parents a chance to make meaningful connections; connections that lead to career advancement or obtaining social and cultural capital. On the other hand, these same activities make it easy for parents to enforce classist stigmas that their children can, in turn, internalize.
Parents with annual family incomes higher than $75,000 much more likely to have kids that participate in extracurricular activities than those with lower incomes, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center study. And since one in five American children live in poverty, according to social analysts at the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation, there is a mountain-sized difference in people's ability to access resources and opportunities, like play dates and after-school programs, that impact social capital.
As difficult as it is to admit how deeply our lives are impacted by capitalism, it's important to be mindful of decisions and comments we make that perpetuate classist ideals, especially when our kids are involved. We are so much more than our incomes, and we should make sure our kids know that, too. And since the first step in eradicating a problem is acknowleding that it exists, here are just a few ways us parents reinforce class stigma; a stigma that just ends up hurting everyone: