Is this you?
I’m particularly studying parentification in what seem like ‘normal’ homes where there is no obvious issue marring a ‘normal’ lifestyle.
The MOST IMPORTANT experience is that you are an adult who looks back on your childhood and feels that you did, and perhaps still do, parent your parents.
I am studying those who identify with the following description of the experience of parentification:
You were once, or maybe still are, the person upon whom your parents placed a lot of age-inappropriate responsibility. This dependence was persistent in nature, akin to a job – never ending, perhaps thankless or even unnoticed. More often than not, it left you feeling burdened, anxious or worried. Likely, this would have affected your social life, your academic life or perhaps your sense of self negatively, because you took your decisions based on what was best for your parents, and not yourself. Other children always seemed to have more fun, more time, and a sense of being carefree which was missing from your life. You in the meantime were busy solving adult problems, believing in earnest that these were your responsibility. You could have been the emotional shoulder for a parent to cry on, for one or both parents to confide in. You could have been the scapegoat who took the responsibility to resolve all domestic disputes, large or small. You could have been the hero, protecting one parent from the other. In any of these or other scenarios, you took on a role that was far beyond your years or expected level of maturity.
Your family comprised your parents, perhaps a sibling, maybe grandparents too. On paper, you didn’t lack anything. But emotionally, there was a lack of a safe, secure and unconditionally loving environment. It was an uncertain or an anxiety-driven home.
Your adult self:
As an adult, this has affected your physical and mental health to varying degrees. You may have been wondering what went wrong. But perhaps there was something amiss with the way your parents were – whether individually, as a couple, or as parents to you – that made you grow up faster than those around you. You grew up more than your parents and helped them take better care of themselves, ignoring your own needs in the process.
On a personal or professional level, you might find yourself in helping roles ever so often, and feel depleted often enough because of your expertise at adapting to the needs of the other. Other people’s needs somehow always get bumped up above your own. Your ability to intuit what the other wants is likely very developed, and you may use this successfully in people-centered or socially conscious roles – giving roles, teaching roles, helping roles. However, on the inside, you might find yourself questioning who you really are, if not just someone being there for others. As you mature, and reflect, you might think back to try and look for answers to explain your current health, your stress levels, the way your relational patterns develop, and the way in which you think about yourself and those around you.
Your adult self in relation to your parents:
It is also likely that you continue in this role today. You might, in some form, be continuing to parent one or both parents, despite having left home or ‘grown up’. You might find yourself more and more impatient with them, continuously thinking to yourself or telling them to ‘grow up’ instead.
Your adult self in romantic relationships:
You might be looking for a partner to take care of you. Perhaps you’ve realised this, perhaps you haven’t, but upon reflection you realise that there is a sincere hope that you can finally be the one cared for. You might feel insecure or anxious on matters that others tell you are small. This need may have expressed itself boldly in your past or current romantic relationships causing turmoil or even a break up. Overtly however, you might however still be the caregiver and the adult in your romantic relationships.
You will of course not identify with all of it, but are likely to feel connected to some parts of it. This is only natural as we all come from different life situations that make us unique in our experiences and emotions. However, the most important aspect of this that you must identify with is the feeling that you were a parent to one or both your parents – that you had to care for them more than they could care for you.