Expectations in Parent-Child Relationships

This is for the November 2014 “Expectations in Friendships/Relationships Carnival of Aces.


I returned to North America a few days ago. I had expected my parents to pamper me a little, at least until I got over jetlag. After all, they had been asking for years when I would come back, and were always disappointed when I said ‘not this year’.

Well, that didn’t happen. Maybe it would have happened had I arrived at a different time, but right now my parents are dealing with multiple major problems, and I brought a new one – one of my fillings fell out and I don’t have dental insurance or a regular dentist. They are helping me arrange dental treatment, but that leaves them little time/energy to spoil me.

So, that was an expectation I had … but I understand why the expectation was not met, and I don’t blame them. And it was always a hope rather than something I felt that they owed me.

The word ‘expectation’ in relationships can mean a hope, a condition, or an obligation. And something which is presented as a hope but treated like an obligation is a tool for abuse.

My relationship with my parents was unchosen. They chose to have a child, but they did not choose me specifically. And I had zero choice in the matter.

My mother really, really wanted to have a child. My father could have gone either way – he agreed to be a parent, but he would have been OK with staying childfree.

Guess who placed greater ‘expectations’ on me.

As someone who really wanted to be a parent, my mother had a lot of ideas about it, including how she would relate with her child. To sum it up, she was expecting me to be a bundle of love, who would always be available to offer affection, to always be grateful for what a wonderful mother she is, who would always understand her, to have her as my confidante, etc. I was to insure that she never felt lonely or unloved ever again.

It didn’t work out that way.

One time, when my aunt and cousin were visiting, she told me I should observe their relationship, how close and loving they were, and that I should more like my cousin. Because the burden for making our relationship ‘closer’ and ‘move loving’ fell entirely on me, and I was a Bad Daughter for not always offering the affection my mother wanted. Nevermind that said cousin does not have such a great relationship with my mother (i.e. I don’t think my mother would have been any more satisfied if that cousin has been her child) and nevermind that my aunt does not have such a close and loving relationship with her other daughter (i.e. there is no guarantee that mother-daugther relationships are going to be Bundles of Endless Love).

My dad, however, had much less in the way of expecations of how things would turn out with me, and to the extent that he had expectations, they were clearly hopes, not obligations. He never made me feel like I was being a Bad Daughter just because something didn’t happen the way he had hoped for.

Ironically, it’s always been much easier to show affection to my father, and it’s always genuine because he doesn’t treat it like an obligation – I don’t have to give him affection when I don’t want to. When I show affection to my mother, it’s often a) something I feel like I have to use to appease her rather than something entirely sincere or b) even when it is sincere, it’s not the kind of affection she wants, so she doesn’t accept it. My mother is envious of how well my father and I get along, and I suspect she feels like he has something which was owed to her.

What does this have to do with asexuality? I can think of two things, but one belongs in a separate post, so I will only address the other – how being asexual fits into parents expectations of their children.

My mother never expected me to be any particular sexual orientation – i.e. she did not assume I would be heterosexual. She also does not expect me to have kids – she is OK with me having kids, but she is also OK with me not having kids.

My father, suffice to say, didn’t place these kinds of expectations on me either. He sometimes finds indirect, subconscious ways to say that he would like grandkids, but I think he does not want to *burden* me with that, and if I ever brought up the topic he would insist that I am under no obligation to have kids.

All that said, my mother most certainly did not expect me to be asexual – in fact, she expected me to eventually start experiencing sexual attraction and pursuing sex. It is because she has more expectations of my behavior that I thought it was important to come out to her. It worked out well – we haven’t talked about it since, but she no longer acts like I’m going to emerge from some cocoon as a sexual butterfly: mission accomplished. If anything, I think she’s satisfied that I confided something personal in her.

I haven’t felt the need to come out to my dad.

However, many parents do expect their children to be/do any or all of the following:

-to have a boyfriend/girlfriend
-to marry
-to make grandkids

… and this can cause problems for ace-spectrum kids.

Again, parent-child relationships are unchosen, and thus I think this makes many kinds of expectations/obligations unfair. I think it is fair to expect/require children to care for parents who are sick/weak/disabled if they can. But I think expectations/obligations regarding sexual orientation, dating (beyond minimal ethical standards), having kids, etc. are unfair.


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