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What sacrifices should parents make for their children to be happy?

The full question at Quora was:

Why did my dad think it was a good idea to get a lower-paying job and lower our standard of living just because he was stressed and tired? Isn’t it the parents’ job to make sacrifices for their children to be happy?

I meant to leave a two or three line answer. The process of answering the question made me think more deeply about the issue. Uncoy is generally about dance, politics, history or photography but if I’m prepared to take this question on Quora, why not here?

Others answered this question very well, with moving stories about uncles or fathers they have lost. The short and effective answer by someone who lost his father to stress: “You have your dad. Can we trade places?”

It’s really that simple. Work can kill an adult male very quickly. The stress is incredible and there are fewer and fewer outlets for sport or relaxing as you get older and have a family.

I make about one quarter of what I could make if I really pushed myself. Instead I picked my son up after school on Monday, Tuesday and today again. I spent a few hours with him on Monday and today. On Tuesday I had only an hour and a half with him due to work. Later my son will remember that I spent time with him and told him about the animals and showed him the forest and live wild boars for the first time.

If I went full out for economic success and pushed myself, I’d be dead within two years. Probably more likely six months. Your dad might be a similar case. I lost my favourite uncle very young, in large part due to pressure to perform in a high paying job with a very materially successful circle of friends and family.

How would living in a bigger house1 or owning more cars replace moments like these, learning to cook together, climbing mountains, bike trips together?


My photos, montage Dia Takácsova

How do I know or how does your dad know we are at risk? We listen to our bodies. We can feel when we’re driving too fast, just as you can feel when a car is over its safe driving speed.

Why would you ever ask your father to risk shortening his life by tens of years ? Would the insurance money make up for his absence (assuming he had life insurance)?

Yes, the question is strange. If the issue is one between food and housing and work, I could understand your ire/frustration. But if it’s just a difference in the car you drive and the shoes you wear, it seems you are risking a lot for very little.


  1. At one point, I figured out a very important point about houses and apartments. You can only ever physically be in one room at a time. So a thirty room house cannot improve your life in any tangible way. A house only needs one good room per person living there. ↩︎

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