Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Parental love

3 October 2015


This week I had an emotional chat with a friend who lives far away from me. She was sad because her children do not support her while she is having a rough time to survive herself. Her children are well off though. After some questions it appeared that she went abroad for work while her oldest child was just a starting teenager. She left her children with her parents, their grandparents.

During all these years of working abroad, she sent money to support her children. It is very hard for her to understand why her children do so little to support her now. Especially, her oldest daughter is critical towards her mother. I suggested that her oldest daughter may have assumed a surrogate mother role towards her siblings during her absence. Her mother’s return implies competition for that mother role. My friend acknowledged and added that her daughter is a jealous child.

I told my friend that her daughter may have become emotionally damaged in her mother’s absence, by assuming the surrogate mother role while she was still a child herself. This innocent remark opened my friend’s eyes – and also mine. I have left my own family to work abroad when my daughter was almost 15. Working abroad was then the only option to support my family. It also caused a quick deterioration of family ties. Partly due to the divorce and partly as Skype cannot compensate.

One of the biggest changes in my life, was becoming a parent. Suddenly you are responsible for someone else for many years. To some extent, this feeling of responsibility never ever stops. Having children implies that your own entire agenda suddenly revolves around theirs. Sometimes this is hard to accept but there is no choice, really. Parenting does not yet require a licence (also see May 2 blog) but few people are immediately good at it. Especially, your 1st child triggers parental fear of not being a good parent. You do better with the next one. Efficiency – even in parenting.

In my view, there is some kind of a taboo about parenting. The unconditional parental love is often unilateral and not reciprocated. This causes grief and suffering. It may even explain why people love pets, especially dogs. Dogs are very good in reciprocating unconditional love. Its reason is beyond this blog and requires a new blog – and research as I have no clue why dogs do.

My friend’s children – and mine – will experience this mismatch once they are parents themselves. To some extent, it may feel like retribution but actually it’s not “payback” at all. It is much more like an eternal mismatch in expectations. The more you expect, the bigger your disappointment will be. Also see my August 14 blog on Expectations which mentioned a study that indicates that the secret to happiness is low expectations.

My friend still suffers from the lack of love she is experiencing from her children. I suffered a lot too, while living abroad. It took me quite some time to “accept” my new role in their lives. I may never fully accept it though. The pain lingers on but at an acceptable level. The show must go on – with or without them.

“I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life.” Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Teach Your Children (1969) – (artistslyrics, Wiki)

Queen – The Show Must Go On (1991) – (artists, lyrics, Wiki)

U2 – With Or Without You (1987) – (artists, lyrics, Wiki)


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