CC image courtesy of Flickr, JosephB.
HA Note: “Rose” is a pseudonym. The following was originally published as “When Generosity Becomes a Bribe” on February 27, 2015 and modified for HA.
I was having a conversation with a, yes a homeschooled-patriarchy-fundamental friend, who I normally can be pretty open with, but I know my boundaries with what I can say and not say. So anyway, we were talking about her getting a job or some kind of income, but being this typical friend, she claimed she was too busy! Bible study, other studies and can any other (ex) homeschoolers guess what else is taking up most of her time. Well if anyone said “help around the house/her parents” then you got it!
I know how manipulative parents can be (whether knowingly or unknowingly), but it doesn’t change a thing. The sub-culture I come from, the Christian homeschool-patriarchy movement, has parents at an advantage, see because they have total control of what their children know/see/hear/do, basically they have total influence over their kids, because of how closed off this sub- culture is. From the start they had the upper hand and us children had the lower ground, as Effie Trinket WOULDN’T say the “odds were NEVER in our favor” and the “odds were ever in their favor.”
What almost all the parents that I know said, including mine, was that “we have no right to complain,” “we have it so good,” “we had nothing to complain about,” “we were being rebellious,” it goes on and on and on, to no end. And since we didn’t have anything to cross reference or cross analyze any of the information our brains were being fed and because we were told that our parents were our sub-ultimate authority, they were always right, they ALWAYS knew best, basically they were God (I feared my parents more than I feared God himself) so we believed it all, every little thing they told us or in some cases what they DIDN’T tell us. And there are some other contingencies, like in some parents cases the need to have control over their children, or the need for people to work for them (as in my dad’s case).
So combine the COMPLETE innocence, being told our life was PERFECT, and the stupidity to believe it all, the control factor, and the result is you’ve got children who are too afraid to do anything outside of what their parents approve of or outside of what their parents need them to do and are too afraid to ask their parents because then they will think we are all ungrateful and rebellious, or they guilt us into thinking we should be happy where we are.
Let me tell you a little of what my experience was growing up:
First off some background. My dad has an anger issue, my mom was totally controlled by fear my entire growing up years. So consider that when I tell my story.
My family didn’t know how to communicate at all, like 0% of the time, so talking about anything of worth was out of the question every time, no matter the subject or topic, thus leaving us children (who had no knowledge or any sense of how to process or think through things, because no one was teaching us) to figure out life and some of the traumatizing things we had been through and all the stuff we didn’t understand on our own. The only talking my family did was when my dad would “preach” as we called it, it’s basically my dad just rambling on (don’t get me wrong, everything I know about politics and well basically my belief system as far as everything but religion goes I got from 20 years of listening to my dad talk) but the “preaching” my dad did only enforced the saying “children should be seen and not heard,” as well as inadvertently hindering our communication/social skills, we grew up listening, NOT talking, so of course communication with other people was extremely hindered and for some of us completely non-existent, which in turn hinders our social skills and then affects our self-esteem. If our self-esteem is impaired and we don’t feel confident with ourselves, then it affects our decisions to do stuff on our own, thus making us more dependent on our parents because we don’t know how to communicate.
Another aspect that plays a part is also a result of the non-existent communication, because we didn’t communicate, the life skills, beliefs, morals, boundaries, etc. weren’t passed down from my parents, we weren’t taught how to figure that stuff out on our own. Which leads me to my next point that plays a part.
My parents believed that part of Bill Gothard’s teachings that children are inherently evil and that they will if given the chance turn away from what you believe or whatever his teaching is. My parents TOLD us what to believe, not how to figure out what to believe, so we only knew it in our heads not our hearts, and since we were told EVERYTHING there was no need to even consider finding out what we personally believed, until someone challenges one of us on what we “believe” so we realize we don’t have the answers, just a bunch of words, that’s when we start questioning what we believe, because if we don’t have answers to questions about what we supposedly have believed for our entire life, we as human beings will start to question our beliefs.
My dad owns his own business, its more like a family business, with the rest of the family being used as “slave labor” as I like to call it. Basically, that means us kids worked for my dad for no pay, most of us didn’t want to be in the business for various reasons, but the connecting common reason was my dad, he gets angry, he has a different work ethic than what I think is right, and does things that don’t make sense to even the most experienced business person. I don’t know where it came from or how he got into doing this but my dad has this manipulative way of getting his way, getting people to do things. I’m a good example, from the time I can remember I always wanted to be a secretary, and I verbally said it, too. What I didn’t know was that I was laying the groundwork for five + years long battle with my dad about working in his business, what I didn’t know at the time was that my mom was encouraging my dad to get me more involved in the business, she helped ruin what potentially could have been a good father/daughter relationship. I’ve always had this strange connection with my dad, it has influenced a lot of my decisions regarding my dad, but most of the time its a blessing but these past years its been more of a curse than anything! I hate hurting my dad, maybe because I’m afraid he conditionally loves me and if I hurt him he won’t love me, idk. but one thing that drives me to do a lot of things is my attempt to measure up to get his approval for him to be proud of me, because I’ve never been able to get anything right with my dad, in business and in life, I’ve never chosen a career path that he agreed with that he approved of, I’ve never been able to understand what he wanted done when I did work for him, therefore never completing anything and that equals failure in my dad’s eyes.
What I’ve realized over the past couple of years is that my dad has these standards that are impossibly high and there is no way in heaven that anyone could possibly meet them (not even God).
And my dad has a specific way he wants things done, he likes them done perfect and his way, I think what I’ve heard him say before is that saying “if you want it done right, do it yourself.” Well, I think maybe my dad could have come up with that saying because he practically lives by it, which makes it hard for those of us who work/live with him because then we are never measuring up never getting it right, and for me with the connection I have with him it’s especially hard and discouraging! Because all I’ve ever wanted was to get one thing, ONE THING right with my dad! But it seems to be an impossible task because I’ve been trying for over a decade now and its only gotten me more discouragement, more self loathing, more self-condemnation, and more reason to run!
I just have one thing to say to YOU. NEVER let someone else’s opinions/views/words affect how you live your life, how you look at people, how you choose to walk that path.
And NEVER let your parents make you feel like crap when you want to do something for yourself, for your future. NEVER let them use you for their benefit while hindering your dreams. NEVER let what your parents say about your life affect your choices, your lifestyle, or your beliefs…..but….remember this is coming from a girl who has lived with controlling, manipulative, judgmental, critical parents, I know that not all parents are this way, but a lot of you homeschoolers (ed) know what I’m talking about, and those of you who are in denial, I hope that someday you accept the reality that your parents aren’t perfect, never were, never will be, that maybe they didn’t get everything right with you growing up, I hope that someday maybe you will accept (if applicable) that your parents may have screwed you over.
My parents used their generosity as a weapon, when it was brought up about us kids not getting paid to work, they would always say “you work for meals, room and board (NO I’m pretty sure that comes with being a parent, that is a requirement when you have children not something the children work for, that the children work for) stuff like that was always said when we brought up injustices or things that weren’t right. AND when parents say stuff like that about the child, like working for room and board or for food, eventually it will make the child feel like they are a burden or that maybe the parents didn’t want them, and in my family’s case (with no communication) this could be a very, very dangerous thing, something that could be deadly.
Not all are as obvious as my case, (even though at the time it wasn’t) there are more subtle ways of parents manipulating and using their kids. It goes like this, they make it (knowingly or unknowingly) so that you are the one choosing to “help out”, choosing to “work for them” willingly helping with the younger ones, willingly helping with cleaning, cooking, shopping, etc, it becomes a crutch that the parents maybe knowingly or unknowingly will use, if you still deny it then ask yourself this question: “what if I left, what would they do?”
DO NOT LET YOUR PARENTS USE YOUR LIFE AS A JUSTIFICATION FOR USING YOU AT YOUR EXPENSE.
WHEN THEY HAD YOU THEY KNEW IT WAS THEIR DUTY TO RAISE YOU, IT’S A REQUIREMENT THAT THEY FEED, CLOTHE AND HOUSE YOU AS YOU ARE THEIR CHILD. BUT YOU ARE NOT THEIR PROPERTY. DON’T LET THE TWO GET CONFUSED!
AND YOU DO NOT HAVE TO “PAY THEM BACK.”