Our Debt to Our Parents

A few Billfold pals and I went for a drink after last night’s event and we got to talking about our parents and the complicated relationships we have with them.

My mother, for example, has always hated the career path I’ve chosen and doesn’t consider me a “successful” person — I have failed to make the right choices; in her mind I’ve thrown away potential for selfish reasons (“writing is a selfish act,” as they say). But the other side of the coin is that she’s appreciative of the money I send home and my unflagging willingness to support her and my father. Why provide support for someone who is dismissive of what you do, and who can be brutally honest about how they perceive you and the choices you’ve made? The most succinct answer I can provide is that, though I did not choose to have the parents I have, they chose to have me; here are immigrants who had to start all over from scratch in a new country, toiling away to provide a good life for their family. If writing is a selfish act, then supporting them with the money that my writing produces is proof that I haven’t thrown my potential away — that they didn’t toil away for nothing. I feel I owe them that in the very least.

Here are Antonia Macaro and Julian Baggini in the Financial Times:

If we come across an injured person on a hillside, for example, we are obliged to try to get them to safety, at least without putting our own life at risk.

Likewise with people who have been good parents, fate often decrees that their children are the people best placed to help. If as children we find ourselves in that position, we may not be able to give exactly what our parents want — but to give nothing at all would be callous.

Perhaps this question is too complex to answer so early in the morning, but what do we owe our parents? Have a cup of coffee or your morning beverage of choice and mull it over.

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