Mothers: teach your daughters to make money

Equity begins with agency — especially financial

I used to sit on that counter.

My first grader, who’s become quite the precocious reader, was demanding to read the email I was laughing about as we stood in line at the grocery store. So I let her read the rest of it to me. She picked up reading at a sentance which asked me to send an invoice for a small retainer.

The word “invoice” she stumbled over, but her eyes lit up as she read off the dollar amount.

“Ooooooh, that’s very good, nanay,” she said.

“Yes,” I said emphatically, “it is. It always feels awesome when people ask to give me money for my work. I hope people will ask you to send them invoices for money, too — maybe for designing Minecraft skins and worlds.”

“Yes,” she said, then immediately launched into talking about mods, and I reminded her that she has to do her Tynker training modules in order to learn programming so she can build things, and that programming is really just math (she’s on a big math kick). Which she rebuffed with a rabbit trail, and so on and so forth.

I feel a similar compulsion when checks from clients come in; I often grab my daughter and have her read the payer, recipient, and amount, and tell her what project it was for.

“Do you remember when I took my camera out to the grasslands and got stung by a bunch of hornets so I could learn about native plants and how to take care of our earth? That’s what this is paying me for.”

It’s partially because, I’m sure, I selfishly want her to be aware that my constant frittering away on my computer and phone and running around talking to seemingly random strangers has purpose and design — and a tangible value to our family. I’m not just “busy”; I’m doing shit.

I’m doing shit for us, babycakes (I hate it when my mom calls me that).

But I also like to think it’s more than just the selfish desire for maternal acknowledgement. I think that seeing me demonstrate and celebrate having financial agency is important for my daughter’s sense of self — for her own sense of agency.

When I was about three, my mom retired from her first career as a social worker to open up her own small in-home daycare. My dad had finished his degree and hit a tenure elementary teaching track, but it never occurred to my mom that she would not continue earning an income.

She wanted to be able to homeschool me a bit (a good move for a bookish introvert) and to be home after school with my brother and I, and she’d directed a large daycare center before, so she swiftly got her license and hung out a shingle.

And that’s why we had summer vacations, glorious Christmases, and clothes that weren’t hand me downs.

Because my mom worked her fucking ass off, 11 hours a day, five days a week, and gained the reputation of being the most coveted (and selective) in-home provider in the county. She fed us from her garden and threw huge holiday parties. And perhaps most noteworthy: she did it 100% on her own terms.

When I was in middle school, my mom and dad made a big deal out of paying off the mortgage, and had a ceremonial burning of the papers one summer evening.

“Your mother and I worked hard for that, you know!!” my dad proclaimed. “We did it, honey! We’re not sharecroppers anymore!!”

Now there’s a real partnership.

I don’t know about you, but now that I’m a parent, I just don’t hear parents ever talk about money with their kids. No need to heap all blame on parents, though. It’s probably because we as a society don’t really talk about money at all — it’s considered quite gauche. Impolite. Or whatever.

Yet money is a force which governs the vast majority of our lives, and our relationship with it dictates many of life’s limitations — or the lack thereof.

Money seems like the type of thing — rather like sex — that we should be discussing with our kids most openly. Fear and ignorance of the thing is far more dangerous than the thing itself.

How do we get it? How much is required? How do other people get it? What even is money — and why does it have power? (spoiler alert: because we give it power)

These are things that, quite frankly, a lot of people don’t know and aren’t asking who should. Especially — and I’m going to get in trouble on this one, but just understand I’m point the finger right at myself — women in monogamous relationships.

Who rule the world — women, or little girls?

I find myself increasingly surrounded by incredibly talented, fast-hustling women (most mothers) who own and/or manage businesses like bosses, in their own unique, feminine styles. It feels energizing and liberating to be around, and I love it.

But it seems like for every one of them, I encounter two mothers of school-aged children who are living entirely off either their spouse’s or ex-spouse’s income. They go to yoga during the day while their kids are at public school and leave them with their grandparents to hang with girlfriends at night. They grocery shop for pre-processed food and don’t keep a garden. They love hunting for bargains. They succumb to multi-level-marketing schemes and try to peddle sexist, consumerist wares to their fellow “stay at home mom” friends who have the disposable time to care about such things.

They pick out designer curtains.

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with any of these things (I mean, I just picked out designer wallpaper for our bathroom). But for that to be all you do? I really just…don’t think that’s a great model for young girls — or boys, for that matter. It’s a model of entitlement and uselessness, not one of agency and value.

We’re all capable of creating real value in the world. And I’m sorry ladies, but selling Jamberry ain’t it.

I’m not saying I have it all worked out — not by longshot. I do think my mom provided a pretty damn good model for me, though. She was, in so many ways, a perfect balance of her own personal agency and responsibility towards her partner and family. She wanted to be home to care for her kids and keep a garden to nourish her family and a home where the community was welcome, so she did those thing s— and found a way to monetize them at the same time. Because the lifestyle she and dad wanted demanded that she do so. And she did it really well.

In-home daycare provider may not sound glamorously progressive, but to me, my mom will always be the gold standard for being an independent, authentic woman.

I can only hope to impart the same sense of combined agency and responsibility to my kids. Which means making an honest assessment of what I want — and how I can get paid for it.

(Btw, my 70 year old mother currently makes about the same on her little hobby Etsy store as I do adjunct teaching. She laughed when I showed her my payscale.

That’s cold, mom.)