Parents in Pain

Writing of upwardly mobile women from the working class, Valerie Walkerdine speaks of young professionals grappling with the conditions in which their parents still live. :

To leave is to get out, but social mobility is no cure for social injustice. There is nothing wrong with wanting to leave pain, nor are those who cross the borders responsible for the horrific and painful effects of poverty and overwork, written on the minds and bodies of workers. Why would they not want to leave for the pleasures of another life and the fantasy of the absence of pain and oppression of the old one? It could be understood to be masochistic to want to stay, and yet, what a dilemma. They get out and leave their parents in pain. Watching parents in pain for children who are looking for safety can be very hard.

She goes on to say:

It is precisely the complex relationships between the old and the new inscriptions, simultaneously cultural and social, semiotic and psychic, that are so important to understand”.

Yet in almost twenty years of formal schooling, no one ever, ever talked to me about such transitions, about the double-edged experience of moving forward while grimacing as we looked back, about the particular “dual consciousness” that we might bring to deliberations about justice and equity.

Schools talk endlessly about “making it”. What will it take to also begin talking about the costs?

Walkerdine, V. (2006). Workers in the new economy: Transformations as border crossing. Ethos, 34, 10-41.

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One thought on “Parents in Pain

  1. Vince Bates August 16, 2007 / 1:27 pm

    What you mention is true to my experience. I’m a university professor making a low-middle income and when I return to my parents’ home I have mixed feelings. Along with the gratitude that I’ve been able to rise above the economic poverty of my childhood is the longing for a simpler life . . . if that makes any sense.

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