Kudos for keeping your kids employed, but I'm pretty sure that's all anyone can really expect. Most people in this country can't even break even financially, much less have some great surplus to return to mom and dad just because of some abstract sense of duty to people who chose to raise you.
It is possible, after all, to just not have kids. I'm not having kids. You're right--a couple of screaming children is simply not part of my picture of happiness, and it saddens me that most like-minded people will eventually give in and have kids for the sake of some mythical American dream. Having kids in the first place can itself be a bad choice.
Your story about the Mercedes is curious. It's unclear just who was driving it, but I'm going to guess it doesn't matter. That kinda thing is just a fact of life. Accidents happen, and that's the risk you run putting a car on the road. If you're not willing to risk your Mercedes then it probably shouldn't be driven. Simple, really.
I'm also curious, though you certainly don't have to comment: have you returned your parents 'investment'? Would they even accept such a gift?
My parents would be thoroughly shamed if they felt like they had to take my money for any reason, like their impressive debt, much less go *expecting* me to fix the results of their bad choices. They might still accept. I'm not sure. It's very possible that I'll be able to do that for them someday, but we'll cross that line when we get to it. But I know for a fact they don't *expect* me to cough up what I'll earn for being a generally bright person. Or maybe the fact that I'm doing well enough to pay for my own continued education, automobile, living expenses, etc., is part of what you mean by a return?
Fair enough, perhaps, but it was definitely my brother, and not my parents, who taught me to love math and logic and got me to a point where I could earn a huge scholarship from a standardized reasoning test. There are a lot of influences on our cash. Mom and dad encouraged me to work through high school, and I did. And that's the best they could do for me on that front. I appreciate that, and I would never throw it back in their faces by *not* working.
I happen to think the bottom line is that there is no bottom line. Family isn't business. It's the people most likely to help find some joy in life. Talking about family in terms of investments and returns is like ruining the big holiday gathering with a full gift exchange: depressing tokens of I-clearly-didn't-know-what-to-get-you and wracking up some credit card debt in the process. When my mother's family finally stopped that nonsense you could just feel the tension around the holidays lift, and we could focus on what was really important: eating way too much food and catching up with the family we don't get to see often enough.
It's actually at those gatherings when I get to babysit my cousins' brats for a while and remind myself why I'm not having kids. My aunts question the finality of my decision. They only good reason they can come up with to have kids, however, is that it's "soooo rewarding." Everything I've seen (and everything you've plainly told me) indicates otherwise.
My current boyfriend is trying to convince me that we have a duty to pass on our brains and good looks. I told him in that case we should adopt an adorable child and provide an enriching environment. He said it wouldn't be the same, and I had to say that if we have any duty at all it would be to help kids who already need us, not just create more. We're still talking through this one. I might be willing to compromise and make the sacrifices necessary to keep him happy and help a child in need. Maybe. But I certainly won't be expecting a return. I'd be perfectly happy to give everything I have and see a needy child flourish and never actually see a dime. That's why they like to call it a sacrifice.
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