Becoming a part of the middle class didn’t mean much to me until recently.
As I recall growing up in Washington, D.C., everyone was of the same class: hard working. That’s the only class I knew. Very little emphasis was put on someone’s salary to place them in a certain class bracket. My parents worked hard; and when it was time to have my own family, I approached our success the same way they did: one milestone at a time, living within our means, doing better as life got easier.
Then the recession hit, and for the first time I felt the direct impact of the declining economy when I didn’t make enough money to qualify for a house I wanted to purchase. The housing market in D.C., was outrageously unaffordable and it seemed hardworking people like myself were being left out of the American Dream while rich people continued to prosper. I was angry and I began to pay very close attention to candidates vying for president in 2008. I was listening for their take on helping those of us who were not rich.
It wasn’t until then-Sen. Barack Obama began citing specific family situations he encountered on the campaign trail, and how he would implement tax breaks and incentives to help them, that I recognized he was describing us — my children and me – as middle class. And it hasn’t changed my perspective on how we live and grow.
While I continue to pay close attention to what’s being done to help middle-class families, it’s not important to me that my kids know we are middle class. What is important is that when they finish college they too join the ranks of the hardworking, and that they know, despite a person’s “classification,” every American deserves respect, honor and a fair chance no matter how much or how little money they make.
Dani Tucker lives in Washington, D.C., and is a regular contributor to Tell Me More’s weekly parenting segment.