Must you love your parents? Is it a moral obligation? Parents often take their child’s love for granted. We presume that it is expected of a child.
There are two main arguments that reinforce this moral obligation a child allegedly owes towards his/her parents: (1) the unpayable debt towards your mother for bringing you into this world, and (2) the tremendous gratitude towards your father / mother for providing for you throughout your helpless years until you finally reached financial independence.
Both these arguments simply boils down to “You would not be here if it wasn’t for your parents”. I obviously concede that I would not be here if it was not for my mother’s decision to carry me for 9 months and to bring me into this world (as oppose to getting an abortion). However, this gratitude must be viewed in light of these considerations:-
(1) None asked me. I was not consulted about my potential parents, the place of birth and location (collectively referred to as “Situation”) before my conception. I was conceived in my mother’s womb due to my parent’s actions (or that of God). It was their decision to do so, I had no role to play. In fact, some might say I was coerced into this Situation. So am I now expected to feel grateful for this bondage? An irresponsible mother and alcoholic / dead-beat father.
(2) As it was her / their decision to bring a child into this world, it imposes on them a stronger moral obligation to care for the said child. To grow up and become responsible. Or at least try. Whilst I appreciate that a potential parent can never prepare himself/herself for parenthood, it is an informed choice made by individuals who have a real choice. This can be easily compared to a fetus who may have no choice but to grow slowly in the mother’s womb.
Once two individuals say “yes”, there is no going back. It might be hard, even impossible at times, but they made a choice and no hardship in this world can justify a “no” in hindsight. The child did not make a choice. Yet, she/he is forced to love her/his parents unconditionally and society attempts to impose on children moral obligations deserving of ideal parents. With hindsight and reflection, a child may be grateful one day for the choice that was made on his/her behalf. If he/she is grateful, then and only then should he/she reciprocate with kind towards his/her lovely parents.
I was raised to believe everything must be earned: respect, reputation, loyalty, trust and even love. We are entitled to nothing. We were born naked without social standing, reputation or entitlements. What we were given are gifts from our parents (if you were lucky). A useful head start some might say. This however is never sufficient to continue and finish this journey of life.
Some day people may reward you with respect, loyalty, trust and love. However, we must work for it. People loved Mother Theresa for her actions, people had respect to Mahatma Gandhi for his moral values, people trusted Martin Luther King Jr for his dedication to a single cause, people were loyal to Adolf Hitler for his great leadership.
Parents, you too are not devoid of these expectations. A child’s love must be earned. One is not entitled to it. One cannot take it for granted or as a given. A child’s gratefulness is measurable only by a parent’s actions towards that child. If you spend your life pursuing your career while a maid looked after your child, do not be surprised if your child returns the favour when you are old.
Being a parent is a job, maybe the most difficult job any man or woman could ever do in one’s lifetime. I hope someday my kids would say “Good job dad”. I will know then that I earned the title “father”.