I didn’t grow up rich. As a kid, all of my clothes were thrift store and hand-me-down chic. I thought only rich people bought their clothes new.
When I started middle school, my parents made sure I knew that the only way I would be able to go to college was if I made good grades and got a scholarship. (And a college education was the only way to have a solid career.) I wasn’t paid for my grades. I didn’t get an allowance. The only made money through babysitting and doing extra chores. (Ya know, beyond the ones I was required to do.)
I never expected my parents to take care of me after I turned 18. Sure, I expected them to help out if they needed it, like in emergencies. But I never assumed they would pay for my college education or my rent. Even when I was 15, that seemed childish to me. When you turn 18, you’re an adult. You should be able to take care of yourself or at least be working toward it. I thought everyone knew that.
So I did what I had to – I made good grades, I chose the college that offered me the most scholarships, and once I started college, I got a minimum wage work study job. (If you’ve never worked for $5.15 an hour, I’m sorry. You’ll never understand what it’s like.)
My parents paid for gas (so I’d come home) and some supplemental texts (most of my books were rentals), but my scholarships covered tuition and room & board. My summer jobs covered the rest, with a little help from my school year jobs.
I’m not trying to pretend I had it rough, that I worked my way up from poverty or something. I was lucky. I had the chance to get a good education. I had parents who taught me that working hard was its own reward. (Psychology dork moment: intrinsic motivators work better. The motivational effect of money is seriously limited. End dork moment.)
You can imagine, then, why it drives me crazy when I hear teens talking about college and how their parents will pay for it. Or when I hear parents agonizing over how to pay for their kids’ college educations. I want to march up to them and say, “That shouldn’t be your problem. Let them figure it out. How else will they grow up?”
Unfortunately, too many parents will go into debt to pay for their kids’ education, cover their rent, buy them a new car. They feel like it’s their duty. And then after college? The kids move back in. Shocking. They’ve never had to take care of themselves. Is there any wonder they find the real world so cold and unfriendly?
If you’re a parent, let me say this to you as a daughter: let your kids take care of themselves. I know it’s hard to watch them struggle on their own. But let them. Help them, advise them, but don’t feel like you have to support them financially. Your job, as a parent, is not to make sure they always have money. It’s to make sure they have the ability to take care of themselves. They’ll never learn that if you’re always around to bankroll their lives. And you’ll have created yet another entitled adult. We don’t need any more of those.
We all have to grow up sometime. It might as well start when we turn 18.