Identity Displacement in the Family

Identity Displacement in the Family
Should children be expected to be breadwinners in the family?
by Omar Cruz

At a young age, I was exposed to the realities of life – that some were born less fortunate than others. I saw little kids at the streets fending off for themselves and for their families. They were selling various items to the passing motorists hoping to make a sale enough for their daily needs. I remember my dad kept saying to us that we need to study hard so as to be successful in our lives, and eventually for us to be able to provide enough for our family when the time comes. He warned us that if we didn’t study or made sacrifices for our exams and all, we might end up like those on the streets. And he said it with a commanding fatherly voice to believe him. He said that we don’t want to see our family suffer later on. Those words made such an impact in my life that probably kept me from really ruining my life, even when I was at my rebellious point of my life.

Now, that I am old enough to have my own family, I am thankful for my dad’s wisdom. I never really understood it back then but now, it makes sense. The decisions I made in my life basically revolved with that fear of not being able to provide because I didn’t do well or at least enough. It was never really a pressure from my family that I felt I have to do this and do that. I didn’t really feel I was being ordered to by my parents. No. The pressure came from within. But at the time, I was like, “what are you trying to say dad? And why are you being too hard on us?” But as I look back at it, I guess my dad was being himself to us. He meant well, he just delivered it differently.

But the real question is, should parents expect their kids to help out in supporting the family? As a true blooded Philippine born Filipino that I am, I think it’s alright. Our ties with family members go beyond anything else. There’s an old saying that says “Blood is thicker than water”. Filipinos have that strong family ties. You can still see a 40 year old man living with his parents! And sometimes parents tolerate their kids on living sinful lives because they’re their children! Yes, it is being taken out of context most of the time. However, my dad was very clear that he won’t lift a finger if we become a disgrace and would let the axe of justice fall to where it would hit. He was clear about the law. Anyway, that’s a totally different topic.

Going back, I believe that it is OK to expect your children to help out and contribute in the family. As a son, I believe that helping out in the family is one of the greatest things you can do to somehow appreciate all the things my parents did not just for me, but to the whole family. It’s a way of showing gratitude that they brought me up well and provided me with all the things I need. I know that I can never ever repay them in full, never. But helping out is a way to show respect and honor to my parents whom God chose for me to have.

But what is a breadwinner really? According to the dictionary, it’s a person who earns a livelihood for the family or dependents. Having established that context, should children be expected to earn livelihood for the family? I believe the answer is no. It’s like taking away your children’s dreams for themselves. It’s like robbing them of their own life. It would be unfair to expect your kid to be the provider for the whole family.

However, sometimes circumstances dictate the roles one has to play. There’s the single mom. There’s the single dad. There’s the “parent” sister or brother in a family. For some reason, that’s just life and we have to deal with it. I am aware that, for sure, there are children out there who are being forced to take on the role of being the breadwinner of the family. It must be tough to support for a family when at the back of your mind, you can use the money for your own personal interests.

So what about those who volunteer to help out, you might ask? There are cases wherein circumstances are forcing every member of the family to work in order to make ends meet. In that case, everyone must become breadwinners. But what does the bible says about being a so called “breadwinner”? Paul wrote an interesting letter to Timothy (1 Timothy 6:6-20). As I reflect on Paul’s letter with being a breadwinner, is about being a breadwinner in the eyes of God. In line with that, one of my favorite passages in the bible says it in MT 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well”. Everything sums up to that. Because when you follow God, everything just falls into their proper places. Amazing!

Originally written back in 2010.


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