Out of Love or Out of Duty? On children looking after their parents

In a traditional family, the roles of parents are to take care and provide for the needs of their children. But as children grow older, so do their parents. Eventually, there will come a point where it is the children who need to look after their aging parents. People from different parts of the world have different perspectives on how this should be done, or whether it should be done at all. In other countries, people have cultural values that do not require them to look after their parents once they age, and they are instead sent to nursing homes or retirement homes where they receive care from professionals. On the other hand, there are also people who live in more family-oriented culture who prefer to look and care for their parents once they get older. 

Do it out of love

Here in the country, the opposing viewpoints on how children should look after their parents recently came to the forefront of discussions, with celebrity mother Dani Barretto and veteran actor John Arcilla offering their opinions on the matter. It was Barretto’s sentiments on children giving back to their parents that first garnered reactions online. She talked about the subject with social media personality Chardie B in the “Bare It All” podcast in an episode entitled “The Difference Between Utang na Loob and Giving Back.” 

In the episode, Barretto shared that she believed that children should give back to their parents as an act of love and of their own will, not out of obligation. She added that it is the parents’ responsibility to support their children and that this should not be used by to their children to force them support their parents. In a separate video, she later clarified that she didn’t want children to give back to their parents, only that they should do it out of love for them. 

Natural cycle of life

Just a few days later and it was Arcilla who shared his own thoughts on the subject, offering a different perspective on the matter. In his Facebook page, he shared his belief that children taking care of their parents is a duty that they must perform, and should not be seen as an act of “utang na loob” or debt of gratitude. While he added that his post was not a rebuttal to Barretto’s original statement, Arcilla stressed that it is the natural duty of children to look after their parents just as it is the natural duty of parents to feed, clothe, and finance the studies of their children. 

Nevertheless, Arcilla clarified that there are other factors to consider on the matter, as the relationships of children with their parents may differ. For instance, children who were mistreated or given away by their parents when they were younger may not feel as strongly about looking after them when they age. He also stated that even though the child’s financial capacity will make it challenging for them to look after their parents, the most important things is to stay with them in the remaining years of their lives. 

What does the Bible say? 

Barretto and Arcilla offer differing perspectives on the subject of children looking after their parents, with both having valid points. Some people believe that it is the children’s duty to care for their parents when they age and a part of the natural cycle of life, but they should also care for their parents out of love for them and not merely because it is an obligation. 

In the Bible, there are several passages that talk about children honoring their parents, such as in Exodus 20:12, which states that, “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” 

Other verses that also discuss the matter of children caring for their parents can be found in 1 Timothy 5:4, which says, “But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God.”

A few verses later, the subject is again discussed in 1 Timothy 5:8, which says that, “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

People have different opinions when it comes to looking after their aging parents, with different factors influencing it such as cultural values, their relationship, financial capacity, and more. But the Bible has repeatedly mentioned blessings and rewards to children who will take care of their parents, promising long life and that it is something that is pleasing in the sight of God. 

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