How Much do We Give Our Parents?

By Christina Kim - December 03, 2015


She walked into the salon, smiling and talked loudly to the owner and her assistant.

Sitting down, she started complaining about her life at home; about how she was so unhappy.

At a glance, she seemed like a woman who was just so dissatisfied with her life and that she was picking on her grown and married son; with whom she is staying with and her daughter-in-law.
It sounded typical; she couldn't get along with the young couple and she was just dismayed at the way they were treating her.
It was just another case of generation gap and perhaps, failing expectations.
Or as it seems.
From the way it sounds.

My hairstylist; who owned the salon, told me the story afterward.
(She did not mean to gossip, but because she treated me as practically family and I sensed that she just wanted to clarify for the woman who was also an old friend of hers. They had known each other for decades).

The woman had only a son; whom she raised single-handedly since she lost her husband during her younger days.
She took on jobs to raise her only son; making sure he had the best education, clothed him and fed him well, just like any parent would do.

He is today a grown man, with a stable career and even built his own family with a woman he loved and two children.

He bought a new house and brought his mother along to stay with them.

It was your picture of a typical case of filial piety; where the son would in turn care for his aging mother who had sacrificed so much for him.

Now, I am only hearing this story from one account of course, and I am not going to judge or draw any conclusion as this is not the main reason I shared the story.
I do not know the woman personally; nor her family and I have to emphasize that most of the account came from a third party who knew her well.

Everything seemed perhaps, rather ordinary on the surface for the woman mentioned.

However, the truth is, the woman was unhappy because of the way she was neglected and even the way they treated her.

Her son gave her a monthly allowance, let's just say, is really just a meager amount, which is almost insignificant in today's standard of living.
She was expected to cook and handle all the household chores, for the entire family.
There is no extra allowance for her, to do all that.

Whenever the family wanted to go out, they would just tell her that they are headed out and she would not need to cook.
There was no mention of whether she needed anything to eat or if she wanted to join them.
She barely had enough to sustain herself, based on the allowance she was given.

She was earlier working, but she had been retrenched from her job which left her with a small amount of saving and without a current income.

Her daughter-in-law treated her politely when her son was home, but when the son was out of the house, her daughter-in-law would barely talk to her and instead would make the children convey the message to her.

The couple would buy expensive clothes and shoes for their children; but with the mother, there is never any mention of additional allowance.
In fact, as they had recently moved into the new house, she mentioned that her son had even stopped giving her the monthly allowance altogether.

This is the account of the story, of the woman, from what I have heard.

As I mentioned, I am not going to pinpoint the faults of anyone in this story, because that was not the intention and neither was it the main reason I decided to write about the story.
(In fact, I always believed that no one had any right to judge any other, at all. We could not possibly know what happens in each situation, behind closed doors).

The story touched my heart, for two reasons:-
1. What a parent would expect from their children

2. What we, as children, had done to/for our parents.

In Asian culture, it is completely normal that grown up children would take care of their aging parents when they are older.
It is the concept of filial piety emphasized and assimilated into our culture based on the values as preached by Confucius; well, at least,for the Chinese families.
But generally, all children would just assume the responsibility, naturally, to care for their parents.

In a way, it seemed natural; or perhaps a responsibility, and sometimes for some, it just seemed to be required of them due to the overall perception of the society.

Filial piety had set the background for this basis, but the sincerity of the children is left for individual interpretation.

There is no right or wrong, but sometimes I wonder, if it's purely out of societal pressure that creates this massive influence on the younger generation.
Was it also just merely to fulfill the expectations and to maintain the right image in the eyes of the public?

Perhaps it is the case for some.
I won't say for all, because I have seen so many children who genuinely loved and cared for their parents, and they took care of their parents because they WANTED to, and not because they HAD to.

But what about our parents?

What do they really want?

Most of our parents would have retired in their older age, and naturally, they would be depending on their children to live to the last of their days.

It would seem like it was financial matters that the parents are dependent on their children, and in many cases, it could be true, but not entirely.

Living in today's world revolves around money; yes, everything is about money.

We need money to buy food.
To buy the daily necessities.
To clothe ourselves.
To dress our homes.
To get around everywhere.
To basically, just survive.

There is no way you can live without money, unless, of course, you're a hermit.
But even they require donations of food of some sort to keep them going.

It is just normal that our parents would also need the money to keep their lives going as usual, and since they no longer have jobs which generate the income on regular basis, they would depend on us; their offsprings.
(We don't have social security in our country; perhaps they may consider that in the future).

However, there is always that nagging question, "How much do we need to pay our parents?"

What is the acceptable amount of allowance, in monetary sense?
What is the amount that would be enough for them to sustain themselves?
What is the standard?

I have heard so many people ask this question, and some even go to the lengths of discussing and finding out from their friends about the amount they gave their own parents before deciding on the right amount for theirs.

It is really, a subjective matter that personally, I think ultimately boils down to you yourself.
How much do we WANT to give?
How much do we REALLY think is good enough?

No one can tell you that, except yourself.
I really don't think that requires any notes comparing.
It is a no-brainer, to say the least.

I don't think even your parents will ask you for any specific amount.
If they do, they have their reasons.

Because I am sure no parent, wants to force an amount out of their children or make them feel that, they should give.

Parents all want the best for us.
They WANT us to have the best of everything.
They WANT us to be happy.

And that, is the key of it all.
It is about that one word, WANT.

If we are talking about how much to give our parents, it really comes back to this topic, "How much do we WANT to give?"

There is no point in crunching up an amount to give to our parents, just because we HAVE to and then grumble about it and end up resenting the fact that we have to give that amount every month.

Our parents would feel it.
They just know.
They brought us to this world, and there is just that unexplained mysterious connection between parents and children that we just have to give them the credit for.
They always know, everything, when it comes to their children.

If you are rich, you could be giving a far bigger amount than most people you know.
You feel awesome about that.
If you are earning enough to survive, and yet you are coughing up an amount for your parents every month, good for you.
Your amount may be embarrassing to you, but trust me, that is all your parents need and that small amount, could be more than the big figure your rich friends could be giving to their parents.

The reason is simple, because you cared enough about your parents to even cough out that amount.
You had your parents in mind despite that chicken feed of a salary you have every month.
You still take the trouble to set aside the money for them; which would mean you are ready to scrimp on the other luxury items in your own life.

That leads to the second point.

Is the amount we are giving our parents purely in monetary form?
Do our parents really only need money?

Yes, they need money obviously to feed themselves and to buy things they need in their lives.
(I'm taking that most of our parents are from that generation where frugality rules and that they are careful with every single cent they spend, on anything. Generally speaking. I know mine and my in-laws definitely are).

Money is obviously important for that reason of survival, but is that ALL?

How often do we really sit down and talk to our parents?
How MUCH time do we really give our parents?
How MUCH do we know about their desires and needs?
How MUCH did we hear what they told us from the last conversation we had with them?
How MUCH did we even spent on them? (not just the monthly allowance, do we buy gifts for them, to surprise them occasionally?)

It is so easy to just walk away after placing that amount on the table for their monthly needs, thinking that we have fulfilled our responsibilities.

We tell them that they can ask us for more, should they need to buy anything else or if the amount is insufficient.

We offer to pay for their meals or even their shopping.

But, do we really LISTEN to what they say?
Do we really set aside time for them, the way we did with our friends, work, or anything else that seems so important in our life?
Everything, except them.

I have observed in the woman's story, that she barely spoke a bad word about her own son.
She never even mentioned about moving out and just walking out on her son.
She thought of getting a job for the additional income, due to the cessation of the monthly allowance from her son.

But, she never once said that she hated the son, daughter-in-law or the grandchildren.
She never even complained or went straight out with her son about that insignificant amount he was paying her, or how she had to fork out that additional money from her own savings to buy food to cook for the family.

She never once said that she hated them.

Perhaps it was not really appropriate for her to even talk about her story to others, let alone in a public place like a salon.
I really don't condone gossiping about others, or even to one another.

But I think I could see one obvious thing that was in the woman's story.

It was not misery that she truly felt.
It was not injustice that she was ranting about.
It was not anger nor hatred that she harbored.

She was not dismayed because of the monetary amount her son had given her.

It was just Loneliness.

I could be wrong, but based on all the above, I would say that even with a huge amount of monetary compensation, she would still be ranting about the way they treated her.
Or how she was mistreated.

It was simply, because, no one talked to her.

No one asked how she felt.
No one asked her to join in their outing.
No one asked her if she wanted them to buy anything when they went out.
No one asked if she had eaten.
No one asked if she had enough money.
No one asked.
At all.

She felt lonely, because no ONE paid any amount of ATTENTION to her.

That, is what all our parents would have really wanted, on top of that amount we pay them financially every month.
Perhaps, for some, this could mean even more than the dollar notes in their hands.

It is all about ATTENTION.


The empty nest syndrome is very real; and is experienced by most parents when their children grow up and move out of their homes, in pursuit of their own lives.
Just like birds hatched out of their eggs, spread their wings and flew out of their nests.
(That was how the name came about to describe this syndrome)
The grown birds rarely came back to their old nests.
Instead they flew out into the world, in pursuit of their mates and build their own nests.

Parents adjust to the environment without their children after they leave their homes when they are all grown up.
They know, that they need to let go of their children and let them pursue their own dreams and happiness.
After all, they came to build their own families because their parents let them flew off too.
It is a continuous cycle.

But, that doesn't mean they are not afraid.
That doesn't mean they do not have insecurities.
That doesn't mean they are all fine with adapting and not feel sad about it.

On the contrary, they are, very afraid.
They are scared of losing their children, to the world.
They fear that their children would never come back home.
They are afraid that they won't see their children anymore, after they have gone out to the world.

Parents understand that we are busy with our work, our spouses, our partners and that we have our own lives.
They understand, because simply they are our parents.
They just love us too much to ever hate us.
They always, always understand.

We, on the other hand, could have grown accustomed to the fact that they would always understand that we might have even taken them for granted.

We think that it is natural that we have our own lives, and our parents will be fine on their own.

Sometimes, it is like, we couldn't be bothered yet we are not worried we will lose them.
Because, we know, they ALWAYS understand.

They are ALWAYS there.

Yes, our parents are always there for us.
When we were lying on our backs, helpless and crying for our milk in that baby cot.
When we have done something wrong and we run to their arms.
When we have lost ourselves in the outside world and returned home.
When we experienced failures and we needed comfort.
When we are unhappy with the entire world and just hid ourselves.

They are always there.
They will NEVER turn us away.
They will always welcome us, with their OPEN arms and a smile.
Telling us, "Everything will be alright"

Even if the whole world turned their backs on us, our parents never would.
They are ALWAYS there, for US.

Are WE, always there, for THEM?

We are all guilty of this.

We get caught up with our hectic lives and our own relationships/families out there, that we have just flown off from our nests.
We think that by returning once in a while, that is sufficient.
Worse, some don't even return.

But our parents NEVER blamed us.

Because they are just being parents.

They never demand us to do anything for them.

They think for and of us, all the time.

Do we do the same?

Take some time and think about it.

The festive season and holidays could give you that opportunity to ponder on this question and make up for that time lost.

You may be far away geographically, and I'm not judging because I am too, staying away from my own parents, but contemporary technology has made it simpler for us to connect with everyone else in the world.

If we can find long lost friends, classmates, colleagues via technology, why not reconnect with our Own parents?

You may not need to travel ALL the way back, but make sure you stay in touch with them as much as possible.

Sometimes a note, a letter, a text message, or even just a phone call, could just do that.
Pick up the phone and call your parents.

Talk to them.

Trust me, they will be delighted at the very sound of your voice.

You would have had them at Hello.

Because, they are our parents.
They ALWAYS understand.

Make this festive season a meaningful one.

Make that change.


They will appreciate it.

*Author's Note: 
This is not a sponsored/promotional post, and solely based on author's personal opinions and do not represent the general public. 
Experiences vary from one individual to another.
You do not have to agree with me.

Photos/Videos all belong to me and are copyrighted.

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