While I was growing up, my family didn’t have much money. My dad worked first as a meat cutter and then at a factory. During the recession in the ’80s, he was unemployed for nearly 2.5 years. My mom was an at home day care provider.
We got our clothes as hand me down from older cousins or from thrift stores. When I was old enough for a car, my mom bought me a beater, and I paid her back in monthly installments. I was responsible for my own gas, insurance, and maintenance. I always worked while in high school and college. I paid for college with a number of student loans that I just finished paying off last year.
Through it all, I learned how to budget my money and how to find bargains.
Now that I have kids, I want them to learn the value of a dollar. I’m not one of those parents who feels like I have to give my kids everything. And honestly, this is easy for me because, while I’m in a better financial place than my parents were, I still struggle financially.
The true difficulty comes for parents who struggled as young adults or grew up in poor families but improved their financial situation so much that their own children don’t have to struggle. Such is the case with the Obamas.
The Obamas Want Their Daughters To Work Minimum Wage Jobs
I read recently that the Obamas want their daughters to work minimum wage jobs. Michelle Obama said, “‘We are looking for opportunities for them to feel as if going to work and getting a paycheck is not always fun, not always stimulating, not always fair, but that’s what most folks go through every single day'” (Yahoo!).
While I applaud the Obamas’ intent, how realistic is their plan? Sasha and Malia are daughters of a U.S. president, and as such, they’ll never live even a typical American lifestyle, let alone one of an impoverished American.
Instead of asking their daughters to work minimum wage jobs, the Obamas might want to use the strategy of other wealthy people to teach their children what hardship in life is like.
Take a Cue from Princess Diana
Princess Diana knew that her sons couldn’t work minimum wage jobs. Instead, she taught them that as children of privilege, their responsibility was to help others. Princess Diana routinely took her boys with her to help the poor and needy and to visit those in hospitals.
Princess Diana’s biographer, Lady Colin Campbell stated, “‘Diana tried her best to show her sons what the world was like for people that were not royal. She never tried to strip them of their royalty. She tried to top off the royal glass with dashes of ordinariness to make them better royals'” (CNN).
Even if Sasha and Malia do get the opportunity to work a minimum wage job, it’s an artificial experience. They’ll have bodyguards with them, and at the end of the day, they’ll return to the luxury of the White House. They’re not from a poor family, and trying to pretend that they are for the “experience” is ridiculous.
Instead, the Obamas, like Princess Diana, could help their children learn the value of charitable acts and helping those who are down on their luck. This is the strategy another American royal family, the Kennedys, used. While the Kennedys were (and are) an enormously privileged family, they have done much social good for the world including creating the Peace Corps and the Special Olympics.
Those who are privileged, like Sasha and Malia, can try to work minimum wage jobs to see what it’s like to live like the poor, but it’s just a pretend game. At the end of the day, they’ll return to wealth and privilege. A far better strategy is to help those who need it, especially when they, as the wealthy, are in the best position to do so.
Do you agree with the Obamas that their daughters should work a minimum wage job, or do you think there’s a different way they can learn how others live?