PARENTS

I'm Proud To Be A Middle Class Parent. How About You?

08/05/2012 10:03 | Updated 22 May 2015
Nostalgic 50s picture of mother and child cookingGetty

The other day my daughter was playing shop with friends from pre-school.

"I'm going to have a sweet shop," said one.

"I'll run the post office," said another.

"I'm opening a latte stand," said my daughter. "Would you like a skinny macchiato?"

The others looked at her blankly, and, frankly, I'm not surprised. I certainly didn't know my way around coffee varieties when I was a child, and even if I had have done, I don't think I would have presented my pretend coffee with an imaginary side order of gluten-free lemon muffin, as she did.

There's no way round it – my offspring are unashamedly middle class. From their love of rye bread to their preference for watching Swallows and Amazons over Ben 10, my three children are growing up with a love of all things middle England.

Lately it seems that everywhere I look there are articles bemoaning the middle classes, maligning middle class parents and dismissing middle class children as pampered princes with appalling manners and nepotistic tendencies.

It's made me wonder if I should be playing down our middle class leanings; perhaps swap my Frappucino for a mug of piping-hot builder's tea at the place on the corner, or exchange our cracked wheat bread for a loaf of white slice in an attempt to bring up my children in a more down-to-earth way.

I don't think that's the answer. I refuse to pretend I'm something I'm not, and I don't want to bring up my children in a false environment, simply because there's apparently something shameful in being middle-class.

I feel immensely fortunate to enjoy a comfortable standard of living and I fully intend to make sure my children know how lucky they are. They do need to understand that many people have an awful lot less than we do, just as many people have an awful lot more, but in fact this isn't about money.

Money is irrelevant. This is about a type of lifestyle which – like it or not – is synonymous with the middle class label. Whether it's dance classes, riding lessons or sailing holidays, certain activities simply smack of Enid-Blyton-land, attracting a note of scorn from those who perhaps feel more at home in a more proletarian environment.

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It seems to have become trendy to shun one's middle class upbringing and instead claim the working class title for one's own, but what's so wrong about being middle class parents?

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Dictionaries vary in their definitions of middle class but the term is generally held to mean well-educated home-owners holding a managerial or professional post. What on earth is so shameful about that? Why is middle class so often used pejoratively?

I asked my friend Emma how she was getting on with the other mums at her son's new school. "Oh they're okay," she told me, "just a bit, you know, a bit middle class."

"But you're middle class!" I laughed, as we sat in her beautiful cottage kitchen drinking her Earl Grey and eating her home-made muffins. She shook her head vehemently, proclaiming to be working class through and through.

Emma's not the only one to deny her background. Mum-of-two Katie hates the term middle class. "It makes me cringe," she says, "because it's wrapped up in so much negativity. I certainly wouldn't want my children to consider themselves to be middle class. Ideally I wouldn't categorise myself at all, but I suppose if I had to choose I'd rather be working class. It's just more credible."

But her friend Rachael embraces her middle class identity. "For some reason it's too often used as an insult," she says, "something to snarl in derision as though the only views which really count are those from 'good honest working folk'. Well the middle classes contain lots of good honest working folk too. My husband and I have a mortgage and two cars, we both work in white collar professions – what else could we be but middle class?"

However fluid the definition, every dictionary agrees that trappings such as property, cars and salaried professions are inherently middle class. What I don't understand is why it is such a bad thing to claim it as a title, why it's become such a dirty word.

Should it ever be appropriate to discuss the class system with my children, they may well ask where they sit in this inherently English and rather confusing system. I will have no issue with informing them that they are resolutely middle class, and that there is nothing in the slightest bit insulting about being so.

And the other point of view on Parentdish: Mummy, what does middle class mean?

What do you think? Will class still have any role to play for our children?

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