Mummy, What Does Middle Class Mean?

04/07/2011 15:48 | Updated 22 May 2015
Mummy, what does middle class mean?Getty

'Chavtastic' screamed a review of a holiday park my family's heading for this summer and my heart sank.

I didn't know which was worse – the use of an epithet I hate with a passion or it being applied to a place I thought looked fantastic. What's so wrong with a spot of bingo and a few party dances?

My tastes in various aspects of life are what others may accurately call 'downmarket'. But I like cheap and cheerful. From TV sitcoms to meals out and newspapers to read, I know what I like – simple, easy and fun.

These preferences have been with me since childhood. Some people call them working class.

In the circles where I now move, they can raise an eyebrow. Chatting to other mums at the school gates, to people I work for or savvy blogging mums, I sometimes sense their panic or at the very least bewilderment at the choices I make for my family.

No I have never shopped at Boden and yes my daughters have been to Blackpool four times already.


I'm thinking about class more these days. Even though media reports tell me it matters less. Mainly I'm confused. Some people tell me I must be middle class. I'm having none of it, so long as this is judged on where you come from as opposed to where you've ended up. But when they tell me my children are too, I tend to have to agree.


They're growing up in a leafy village, have had dance lessons since they were barely out of nappies and eagerly attend keyboard practice on a Saturday, while I play willing taxi driver.

It's so different from my own upbringing at their age.

Class is said to be less relevant in the UK these days thanks to social mobility, with more people going to university and those from the humblest of backgrounds making mega fortunes.

Though I don't suppose money has much to do with class. I couldn't abide my children knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Once, when one of my daughters asked me: 'Mummy, what's middle class?' I was at a loss to explain.

I consider myself working class through and through, albeit a confused product of a grammar school education. One of three kids from my junior school who passed the much maligned 11-plus, I grew up inspired to despise Thatcher (despite her belief in said 11-plus) and marched with Arthur Scargill through the streets of Birmingham.

But ask me what class my children are and I am as stumped as my daughter. All the evidence points to middle class, so I have to go with it.

I have friends whose children are at private school. Where once I would have derided them, I now acknowledge they are making sacrifices in the hope of giving their children the best start, even if I don't agree that sacrifice is needed. "After love, a good education is the next best thing to give them," they say. Who could argue with that?

Having met parents whose children never had a holiday so they could afford the school fees, I wonder what other parts of an education outside the classroom they missed out on.

My view is that the best start in life comes equally from home as much as school. This is easy for me to say as a mum whose kids go to a relatively small state school, with a caring ethos. There was no postcode lottery for us as our daughters walk to a secondary school on the same site of their primary with kids who first shared a classroom aged four.

Yet according to research from Bristol University, the class system is alive and well.

Last year researchers found those with working-class parents missed out on the help and guidance with schoolwork provided by the well-educated middle-class parents, and therefore tended to value more practical skills such as woodwork and sports, and did not do so well at school.

Children whose parents were middle-class were more likely to develop a love of learning and ability to handle abstract academic learning because of the extra time and money their parents devoted to their education. They tended to do better at school.

Sarah Hill Wheeler from Crew Cut and Newt isn't convinced about how relevant class remains.

She says: "My son is nearly six and goes to an independent school. I don't think he's conscious of class at all. Kids tend to view things very simplistically. He wishes he had a swimming pool and that I had a smarter car – because we're the poor relations. And that's about it. In many ways, he's less materialistic than many of his contemporaries.

"There's no bling at his school and there's a big emphasis on community.

"I'm not actually sure how relevant class is today in any event, at least in the traditional sense. There is, however, a big division between the haves and have-nots, with countless graduations in between.

"I'm keen for my son to meet as wide a range of people as he can. He takes part in summer camps and has friends from outside school. I think it's vaguely patronising and simplistic to view people in class terms. I remember as a kid someone who was relatively well-off saying they were working class - because they worked. At the time it seemed a bit disingenuous. Now I can see their point.

"Later, I hope my son can learn about inequalities. For now though, I just want him to appreciate everyone as the unique individuals they undoubtedly are."

What do you think?

What class, if any, do your consider yourself?

How about your children?

Does it matter?

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