rich mom, poor mom

My ‘poor’ mom believed that by working and giving me things she was doing the best she could for me, even though it meant I was raised largely by daycare and babysitters first, then after-school programs later. She loved me as deeply as any mother loves her child, but she made her career a priority, spending 50+ hours a week away from me. She did this thinking that was the best way to provide for her family.

My ‘rich’ mom stayed at home with me, participated in my life and gave me the best care she was able. My rich mom couldn’t always buy me things. Other kids had DVDs and Wiis and iPods. We had board games and the radio. My rich mom was just as smart and educated as any working mother, but she made her children a priority, knowing that nothing else would matter more than them in the end. She did this thinking that was the best way to provide for her family.

Robert Kiyosaki, in his famous (infamous?) book Rich Dad, Poor Dad, laid out the idea of having had “two fathers” who taught him different lessons about life. One (his biological father) taught him that hard work, a good job and lots of education were the keys to success. The other (his best friend’s father) taught him that hard work, investing your money in assets and frugal living were critical. The former, the “poor dad”, was wrong, and the latter, the “rich dad”, was right – according to Kiyosaki. Interestingly enough, Kiyosaki focuses solely on the money lessons of his fathers. So let’s be sexist for a minute and say that the father represents the “outside” world – money, work, achievement. Let’s imagine that we could frame the same rich vs. poor argument for moms – but in terms of the family and its emotional life.

Quick disclaimer: in this article I use the term ‘mom,’ but it’s not meant to be sexist. The ‘mom’ below could just as easily be the man in the family, and I always want to point this out. I plan to be a stay-at-home dad sometime in the next ten years, once we are financially independent. So substitute “parent” for mom and you’ll get the idea. Rich parent, poor parent just didn’t have the same ring to it.

Rich Mom, Poor Mom

The rich dad taught Kiyosaki that frugal living was key. The rich mom agrees with this thinking. Making sacrifices so she can stay home is at the core of the rich mom’s philosophy. Her “investment” of time in her children now will pay off later. The poor dad thought that you made money to spend money on liabilities, like cars and expensive gadgets and money-sucking homes. The poor mom thinks that her children need more money – more than they need her.

The poor dad believes that education is a requirement.
The poor mom thinks that the school system is the most important part of a child’s development. She chooses to overlook the fact that schools are only responsible for teaching subjects. American schools long ago learned that values, character, financial intelligence, morals and even physical fitness were toxic areas that caused lawsuits. Teachers are too overwhelmed by bureaucracy and huge class sizes to spend time with individual students. The rich mom knows that the schools are an important part of a child’s development, but having a good character starts with lessons at home… and a good character will take the child farther than 8th-grade botany.

The rich dad believed in investing money in assets and letting those assets earn money for you. The poor dad believed you should work to enrich your employers and hope they would provide for you when you could no longer work for them. The poor mom hopes that others will raise her family (the husband and children!) while she works. She hopes that after she’s worked through her children’s formative years that they’ll come out OK. The rich mom knows that there is only one sure way to do a job right – to do it yourself. The rich mom knows that when she is 90 years old, struggling with health and money issues, that her children will come to her aid, but that company she gave 75% of her waking hours to will have long forgotten she existed.

I think in Kiyosaki’s book, one of the best lessons is his concept of the true definition of an asset.
An asset makes money for its owner. A liability loses money for its owner. A house is, by that definition, not an asset if you live there. Everyone needs a place to live, for sure, but it IS costing you money. An asset is a house you rent to someone else at a profit.

In the same way, the rich mom understands that children are an asset, not a liability.
If you think of what having children will mean in terms of loss (losing free time, losing independence, losing a career, losing your own youth) then they will be liabilities to you and you’ll be a poor mom. If you think having children will be a GAIN (the joy of watching them grow and learn, adventures that give you a chance at a second childhood, the knowledge of leaving the world a better place with these new people in it) then you will be a rich mom. With the rich dad and the poor dad, there is no physical or mental or any other sort of difference between the two men. They make choices. In the same way, every parent – male or female – has the ability to be a rich mom or a poor mom.

24 comments

  • Eh, does this have to be black or white? Don’t you think there exists a kinda-well-off-mom (relatively-comfortable mom? not-totally-broke mom?) too?

    I have to look back at my mother and childhood. Before school age I and my siblings stayed with our grandparents during the day. Our mother worked as a teacher and a tutor throughout our lives, having summers and a some afternoons with us kids. (And god knows we reaped the benefits of that years later when my dad was laid off and out of work for a long time!)

    But in addition to some extra cash – not much, teachers were as criminally undervalued then as they are today – we had art materials etc squirrelled out of the school; multiple “aunts” in our lives among her colleagues and their families (who entertained still are around for us); neighbours who all pitched in to watch, host and entertain all the local kids when necessary. And my mum had her job to enjoy when we turned 11 or 12, were never at home and stopped needing constant care.

    Now that we’re all grown, the colleagues and jobs she’s maintained since way back are still a joy to her, in her life every day. And we had happy childhoods and are all confident, adjusted adults with good memories. What some now might shake their heads at and call neglect – being passed around the neighbours and family when my folks had to work – was to us fun, educational, social and always an adventure. It’s probably most of the reason I and my siblings have such confidence and social skills today!

    Maybe it works differently in 2007 America than 1980s/90s Ireland, I don’t know. I don’t have children yet, but a number of my friends and acquaintances seem to have a very similar setup going on – grandparents or aunts active in childcare, outgoing social circles who all pitch in with kids’ activities and care when necessary, one parent with a non-traditional job which doesn’t have commutes or mean 60 hours a week – and everyone, including the kids, seem very happy.

  • Good lord, sorry about the novel-length comment dude. Can you tell I like procrastinating on friday morning?

  • First time reader – I agree with R.K’s book on the asset/liability piece, but a lot of it is just fluff and encouragement; albeit a lot of people like it, it doesn’t always help put $ in the bank. πŸ™‚

    Good article – interested to read more –

  • I have to agree with guinness416 (but I would have typed a much shorter response). I don’t think either rich/poor parent is mutually exclusive.

  • I’m also with guinness416.

    In my family the older siblings had a full-time stay at home mother, and the younger ones didn’t. We’ve all had great childhoods and turned out to be happy, well-adjusted adults but my mother was happier at work than being a stay at home parent.

  • My older sister and I were going off to day care at age 2 y.o. and our mom was going back to work. I didn’t feel any different from any other kid I knew because this is the way it was in the USSR back when I was growing up. My younger sister was born much later after the collapse of the Union (read – many, many changes) and my mom was staying home with her till she went to school. We all turned out fine, but the youngest is the most spoiled ;o)

  • I realize that many parents require two incomes. (Well, actually, some parents require two incomes to provide for actual needs; but some just think they require two incomes, because they spend so much.)

    Anyway, personally, I shudder at the thought of day care staff spending more time with my child than I do. Same with school staff. I KNOW that I can do a MUCH better job of raising a confident, insightful, curious, ambitious, inquisitive and competent child than someone paid meager wages to supervise large groups of children in an institutional setting.

    I also know, particularly as a stay-at-home mom, that I need to keep my mind engaged. I need to stay socially connected. I need to give myself the time and resources to pursue my other interests and passions outside of parenting.

    For me, it’s a balance. When the balance is right, our entire family benefits. May we all lead rich lives and view our children as assets!

  • Excellent comments! I want to clarify something that’s probably not always evident in my reasoning regarding parenting, and it’s important: I view everything through the lens of my own situation. Before Bubelah (who disagrees with me on this!) left her job to be a stay-at-home parent, she worked for a large investment bank. Her hours weren’t awful – no dawn-to-midnight days – but she worked a lot. If she still worked, with the commute and her hours she would be gone 10 hours a day. She would have had no flexibility to leave work easily mid-day to attend to emergencies, etc. I personally have ZERO flexibility to leave mid-day for the simple fact that I’m an hour and a half commute away from home. If I leave, I’m gone for the day.

    So what I’m getting at is that I am talking about a mother working in a corporate role with demanding hours and a brutal commute. Plonkee and Guiness416 and MMND are all pointing out situations in which the parent is working as (a) a teacher or (b) self-employed. Those are flexible, family-friendly situations. That is a far cry from a corporate “why are you leaving mid-day?” environment.

    Probably I need to emphasize that more. I actually plan to return to teaching (I spent a couple of years teaching in grad school and substitute teaching middle school to support myself in college) once we are financially independent. That will make my schedule mesh with my kids, and hopefully Bubelah will be able to return to the job she loved so much before her stint at the investment bank (she was a refugee counselor at an airport, of all things)!

    So yes, I agree – my mom went back to teaching after we were in middle school, and I am never advocating the WOMAN stay home, which would be sexist. I think that with the right job with flexible hours and a reasonable commute and supportive family nearby a working mother can do just fine.

    I just view it through my own experience here in New York – lots of people with no family around, working hideous hours in demanding jobs. I shudder to see my colleagues who never see their kids Mon-Fri. So THAT’s what I’m thinking about! My contract consulting is much more flexible than my previous 3-week-business-trip corporate job was, so I count myself lucky.

    Hope that helps clarify πŸ™‚

  • Really obvious wisdom from a former single mom:
    This is a big responsibility and you don’t have to be a parent. If possible, try not to have kids if you have no TIME or MONEY for them.
    Don’t assume they will ever take an SAT test. They are not corporate-employees-to-be. Instead ask: Do they have trees to climb? Is there a fort to be built in the area? Where can they ride their bikes and fall down and pick themselves up again?
    If mom is always gone, they crave her. If dad is always gone, they crave him. Two parents are nice to have around. One parent is not the same as two.
    Eat meals together at a table, not on the road, or a la TV.
    They will not remember owning stuff. But they will remember doing stuff with you.
    You really can do a better job than your mom and dad did.
    If your marriage sucks, fix it so they see love, or end it and stop the madness.
    You will fail in one area or another, guaranteed. Keep on trying.
    Say “I love you” and give big hugs.

  • Brip Blap, usually I really like your posts, but this time you and I completely disagree. I know you read my post on the subject, so this is no surprise to you.

    I don’t think that your presentation of working moms as misguided, greedy or ignorant of their childrens true needs is a fair or accurate description. You also assme that there is one correct way to raise a child and that you know what it is.

    I strongly disagree. Many people find staying at home with their kids to be emotionally fulfilling and a family necessity. While others don’t. As someone who was raised by two working parents I feel perfectly fine about my upbringing, and I am thankful that my parents raised me to understand the value of hard work and dedication. I grew up to be a well educated, well adjusted adult, with no regrets.

    I cannot speak for my parents on the subject with any certainty but it seems to me that they too are happy with their life choices. Why do you assume that your way is the only right way to raise a child and define parents who do not follow that approach as “poor”?

    My philosophy? Individuals should make the decisions that will make them as happy as possible in the long run. Each of us knows what makes us happy, and that is the only road we should follow.

  • The topic of women and work evokes such passionate emotions, so I scarcely dare to state my opinion, but I’m doing just that, of course. From reading comments on bripblap over the last several months, I think I’m correct in saying that most of the commenters are fairly young people, people in the first half of their work life, at least, rather than in the last half of their work life. I, however, fall into the latter category and I’m considerably older than most of you, so here’s my opinion–and it’s just that, an OPINION. Bripblap is correct when he says that there are jobs and there are jobs. If you leave before dawn and get home after dark, you are missing just as much as your children are. I’m a teacher and we offer daycare before and after school. So we have little 5, 6 year-old kids who arrive at 6:30 a.m. and leave at 6:00 p.m. From everything we know about children and their emotional, psychological, physical, and intellectual needs, that is developmentally inappropriate. Maybe it’s a necessity, and maybe it’s better that they are at school than in a house by themselves, but it’s not good for children. On the other hand, many of our teachers are moms, also, and they bring their school-age children to work with them and take them home at the end of the day. While mom-the-teacher is finishing up for the day, her children are playing in her room or doing their homework or engaging in complicated dramatic play with other teachers’ kids. I happen to think that’s pretty wonderful and a great compromise for moms who want to work. So there are jobs and there are jobs. I really think that’s all bripblap was saying. My last bit of advice to all you young folks is to think about what will be important to you when you are 70, 75, or 80. I’m not there yet, but I’m closing in on 70 faster than I’d like and I can tell you one thing. I have enough money to get by, but I believe I have more love than anybody deserves from my husband, children, and grandchildren. I deposited my time, energy, and love into my family decades ago, and now it’s paying dividends beyond all expectations. As I said, it’s just my opinion, but try to keep your mind and options open, and always take the long view!

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  • @Shadox – “Many people find staying at home with their kids to be emotionally fulfilling and a family necessity. While others don’t. ”
    ” Individuals should make the decisions that will make them as happy as possible in the long run. Each of us knows what makes us happy, and that is the only road we should follow.”

    I have read your takes on this too, and it’s just a fundamental disagreement that’s not really resolvable since matters of opinion are just that – opinion. Neither of us are basing our arguments on data. I think that the “do what makes you happy” line of thinking goes out the window when you have kids. Does changing diapers make you happy? Does losing sleep when they are teething make you happy? No, but you do it. The road you follow is not driven by happiness all the time. Maybe the overall happiness you feel, but day by day? No. If you don’t find staying with your kids emotionally fulfilling – if you CHOOSE to stay at work 10-12 hours per day and not with your children – to me that choice of happiness is clear: your work makes you happier than your kids, or else you would not choose to do that.

    @Carol, @Ruth: I agree with you both, but more than anything with Carol’s statement: “If mom is always gone, they crave her. If dad is always gone, they crave him. ” I wish I had written it that way, Carol.

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  • To add more to my previous comment, when I said we turned out to be fine I meant it. However I didn’t elaborate. When I was about 11 or 12 y.o. my mom got laid off and couldn’t find work, she decided to stay home with us. When she worked she would leave around 7 a.m. and come home at 7 p.m. My dad had even longer hours. Even though I liked day care and school in later years, I missed my parents a lot. My sister and I would come home to an empty apartment and we didn’t feel like doing anything until our parents came home and everything would come to life. I was missing them acutely.

    I was glad when circumstances made my mom stay home ( I think she was glad it turned out that way too ;o) It was nice to come home from school to someone who greets you at the door, smiles and asks how was your day. Plus we didn’t have to go through fridge to look for food. Lunch and dinner were almost always ready for us. My sister and I would eat quick lunch and do our homeworks and have whole evening free to do anything.

    BB. I do not disagree with you and as I explained to you this is not strictly black and white. I agree that there are jobs and careers that are more demanding than others that take away our precious time from our children.

    Children grow up fast and I don’t want to miss my son’s major milestones when I am away from home for 10 hours a day. I don’t want a babysitter or a day care worker be the first one to see him make his first step or say his first word, etc….

    Ok, this comment now is way too long ;o))

  • I’m late getting around to visit all of the Carnival participants. (Crazy week . . . only excuse!)

    THANK YOU for being part of Colloquium’s inaugural edition. I appreciate your support.

    Don’t forget that this week’s Carnival will be hosted at All Rileyed Up. If you haven’t submitted a post yet, you can do so until midnight (Pacific Time) tonight!

  • Another interesting article along the same lines: click here.

  • I always planned to be a stay-at-home mother. Then I had children and circumstances were such that my going back to work made the most sense. My husband, left alone with our baby, quickly found himself overwhelmed, and when the chance for him to go back to work came up, we decided to put our daughter into a nursery school for working parents. Initially, I was miserable about doing this. Then I noticed that our ten-month-old daughter actually preferred this, being a very gregarious baby who enjoyed the noisiness and stimulation of her nursery school. And then I began to enjoy my own job and my husband enjoyed his, and our lifestyle soon became the only one we could imagine. When our second child was born, we put her into the same nursery too, and she thrived on it.

    It wasn’t always easy, but we were glad we put our children in childcare. They almost always had good teachers, I got to hear all about the events of their day and see all their artwork, and they both made friends. We lived abroad so they acquired another language at childcare, which was also a great boon. Perhaps the best thing about their being in childcare, though, was the fact that during the weekends, we spent the entire time together.

    Everyone’s situation is different. If our kids hadn’t been happy in childcare, that would have changed everything. But it did work for us and there was no question of our children suffering or feeling deprived. Quite the contrary.

    • I have to agree with Mary Witzl , my daughter also PREFERRED to be around her own peers. I work, but I also have plenty of days off and I would always spend those days with however I noticed that I am not her equal and she preferred to be around other kids doing kid stuff.

      Some children just want to be around their peers and I don't blame them. That was her little paradise

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  • Hawkeye Raider

    Please keep in mind that Robert Kiyosaki is a scam artist. Its great that he has been a successful writer but “Rich Dad” never existed. He made it up to sell books and offer very dangerous financial advise to readers….

    • @Hawkeye Raider: I think “scam artist” is a fairly strong term. But I'll always fall back on my standard defense of Kiyosaki: read his books as inspiration, not as “how to” guides. It's not a technical book, it's a book designed to get you thinking about the choices that make you poor or rich. Since Kiyosaki's always refused to name the “Rich Dad” I think it's fairly clear after 10 seconds of Googling that he made him up – and I don't have a problem with that. But I understand that many people feel Kiyosaki is trying to sucker gullible people – in which case he's just in the same boat as many others (the US government, among others).

  • Robert Kiyosaki is great, that is one great lesson I got from him.

    When I was growing up and still do, I see my parents busting 40-60 hours a week just to get by basically.

    I could never see myself doing the same thing to parents, I mean I do not want to put my kids in daycare and have someone else raise them, that is bullshit.

    People will probably make excuses when you confront them about why they are neglecting their kids, the most important thing in their life.

  • Robert Kiyosaki is great, that is one great lesson I got from him.

    When I was growing up and still do, I see my parents busting 40-60 hours a week just to get by basically.

    I could never see myself doing the same thing to parents, I mean I do not want to put my kids in daycare and have someone else raise them, that is bullshit.

    People will probably make excuses when you confront them about why they are neglecting their kids, the most important thing in their life.