As a grown child, what do I owe my parents?
For many years, our author wondered what obligations she has towards her parents as an adult. Here she shares her thoughts.
I moved out of my parents’ house when I was 19. And not in the next bigger city, but in the largest city in the country. It was a big surprise not only for my parents, but for my entire family. Whether aunts, uncles, grandparents or cousins - every single person in my family lives no further than 20 kilometers from their place of birth. For me, that was never desirable. i wanted to leave see something else. Gain new impressions. Back then I didn’t even rule out never going back.
My parents supported me with this step as much as they could – as in all other situations in life. That is still the case today. And yet – or precisely because of this – the question overtakes me so often, what I owe my parents.
What do parents expect from their adult children?
My parents have never expected me to give them back anything they have sacrificed for me throughout my life. But that still doesn’t erase the feeling in me that I owe them something. I call my mom every Sunday and feel guilty if I don’t do it once. I try to go home on all of my closest relatives’ birthdays and stay there longer than just the holidays at Christmas. My guilty conscience grows when I prefer to spend New Year’s Eve with friends in my current place of residence than with my parents in the living room. And when my parents visit, I feel obligated to plan every single day from dawn to dusk, keep conversations going, and crack a joke at the right moments. Most of all, I sometimes blame myself for being hundreds of miles away from my parents most of the time, leading my own life.
Am I no longer a daughter someday?
When we grow up with our parents, we adapt many behaviors. For example what and when we eat, how we fold our laundry, how we deal with conflicts or the way we cultivate friendships. If we move out, to other cities or shared apartments, we get to know completely new perspectives. We broaden our horizons and are open to new things. Of course our roots remain. Nevertheless, we isolate ourselves from our parents bit by bit at various points. If we return home, we are suddenly we those who can teach our parents something. And at the same time, it’s us who don’t really fit in there anymore. Not because we are strangers or something better, but because we have developed in other directions, have grown with ourselves. Because we live autonomously. This is not an easy matter for children or parents – at least if we do not know how to deal with it properly. We will always be our parents’ children – That’s a good thing – but how we treat each other may change.
What is a healthy relationship between adult children and their parents?
Today I compare the relationship with my parents with a good friendship. We treat each other as equals and respect each other. I even see it as an opportunity. The chance to talk about topics that we kept secret as teenagers, even though sometimes parental advice isn’t so bad. At the same time, everyone – whether child or parent – can develop in the direction that suits him/her without having to feel bad about it. I don’t want my parents to stop growing and wait the rest of their lives for me to visit for birthdays or Christmas. I want them to lead their own autonomous lives. Discover new hobbies, travel the world and do what they long for in the depths of their hearts. I expect the same from my parents.
In the end, in my opinion, it’s all about: still feeling connected, but not out of duty, but because we want it.
Conclusion: What do we owe our parents?
So much in advance: There isn’t the one Solution for how we as adult children face our parents and vice versa. I am fortunate to have grown up in a functional family. However, not everyone has this privilege. Many family ties can have tragedies that leave trauma. So when I write that we owe our parents respect or gratitude, that doesn’t apply to many people.
Being a kid doesn’t oblige. We didn’t even actively choose to exist on this planet. That was the decision of our parents and with it comes the obligation to look after us for a few years. So, as hard as it sounds: Basically, we don’t owe our parents anything. It is up to us what kind of relationship we have with our parents. Like me, it can be a kind of friendship full of love, respect and gratitude. But it can also be the total loss of contact. Ultimately, it is about our feelings and emotions. Taking care of each other out of duty or guilt doesn’t make us children or our parents happy.
So if I don’t call my mom as usual next Sunday for whatever reason, I won’t have a bad conscience. Because it’s not my duty. Because it has to come from my heart. And because they are not on think has to wait for a call, but can just as easily pick up the phone if she needs to speak.