Email from a disappointed father

Posted on by TheLastPsychiatrist . Bookmark the permalink.

portrait of a chastised daughter

A retired naval officer sends an email to his three grown kids about “being forced to live through the never-ending bad dream of our children’s under-achievement and ineptitude.”

The obvious first step is that the Guardian and Telegraph are papers for people who still write emails to their kids. So of course, anything where that generation gets to criticize the younger generation for being lazy is going to be front page news. NB: retired Naval officer=beyond reproach.

However, he’s not actually lamenting their underemployment, he’s more upset that there are four divorces and five marriages amongst the three; that six grandkids are being raised by clueless parents.

The second thing to observe is that you can read the email, which means someone released it, and that someone is the daughter.  Why would she want this out?  Doesn’t she realize this makes her look like a fool?

Crowdsourcing the superego means that as long as a few people say, “it’s not easy nowadays, I’d like to see that bitter old codger try to succeed in today’s world!” she gets off scot free. I’ve counted 11 such comments, and I’m not even trying. Guilt and shame evaporate.  She says this is a wake up call, but she believes she was awake before the call came:

She said her father’s email did not upset her because she had already begun to turn her life around when she received it in February. She had set up a business and had started translating a French self-help book into English.


But the interesting question is why the father would be disappointed in her.  She is married to a surgeon, lives in France with her three kids– why would her father consider that a failure?  I’m going to assume to on old Brit being safely married is as good as safely employed.  So my first thought was she was getting divorced for a second time.

But there, in the article, was a sentence I had skipped:

Yes, I lived in a beautiful house, but, under French law, I had no rights over it and felt very unsettled and worried about the future.

That struck me as a particularly odd thing to bring up, so I went hunting and found an old blog post of hers:

However, [a job agency’s] parting advice was more of a question: why would a doctor’s wife with a young baby be looking for a job anyway?

Why, indeed? I’ll tell you: Over here, marriage contracts, for those who have children from a previous marriage, are, so my husband tells me, “always” on a “separation des biens” basis. This means that I have no claim, in theory or in practice, to the house or to any of his wealth. This would be OK with me as I never intend to get divorced – but it carries with it extra pressure to make my own money, or I’ll never have anything of my own. It makes me feel kind of naked, exposed and alone. And very, very poor, despite living in a good house and having no direct money worries…

What does my husband have to say about this? Well he’s been ramming a career in translation down my throat since I was heavily pregnant with the first of my children with him. While I should’ve been adjusting to motherhood he was lecturing me at 2am about how I’d be forever invisible in France without a french qualification of some sort. I finally realised where all this negative energy was coming from when I realised how stressed he is, like all french people, about retirement. He thinks I should pay into my retirement now as, even though I would be entitled to some pension from his even if he should die, I wouldn’t get this until I’m 65.


First, she’s wrong, under French law she may not be entitled to his previous wealth (I have no idea) but she is certainly entitled to wealth made during the course of the marriage.

It’s not hard to imagine what that father must feel when he hears hysterical things like this.  She should know better, he must think.  Even if she is happy in her marriage, all he hears  is her complain; and she moved her kids to France, where she has an unmarketable British skill set and… what happens if she got divorced again? 

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6 Responses to Email from a disappointed father

  1. Lab Rat says:

    It never occurred to him has he wrote that the common denominator of all his children’s “under-achievement and ineptitude” was they all had the type father who writes this nonsense and thinks it helpful?

  2. Guy Fox says:

    @ Lab Rat: It occurred to you, and it occurred to me, and it would be remarkable if it didn’t occur to him too, if only on the level of the thing he’s in denial about. Indeed, it might be what inspired him to write the email, because it would be better for the kids to hate him for being a hard-ass than to hate him for being a useless father. It’s what some countries like to call a ‘preemptive counter-attack’.

    It’s also an interesting question about where and what mom is, or what any of her other relationships with adults look like for that matter. The daughter has a blog where she whines publicly about her husband’s 2 am lectures, and when she gets a nasty email from her father, her reaction is to click on ‘forward’ and make sure big news dailies get a copy. Doesn’t it seem that she’s desperate for someone to hold her, pat her on the back, and say ‘There, there. Of course you didn’t deserve any of this, but aren’t you strong for eating this abuse from these men and talking about it publicly.”? In whose eyes can you expect to do no wrong? Who’s existentially obligated to love your ugly mug? If Amy Schumer’s response to the scalding light of her own shame was to call mom, then this woman’s is to outsource mom to all of us. How sad that her best friend is ‘anonymous’.

    • Nachlasse says:

      You should be department chair in ‘TLP Studies’. Hipster irony, I know.

      The last sentence of every single one of this woman’s blog posts usually sound like: “Please, leave a comment and tell me that you share my views.” This is actually not hyperbolic, she literally does this.

      It could be her move to France (her web domain) that’s really making her feel so insecure, or she has possibly been an insecure woman her whole life. But her domain does indicate that her identity is “Expat in France”, and what happens if France is not welcoming to her? The numerous job failures and ‘snotty’ French people, her French husband who shoves his long, hard ‘ideals’ down her throat, but the most telling is how nobody seems to appreciate her (e.g the post about how she made rings for everyone and they told her she wasn’t good.) and through all of this, her identity as a French expat is strengthened. The way I’ve been taught to see it, is regression. She wants to strengthen her French expat identity, but if France doesn’t allow her to do that easily, she regresses into ‘I’m insecure that I am a foreigner who doesn’t accept me but please remember I’m in France.’ I’m pretty sure this is what she’s actually thinking of when she writes her posts.

      But I think, the interesting thing thing is that at first she blamed structures, that France doesn’t work the way it does in UK, the people are snotty, I am not French so dont be snotty to me.. All of these are appeals for comments, sure, outsourcing mom to all of us. Perhaps next time we see anyone starts blaming the structures, ‘the economy’, ‘the French’, we might do well to see if it’s an appeal, an outsourcing of anything.

      Yeah yeah I just took what you said and lengthened it with nothing new to say.

  3. Chrigid says:

    I just took a look at her blog. I think she married her father.

  4. Elisabeth says:

    (1) I read that the daughter who was “getting her life together”, was the one who persuaded her father to let the email be released. I strongly suspect that that was a low blow at her brother and sister.

    (2) The father did an interview with Cristina Odone, which I can’t seem to find, where he admitted that he and his wife were far too hands off in their parenting. It seemed to be a response to his own parents being extraordinarily controlling.

    (3) What makes me sympathise with the father is that his snapping point seems to have been his children using his wife as a “cesspool”. Apparently, they would whine to her non stop, brush off any comfort or advice, and she would be left emotionally devastated after each call.

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