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I Told My Son My Salary

I love spending quality time with my son. One of our favorite traditions is “Take Your Kids to Work Day.” It’s something we’ve been doing together for the past few years and even though we have tons of family time, this is something for just the two of us to enjoy together. Each year, he’s super excited leading up to the event, letting his school know that he won’t be present. I’m equally excited, letting my job know that my son will be in attendance, providing his picture and other details about him.

The night before, we lay out his outfit, make sure his bag of activities is packed, and we get a good night’s rest. I wake him up super early and we participate in the tradition of riding the train into D.C. to work. Although my commute feels like a normal routine, when my son joins in it’s so exciting! I get to share the little details, running for the train, and making yourself comfortable for the 45-minute ride. I love watching his eyes explore everything around him, from the people getting on each at each stop, to viewing local sites while the train is above ground.

We always stop at a local spot and grab breakfast before heading into my office. There he joins the other children for a day of activities. At the end, I pick him up and we have lunch together in the city. We typically choose any spot that has one of our favorite meals -- brick oven pizza. But this past year was different. We always talk about life on the way to lunch, but he asked me one question that made me pause. He said, “Mommy, how much money do you make at your job?”

It stopped me and I’m not sure why. I think I was maybe a little surprised. And for a few moments, I thought about the appropriate answer. Should I tell him? Should I not? If I don’t tell him, what reason should I give? Then I thought back to my own childhood experiences. I think most of us didn’t know how much our parents made. At that time, you don’t even really understand the concept of money. I remember when I was younger, I saw my mom had $100. I said, “OMG, that’s a lot of money!” She said, “When you’re an adult, it’s not.” I remembered how true it was now LOL. Literally $100 doesn’t cover groceries.

Then I thought about other people’s experiences. I think for most of us were told or thought that asking your parents that question was inappropriate or “grown folk’s business.” But then I thought deeper. What is the big secret? What would a child do with that information?

I made the decision to tell my son. I was a little nervous. I mainly told him because it was a teaching moment to share how much work I had to do to get to that moment. I even shared details on where my salary started when I first started working. He was amazed and it served as a great discussion point. He was even more intrigued and asked how we receive the money. If you receive your salary all at once. I then told him that my salary is divided into 26 payments throughout the year. I also shared how taxes and other expenses have to be factored into your salary. I told him how taking care of him and his sister have to also be factored in, so you have to be responsible with any amount of money given.

During that discussion, I knew I made the right decision to share my salary. It served as a teaching moment for my son. It was also an exciting moment for me to pause and realize how hard I’ve worked over the years. I forgot about a lot of the jobs I worked with minimum wage and a few cents raises.

If you’re a parent considering having this discussion with your child, consider their age and the benefits of sharing. What can you teach them? What can you take away from the conversation?

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