You Don’t Owe Anything To Your Parents

angryIt’s good to be a nice person in life and help others, especially if they’re in need. There’s no point in being disagreeable or mean. However, it’s also important to design your life according to the rules that matter to you. This often means that you have to disappoint your parents in this or other way but that’s okay because you don’t owe anything to them.

The common misconception is that you owe to your parents because they brought you into this world, gave you food and clothes and sometimes even emotional support. That’s all cool and you should be grateful for that. It doesn’t mean, however, that you’re now in debt and have to live your life in order to please them. Your parents made a (somewhat) conscious decision of bringing you to this world because they wanted to have a baby. Some of them just had this feeling that it’s the right thing to do, others wanted to have a mini me in terms of looks, yet another group of parents count on their children achieving what they didn’t and the last group uses them as a surety for the future, just like a savings account in a bank. The thinking of the latter two groups of people is: I’m going to give birth to this thing and it’s going to do what I want it too/help me when I’m old. It’s like as if they were signing a contract in their heads with someone who didn’t agree to the terms of it. Did you ask them to bring you to this world? No? Exactly, this is why a contract signed only by one party doesn’t work.

In life there are no guarantees. You may spend a few years in a relationship, sacrifice yourself for a person and then they meet someone else and they leave you. It seems ungrateful and harsh but that you made a decision to make sacrifices, doesn’t oblige people to give you the same thing back to you. It’s exactly the same thing with parenthood. Sure, it’s nice if you help your parents through thick and thin when you’re an adult but it’s up to you to make such a decision.

Financially help your parents when they get older is one thing and most people would agree that it has more to do with human decency than with owing anything to anyone.  Nevertheless, your parents expectations are certainly not something you’re obliged to meet. If something doesn’t cost you anything, you can do it to avoid family frictions. Your mother really likes you to eat your greens? Sure, why not to comply with it. At the same time, when your mother wants you to be a doctor and you don’t want that, you’re not being difficult for not listening. If your parents are religious and you aren’t you don’t have to pretend that you are either. Last but not least, if your parents would like you to make a choice of whom you should marry, it’s also an important issue you should fight for.

Now, I’m not saying it’s easy. As much as theoretically we don’t owe anything to our parents, it doesn’t mean that on the emotional level we don’t think we do. My parents, for instance, always thought they were bringing up a lawyer. I’d even internalize it to the point that for many years I’d tell people that that’s what I was going to do. Then puberty happened and I realized that it’s really not something I want for myself. I fought and fought and eventually my parents understood I made up my mind. Still, neither of the two options I wanted “had a future” according to them and instead of becoming a psychologist or a journalist, I studied languages. It was an acceptable compromise that I wouldn’t have to be making if I could afford to pay my way through studies myself. A part of us relying on our parents is, of course, financial. This is why up to some point in our life, they actually have a say in our decisions. Ideally, they’d love us for who we are and accept our choices just wanting us to be happy and bla bla bla… but mostly they think they know better. Fair enough, if our parents are supporting us, we must obey some of their rules. They’re a bit like an Airbnb hosts till we’re truly adults.

At the point when we become financially independent, however, we can truly make our own decisions. A lot of people shy away from doing so because of a thing called “respect”. Oh, you see, my parents are religious I couldn’t live with my boyfriend before we got married. It’s just a matter of respect. Oh, my parents would never accept me if I decided to date someone outside of our culture etc. Those are just excuses. You shouldn’t respect your parents just because they’re your parents, you should respect them for being human beings and such respect should be mutual. In other words, if your parents are trying to impose on you how to live, it’s not you being disrespectful towards them, if you disobey. It’s them having no respect for you as an individual and understanding that you’re no longer a child they can control. As an adult everyone is entitled to make his or her own decisions. Sometimes such decisions are contrary to our parents preferences.

I’m not just theorizing here. I did disobey my mom in a rather serious way once (my father didn’t even know). I fell in love and pursued a relationship with a Muslim. My mom’s grievance was mostly on the grounds of racism, telling me things I wish I never heard from anyone. The relationship lasted for over two years and during this time I my mother would constantly go on rants. When I say constantly, I mean daily. Shouting, offending me and my former partner, emotionally blackmailing me, intimidating me and using all sorts of disgusting techniques to make me break up with him. Eventually, I fell out of love and I ended the relation. I kept quiet about it for a month because it did feel like the unconditional love your parents are supposed to have for you, wasn’t really a thing. After all the fits, when I told my mother about the break-up, she just said “Great, you’ve finally came to your senses”, smiled and never spoke about it again unless I brought it up. My mother, of course, was proud as she “won”. In her head I understood that she was right all along. The problem was that she was wrong. I made my own decision about the break up because of a shift in feelings and it had nothing to do with her shouting and screaming. Without it, the relationship would have ended too but my mom and I would have had a chance at a relationship like adults do. We don’t have it now and we never will because since then, as much as I love her, I do not treat her as a source of support or advice. I tell her what I think she’ll be fine with hearing and otherwise I just have a thousand layers of a secret life she’ll never get access to. Even if our decisions turn out to be objectively wrong, we have the right to make them and no parent should try to take it away from us. They have their own lives to live.

Parents can react to what we do in outrageous ways and perhaps even cut us off for the time being but they usually come around. Sometimes they’re just broken people and their my way or no way attitude is so strong, they’d rather lose a child than be disobeyed. This is their cross to bear and you can never satisfy such parents, anyway. This is why rather to try to pleas them, we should focus on pleasing ourselves. It is difficult to come around ourselves, if we decide not to pursue a relationship with someone we love, abandon a passion or in another significant way, decide not to do something that’s important to us. Parents may hink that they know better but with things like profession, marriage, having or not having children, they don’t. We may not know what we want exactly but we usually know what we don’t want. We don’t owe anything to our parents as financially independent adults. We may tell ourselves we do and decide to please them but we should never compromise on important things.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my longish post, Dear Rinser. It was inspired by a movie “The Big Sick” which I will review for you tomorrow. What do you think about the issue? Have you ever disobeyed your parents? Were your parents respectful of your life choices?



  1. Wow. I’m usually the background reader type; reads’ everything but just keep my opinion to myself.

    I have to come out here and say, this is outstanding. This should outta be printed on the last leaflet on a diploma when we graduate.

    I hope you don’t mind me sharing this with tons of people in know 😊


    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for your comment, Paris! Even more so, knowing that it’s not something that you do often 🙂 I’m glad that you’ve enjoyed the post. You’re more than welcome to share it 😊


  2. Nice post. You make lots of good points.

    I’ve always been one to ask my parents for advice and then do my own thing anyway. But I understand for some people that are part of a ‘community’ bringing shame on your family by doing crazy stuff (like moving continents for the first guy that gave you a second look) is more difficult. I personally think that such ‘communities’ are toxic not only for the kids but for the parents. And isn’t the job of a good parents be to protect their kids from such negative influences? I mean its all well and good advising kids not to date bad people, etc, etc. but how about starting closer to home and teaching your kids to stay away from narrow-minded socially constructed groups based on arb factors such and race and religion.

    Maybe I’m a being a bit harsh – but there are some really shitty parents that instill fear into their children in order to keep them trapped and under their control for evermore. I know of one case, where the olds threatened to disown their only child and take away her inheritance if she didn’t behave. But you made a good point which I actually think is hugely important in this issue = We don’t owe anything to our parents as FINANCIALLY INDEPENDENT adults. It’s easier to tell your parents take their backwater opinions and go screw themselves when you are not a 30-something that lives under their roof or requires Daddy O to bank roll your fabulous lifestyle. Remember there is no such thing as a free lunch. I’ve had friends who’ve gone around living a great lifestyle doing as they please but while being supported financially by their elders but there comes a time in even the most open-minded old folks will draw the line and tell you to pack you bags, stop being a trust fund kid and come home (basically do as they say!).

    Like your Mum, many parents (and people in general) will gloat when a relationship comes to an end and tell you (or maybe just give you a knowing look) that they knew you and your partner were never going to work out. Bla bla bla. At the end of the day, it’s natural for decent parents to want their children to be happy. I think it’s natural to not want your kids to make the same mistakes that you did. But the ‘I told you so attitude’ doesn’t do any one any favours. It’s OK for parents and kids to not see eye to eye on everything but ultimately in an ideal world it would be nice to know that your parents are your safety net. That they understand that kids are human (so they won’t always listen to advice) and regardless as a parent you should be there to pick up the pieces when the shit does hit the fan. Sadly, in reality, for most people there are so many other things that govern how parents react to a situation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with you. Community is important but I think the world would be a better place if we focused on what connects us, rather than what separates us. It’s such a weird thing how we constantly try to create the me vs them narratives. I think evolutionary it had its reasons. If your small community had access to let’s say berries and the resource was limited, of course you wanted your kin to have it. In today’s world, however, we just keep hurting ourselves putting all these labels on us and other people. I’m sure that if you believe in god and go to church it’s nice to have friends with whom you can talk about religion and attend church together. What I don’t understand is why would you want to limit your experience to just people that agree with you and think the way we do. And I’m not just preaching! In my own attempt to be more open minded, I keep friends with opposing political and social views in my Facebook feed.

      I think the financial independence is crucial. You can’t rely on your parents for money and be like, I’m an independent person, I have my own mind. If you do, use it to make money first and then you deserve to be treated like an adult.

      I think a big part of the problem is that especially parents of the former generation were never taught how to be parents. I also doubt that postnatal depression was less widespread back in the days and you just had to deal with it on your own, not being able to tell anyone how you’re feeling, because after all it’s just normal to love your kids. I honestly don’t think everyone should have kids and because back in the days everyone had them, here’s the reason why emotionally unsuitable authoritarian figures are not that uncommon among parents. Perhaps now that we start to have a real choice, kids will be born in families that really want them (and not to have them as savings for when you get old)? I don’t know. It’s easy to judge and parenthood must be a difficult task, people are stubborn and unwilling to change and perhaps the world is doomed…


      • Yeah. I look around at the people of the previous generation (and also some of our generation) and think a) they should not be married to each other b) they should have kept their clothes on and not spawned children. But it was a different time – weddings were cheaper and contraception didn’t work so well (we’ll let them believe that!).

        Millenials get a lot of hate but the good thing (in my opinion) about much of our generation is that we seem to have a better ability to walk away (some would criticise us for not be able to stick at anything for long enough – e.g. jobs, boyfriends, countries, etc). When something no longer works for us we leave it and move on. Sadly, there are still some families and communities that stigmatise people who make mistakes and this forces them to follow a path that isn’t working for them just to maintain a facade. Guess for them the happiness is of the majority trumps your own.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Were weddings cheaper?

        Ah yes. Well, some millenials are fussy brats that cry every time something gets difficult and many things in life that are meaningful are difficult. That’s something the old generation focuses on, instead of looking at all the people that don’t allow, for instance, their boss to abuse them. The community should be chosen because people want you to be at their level and if you’re aiming to high they may start sabotaging you. That applies to a financial success as well as you deciding that you won’t allow anyone to hit you, while everyone else does. I think that’s where the toxicity of some environments is coming from.

        Liked by 1 person

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