Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker (“Bread and Women”):
Children always interpret their parents’ sense of obligation as compulsion. It’s not They did it for me but They did it because they wanted to. She wanted to bake that bread; you told those bedtime stories every night, really, for yourself. There’d be no surviving without that move, the debt guilt would be too great to shoulder. In order to supply the unique amount of care that children demand, we have to enter into a contract in amnesia where neither side is entirely honest about the costs. If we ever totted up the debt, we would be unable to bear it. Parents who insist on registering the asymmetry accurately (the Jewish mother in a Roth novel, the Japanese father in an Ozu film) become objects of frantic mockery or, at best, pity for their compulsiveness. “All I do is give and give and what reward do I get? You never call!” the Jewish mother moans in the novel, and we laugh and laugh, and she is right—she did give and give, and we don’t call. She is wrong only to say it out loud. In the market of emotions, that sacrifice is already known, and discounted for, as the price of life.