Can we please stop glorifying sacrifice? It’s not the great gift people make it out to be. It’s teaching us all to be lazy and stupid.

I often get very sappy posts in my feeds, but lately I’ve had a few that made me edgy. Colourful little cartoons have appeared, telling me to be thankful to my mother/father/sister/brother. All very nice, BUT – the message behind some of these is completely and totally warped.

One really tugged at the heartstrings (possibly in an attempted strangulation), encouraged readers to thank the men in their life for the sacrifices they have made for them, in a list including thanking fathers for being debt-ridden for life to keep their children happy.

Not to keep them fed. Not to keep a roof over their heads. To keep them happy. Personally, if you child is happy that their parent is working long hours and is crippled by debt, the extra money you’re making should be spent on therapy – for both of you.

One post even that to be a good parent, your career goals will have to stay as a dream, never to be fulfilled. You must live through your children now, to watch them achieve their goals.

But it’s okay, further sweet cartoons tell us what we, grown children, should be doing now to thank our parents for the sacrifices they made. Buy them flowers. Visit every day. Don’t do things that will worry them in their golden years. Spend your time and money on them now, to make up for all those sacrifices in the past.

Sweet… to an extent. What are we actually saying?

Parents should not have dreams because such dreams would limit their children’s happiness. Children should not have dreams becuase to chase dreams would worry their parents (young children) or cause grown children to abandon their parents.

What does this achieve? The end result is a cycle of parents sacrificing themselves for their kids to succeed, only to watch them have kids that they make the same sacrifices for, and so on an so forth. We have a self-sacrifice-cycle in which nobody experiences their own happiness. How many families who are gifted at sciences, design or engineering have been caught in this trap? If both parents and children had agreed to keep in touch (for safety and support), we could all be driving solar-powered cars by now.

Instead of teaching our children to live by outside expectations (that make everyone feel bummed), how about we teach negotiation and compromise?

Speaking of cars, when my friends and I approached driving age, we all wanted our own cars. Some had parents with multiple cars, so they just borrowed the “spare”. Most were bought cars by their parents. Our household only had one car, and there was no way my parents were going to buy another one for me. Nor would I have expected them to buy me one. Dad and I simply shared the one car, and he had first dibs. After all, he paid for it.

I got busier with studies and multiple jobs and really, really wanted my own car that I didn’t have to reserve in advance. But I couldn’t afford a good loan on my part-time income.

Compromise: I asked Dad if I could buy his car on instalments.

On a part-time income, buying a car by myself was going to result in either years of debt or a budget banger with reliability to match. What I could afford was to buy my Dad’s car over 12 months, during which he would still have priority. Mum and Dad thought about it and realised that was a pretty good deal. They didn’t have to worry about me being in debt or buying a piece of junk. Instead, Dad got excited about getting a new car, and he had a whole year to find one he liked. Mum didn’t drive, but two cars and two drivers meant twice the likelihood that she could get a lift when she wanted one. It was perfect for me, I got a car I was comfortable driving, completely interest free.

This solution confused some people and, strangely, bothered others. I was asked why my parents didn’t buy me a car, or why I did use taxis, or why I didn’t quit one of my jobs so I wouldn’t need to travel as much. The answer was clear to me: because those options would have been unnecessary sacrifices; unnecessary because there was a better option for everyone.

What do you think? Is compromise a better way of keeping everyone happy? Or does it ultimately let people down?

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