By Grace Aspinwall
As a working mom, I have dealt with the continual feelings of guilt that seem to accompany mothers into the workplace. Whether they’re based in our own struggles, or from opinions of others, it’s easy to feel inadequate and stretched thin. But there is one area that I feel gives me a distinct parenting advantage, and that is modeling financial skills to my girls as a working mom.
Here are some tips and ways you can model simple financial principles in your own children’s lives:
Consider the money attitudes and perspectives your own parents brought into your life.
Our behaviors and attitudes about money came from our own parents, regardless of whether or not they spoke to us about them directly. In turn, they will also be handed down to our kids.
My parents were frugal and wise with money, whereas my husband grew up in a home with less accountability about bills. Make a list of the things you believe about money, and ask a person you trust (a spouse or close friend) to observe how you interact with money.
My husband and I have discussed what important financial behaviors and attitudes we want to pass down to our children, and to keep one another accountable, we make our budget together each month. We agree on spending and saving amounts, and we always try to be united in front of our children. If we disagree, we discuss it later on, in private, making sure our children know that they cannot come between us on the topic of money.
Make money an everyday topic.
Talking about budgets, cash flow, and spending in everyday conversation helps kids see it as a healthy and normalized topic. Our three and five year olds see their budgets each month (yes, they have their own budgets!)
What does this look like practically? They have a budget for regular things they need (like clothes and school fees), and a small one for extras (like toys and fun outings), and we involve them in those decisions in an age appropriate way. I create and balance the budget in front of them at the kitchen table. Finances are a part of our everyday lives.
Visually show your paycheck to your kids.
If you are a mom who brings in a paycheck of your own, pull it out in front of them. If you have young children, you can use a pie chart or colored papers to demonstrate how it gets split up. For example, with my kindergartner, I explain “This is mommy’s paycheck. This much goes to taxes or what we pay the government to help run our city and for the things we need, like schools, buildings and roads. This much is what’s left, and each month, we split it between our savings for a rainy day, and rest is for the things we needs” Research shows that children who associate a visual image with a concept have a higher rate of retention, and I definitely want my daughters to retain this part!
We do the same with their allowance each week, and help them allocate it. Making the connection between a paycheck and their allowance shows them that you are on the same plane, just in smaller ratios. They feel invested, grown up, and included.
Try to maintain a healthy relationship with your own money.
Take a good look at your own spending, saving, and debt. If you are a spender, examine your debt and splurges. If you are a saver, think about how that affects your mood and behaviors - perhaps you struggle with being “fun” with money?
I’m notably the spender, and I’m honest about my emotional relationship with money. I have been working on my own verbiage and phrases when it comes to spending (such as sighing when bills arrive in the mail or complaining about how much things cost), and have tried to curb my random shopping trips that I admit only temporarily comfort me. I have found that having accountability to my children has improved my relationship with our finances: there are two little girls watching and mimicking what I do!
Show your children that your family can stick to a budget.
As a family who are strict budgeters, we are also big believers in celebrating our accomplishments together. If things are a bit tight financially, our girls don’t need to know details of money stress, but they can be made aware of sacrifices that must be made sometimes, and that saving or scrimping are real concepts. When an extra bill or two arises - maybe we won’t dine out much that week, and that’s okay. We don't focus on the negatives, but we also don't lie to our children about why we can or cannot pay for something extra.
For the girls, sacrifices include saying “no” to various things. Because children are young, and the topics of money can be somewhat scary, we always assure them their “needs” such as shelter, food, and clothing will always be covered. When we reach the end of the month, and if we have achieved our goals, we celebrate responsibly so they see self-control and delayed gratification are good and wonderful things.
Though working moms have a distinct privilege in being able to associate going to work with a tangible paycheck, it’s by no means a more difficult task, and stay-at-home-moms (SAHM) can also impart these values to their children. But as a woman and a mother, I am so grateful that I get the chance to model what it looks like to be a responsible spender, saver, and a hard worker. My girls see me go to work, and they experience the fruits of it, and what it looks like to manage that gift in a responsible fashion. I know my girls will be better for it.