Absentee rich parents and their lonely, isolated son

From Barbara Blouin, The Inheritance Project

This is a true story told to me by a long-time friend. It captures vividly the damage done to children when their type-A workaholic, highly successful, and extremely rich parents don’t have time for them. The parents hire an army of servants to serve in their place.

Their children inevitably feel emotionally abandoned.

Because the employer of my friend (I’ll call him Jim) is the CEO of a highly successful corporation whose name is a household word around the world. (Confidentiality requires me to leave out identifying details.)

My friend was approached by the CEO, who asked him to spend time every week tutoring his son (who I’ll call Chris). Chris is eleven. The CEO wanted Jim to spend several hours a week teaching Chris chess and learn to play guitar. Jim is accomplished at both.

This CEO is a self-made multi-billionaire, (otherwise known by the euphemism “ultra-high net worth)—one of the richest people in the world. His wife is also a type-A hard-working woman who is not home much and appears not to be particularly interested in her children, according to Jim’s observation. They employ an army of servants to manage just about every aspect of their domestic life. They are often away on business.

One key aspect of this situation is that Chris is unable to have a “normal” boy’s life—playing with the kids in the neighborhood, hanging out with classmates.. He would become a choice target for would-be kidnappers. This situation, where great caution is required, leaves him even more isolated.

The CEO told Jim he wanted to hire him because Chris was “bored.” No wonder! His only sibling is about seven years younger and a girl—not a playmate. And he can’t make friends in the way that most kids can. He is closely watched, but not closely held.

It seems to me as though his parents haven’t given much thought to Chris and his needs.

When I first heard about this situation from Jim, I felt deeply sad. (I still do.) This boy is bound to be severely damaged emotionally because his deepest needs for nurturing are being ignored. He may end up unable to bond to anybody. He may feel abandoned. And because name recognition is an issue, he is probably labeled by his peers, who can’t see Chris who he is.

This story reminds me of something my former partner in The Inheritance Project was told by a wealthy young woman she had interviewed. Although this woman did not come from huge wealth,  she had a recognizable last name in the city where she had grown up. When she was in her early twenties, someone she had become friends with told her, “Thank goodness I got to know you before I found out who you were!” In other words, had the friend known her as part of a wealthy family, she would not have been able to “see” this woman without a built-in bias.

The last time I spoke with Jim I asked him if he had started “tutoring” Chris. “No,” he told me. “Chris’s father said to him that he’d been too busy to make the arrangements.”