Doing better than your parents

Is this something that drives you and something you aim to achieve?

I come from such a high flying family that I realised at an early age this was remarkably unlikely to ever happen and never really gave it a second thought.  I guess in some ways I've done better than them by achieving more off my own back but overall happily enjoying a much less pressured life.

yeah, I mean, you have to define parents and you have to define better

do you mean biological parents or the pack of stray dogs that effective raised you until you were five and the authorities chucked you in a borstal or the borstal warden or the weird mid 40s women who used to send you letters and pictures while you were going through borstal school or the old guy from the order of the midnight growlers that paid for your university education?

and then by better, do you mean better than running a borstal or a minor criminal empire and baby export business or being the top dog in a 6 street radius of the big william hills in dennistoun, east Glasgow or being a bored homemaker a little too into teenage boys or being a weird old guy in some obscure secret society? 

on that basis is an uninsured loss recovered legal executive (charted one day!) living in a 1 bed basement flat in semi central manchester better? 

I honestly don't know 

Have been driven to (1) be as good as one of them and (2) be better than the other.

I have come to terms with the fact that (1) was mistaken goal. He got there because he let other stuff go. I wont make that sacrifice. So not doing better or matching is not failure. 

As to (2) I have learned that she was not the saint/heroine she presented herself as, and her behaviour was not to be admired at times. I just aim to carry myself better and as far as I can tell I am succeeding. 

Never had that drive, thankfully, as I'd have found it very difficult to do as well in relative terms in the noughties/this decade as what my father did in the 80s/90s.  

I am driven to an extent to be able to pay for, or at least make a significant contribution to, their care if/when the time comes. 

Yes...although that wasn't really what drove me

Competing with mates, acquaintances etc far more so

Heh at the excuses on there for not doing better than your parents though

I am not as clever as my father (or at least not as focused) but my working life was more lucrative than academia.

I like to think I am a nicer person than my mother was. 


I aimed to have stability.

That stability fortunately meant that I have done better than my parents on a financial basis.  For example, the bank was foreclosing on their house, and I could (and did) buy it from the bank in cash.  

couldn’t give a crap 

my parents did quite well

my dad was borne in a condemned NCB cottage, to penniless parents in a mining village that, even in the 1940s, didn’t have a mine

he achieved a great deal through his own endeavours

thanks in no small part to the start in life he provided for his two kids, I could achieve a lot less than him and still be comfortable 

and in truth that looks like the way it might go

I'm definitely a sort of backlash against my father opting for a stable salaried job rather than the insecure self-employment and entrepreneurship that he was into in my teenage years.   Admittedly he had a family leg up but he was on the board of a multi-national in his 30's and that's basically impossible to achieve unless your dad is the chairman and founder.

Does the OP mean in terms of socio-economic status? Probably not. All four of my grandparents were solidly working class (rural Surrey and south-east London respectively) but I reckon my generation has peaked at middle-middle class. It'll be all back downhill again now. 

My dad missed out on University in the travails after WW2, but then whilst he was working did a part-time first degree through the Open University, and then a Masters and PhD through Imperial College during my teens/early 20's.  Truly inspirational, but he wears his intelligence very lightly.

I don't think it ever crossed my mind whether I wanted to 'do better' than him, as we are different characters and do entirely different jobs.

He was tickled pink when I told him what I was earning in my early 30's and he said it was far more than he was then earning.

I dont know. I think that's actually quite enlightened, Ash. In a world where we all bash ourselves to bits over small stuff Laz has realised that if he didn't sweat it, he might be happier. More power to his gingnernuts.

Depends on what grounds we're competing. Salary? Other value considerations still tied to career? As a parent? As a partner? etc. 

Overall I still struggle to match my mum's warmth and sense of fun. She has had a series of quirky careers and in some ways his hit her high notes now, in her 80s (she still works part time). I'm a much better parent than my father. I've not matched him career-wise but I'm not that far off. I used to be a long way off and the comparison did irk me. Now I'm closer to passing it I'm more focused on just getting where I want to be - and I'm not there yet. So the competition is as per cliche with myself in the sense of an ambition I have. 

Financially I'm comfortable enough and see no point in being more than that. Probably roughly on par with parents there. Retirement though, ahem, that might be rather different. 

No. Neither of my parents went to university. One of the things I realised when I did was how facile it would be to compare my life to theirs from that point onward.

I’d have given anything to have a marriage as long as theirs, mind. 

whereas i was told after my first semester at university that it was too late to do as well as my father ... so perhaps no surprise that i didn't try ...

he is a world authority in his particular niche in the history of christianity and i wish i had been focussed enough to achieve something similar - but i'm not losing any sleep over it

Nope, not a chance! Both high achieving academically. Both incredibly successful in their careers (education and law). Both amazing parents. But I’ve never been motivated by any desire to do better than them.

I will never live in a house as large as my parents' have, but that doesn't interest me. They have more disposable probably but they also spend very little. They were gifted their home on marriage which seems quaint/unbelievable these days, whereas I bought my home myself, and paid it off myself.

I'm still the only person in my family who went to Uni, even counting extended family and the next generation. I have had great opportunity to travel etc, so it sort of depends what measure you use.

doesn’t make me sad

if I don’t have to work as hard as late in life as my dad did (although he’s now been happily retired for many years), enjoy my job more and have more time fkr hobbies, I probably will have done better than him in the sense that matters to me

I always knew I didn't want to be a poor adult so my aim was just to earn more than they did so I could go to restaurants and go on holiday. 


Now I am ambitious more for myself as I reached that level of income a while ago (it was a low threshold) 


My parent are about to make bank selling the family home, so maybe I should be more ambitious to match their current lifestyle

No, not there yet in terms of finances,  house size and family.  However I did inherit their sense of humour although it occasionally goes astray if under too much stress. I think I still have it all to play for… 

I have lived longer than both my parents (am older than both of them when they died), which is a strange thing to contemplate (when I stop and do so, which is rare).

No, in fact when I reached a stage in my career where I was in danger of becoming far wealthier than they were I felt extremely uncomfortable, like I was becoming somebody I was not, and downsized.

I was reading one of those articles yesterday about how the current generation of youngsters won't be better off than their parents and realised I'd never thought about whether I would be better off or not.  All my decisions have been based on my own needs rather than some kind of competition with my parents and seems most people here are similar.

Financially I have done a lot better than both of them.  It was really my mum who did the 'hard social mobility yards though'. Without her making a career for herself despite a fairly sh1t start in life and despite some pretty significant headwinds I don't think I would have got anywhere close to where I have. 

Heffa, I do not have kids so am certainly not judging, but if you are aware your parents were better parents than you, why dont you change your parental style to be more like them?  Or do you just mean you have less time than they did?

From what I can tell, most second generation public school children are quite happy with a "good job" and enough cash to do what their parents did. They are rarely going to out achieve their parents other than as a function of e.g. working for a US instead of a City law firm or working in a tax free jurisdiction for a few years. 

The tragedy for Britain is the middle classes now controlling these "good" jobs mean advancement from below is largely dependent on patronising do goodery rather than giving people a chance in organisations. For all the tripe my firm trots out, all the trainees are still from private schools, and all the "non-standard" routes into law are only there so they can get some of their apprentice levy back. Of my father's generation of relatives that had done well, I would say all of them would not get there in today's world as recruitment structures would have cut the route off. 

This. There was social mobility available to boomers and up until about 20 or so years ago. No more. So the answer to the OP will likely depend entirely on your age. 

The city basically swapped its token efforts at enabling social mobility for token efforts at advancing women (mainly women from privileged backgrounds)

Well, yes, I mean they might have the wrong chromosomes, but at least they know which fork to use for the cheese course...

I read something about a "contraversial Oxford academic" who opined that social mobility is a zero-sum game. For someone to come up, someone has to go down. His point was that the last round of social mobilty was following WW2, when the rich had been taxed to huge extent and large numbers of people had died, thus creating gaps. 


It is surely (almost by definition) zero sum in relative terms. Only 1% of the population can be the (much talked about) 1%. 

Meritocracies are in their own way as hard (perhaps harder) to take than rigid class based systems.  In some ways 'you didn't make it because of the system' is easier than 'you didn't make it because you were stupid or lazy (or both)'.  


Never been motivated by the achievements of my parents. Will probably end up earning more in my lifetime than they earned combined. There was never much chance that my career would match up to my dad’s on any measure other than earning. And he was a couple of leagues up academically.  

I think looking at academic  achievement across generations is interesting. I remember talking to a chemistry teacher in the late 90s (he was then in his late 50s) who said that even a cursory comparison of o level and a level  exam papers in the 70s with the 90s equivalents showed a massive decline in standards. And he wasn’t just some jaded misanthrope 

This thread makes me think of Jonny Bairstow who does give the impression of being motivated by his dad - and whose cricketing achievements he has obviously exceeded

Dad fought in the Falklands so hard to compare on that front.  Negotiating contracts doesn't do it, even at its most perilous.  That's not to say I wouldn't have enjoyed life at sea and was originally tempted to dabble in maritime law.

But it's all relative.  Go back a couple of generations and my ancestors worked in the fields.  A couple more and they're all lairds and lords. I'll probably be a forgettable footnote compared to some in the tree have accomplished and I hope my kids surpass that!

I remember talking to a chemistry teacher in the late 90s (he was then in his late 50s) who said that even a cursory comparison of o level and a level  exam papers in the 70s with the 90s equivalents showed a massive decline in standards.

Maybe but then my parents were never able to figure out my year 7 maths homework.