The Parentified Child

Art courtesy - PowderKatze on DeviantArt

You know these women.

They have been married, have kids.

The husband is an alcoholic, or rageaholic, or narcissistic, or plain abusive.

Communication has broken down. The sex has left the marriage.

Or maybe the husband left or died. Or turned religious and practices abstinence.

She doesn't remarry or have sex because of purity culture. Her sexual and emotional intimacy needs are not met. She thinks she doesn't have any. She needs to believe in this story that sexual needs are only for men, and pure women do not have sexual needs. (Newsflash: We all do.)

Now, where is the problem?

Her children are "parentified". They take on the role of the adult she doesn't have.

She builds an emotionally incestuous relationship with her son, sometimes her daughter. The son/daughter is completely oblivious to this, and their whole identities revolve around being a "sink" for their mother's tough life. They are the good boys and good girls. Society approves of this spousal role. Take the assessment below to check if you were a parentified child. The rest of the post continues after the assessment.

Then the adult son gets married - and the mother turns hateful and abusive towards the daughter-in-law. This type of abuse is open and free for all to see. The daughter-in-law is not allowed to sit next to the son or touch him in her presence. Their sexual lives are highly controlled using, you guessed it, religion as a weapon.

There is another type of abuse - this is where she fawns over the daughter-in-law. She is "allowed" to do whatever she wants. The Mother-in-Law (MIL) then grooms and colludes with the Daughter-In-Law (DIL), and aids and abets in things society doesn’t approve of, claiming that she is modern and supportive.

She then uses this information to manipulate the daughter-in-law and control her son through her. Do you see households where the MIL -DIL have an unholy alliance and are unnaturally close? Big red flag there. That is also abuse even though it does not look or feel that way.

The Daughters-In-law who is the most susceptible to this kind of covert abuse tends to be a woman who grew up in a violent household. When you grow up in openly violent, loud families, it is very easy to mistake the softer fawn response as real love or even safety.

Then there is this mother who builds an emotionally incestuous relationship with her daughter. The daughter becomes the mother's caretaker and de-facto spouse. This mother controls the daughter's love and sex life. The openly manipulative ones make sure no one is "good enough" for her daughter.

The covertly manipulative ones, fawn. They approve of their daughter's relationships claiming outwardly to be accepting of it. And then once she gains her daughter and the partner's trust, she uses this information to manipulate the daughter.

Over a period of time, the daughter and any grandkids come to live with the mother. These are mothers who find fault with anyone who comes into their daughter's life - friends, family, even siblings, in-laws, and spouses. The daughter is allowed to trust no one because she could be taken away from the mother.

We know openly abusive parents. What goes under the radar is covertly manipulative women. Yes, there is a male version of it, but for the purposes of this post, we are focusing on women. These women are extremely insecure because of the lack of a partner, and then turn that towards their children, especially the sexual and emotional intimacy-related frustration.

These women are really hard to spot - because they are your epitome of sacrifice. They are the mothers that get put on a pedestal, they are poster moms. The mothers who sacrificed everything for their children. They are upstanding citizens of the community and the societies they live in. They are used to model resilience to the outside world. That may be the reality of their outer worlds. But what about their inner world? What happens inside these homes and to the children they raise?

The children of such mothers, feel their whole life's purpose is to keep the mother happy. But they will never be able to give her what she needed, especially sexual and emotional fulfillment that an adult partner was supposed to provide. So they get stuck in rage-shutdown-fawn cycles with each other.

The more the son/daughter tries to give her, the more enraged she gets. And nothing is ever enough, and they are constantly stuck needing to do more and more to prove their allegiance to this mother and restore her honor through their own suffering, even after she is no more.

The spouse of such an adult, who was a parentified child, feels like a third wheel in such a relationship. And the kids, well, carry so much rage that is not theirs. There is also a lot of this fawning and manipulation to get the grandkids "on her side" and away from the other set of grandparents, as a way of control.

These women look and feel like feminists. But they are not. True feminism is taking accountability. These women get selectively enraged by patriarchy, as a way to further their own victim narrative and manipulate the people around them.

These women have been habituated to using narratives that sound feminist to continue their own story of victimhood. Feminism only selectively applies to her, the victim, and not to her daughter, or daughter in law who wants to have agency and autonomy over their lives. She cannot support or endorse it, because her entire identity based on victimhood, gets erased then.

The sons who grow up with these moms call themselves feminists because they saw their moms suffer. This category of men, very sadly, is probably the most complex and dangerous because again, they are completely oblivious to how they are being used as a pawn in this power game.

These men actually think they are real feminists. But they are deeply flawed men with rage issues and a complete inability to self-reflect. Because this abuser selectively grooms the son to "have empathy" for women only as it applies to her. Not the son's wife or daughter or anyone else.

And when these women raise daughters, we call ourselves feminists too. And then figure out that the only feminist theme that is "allowed" is one that puts this mother on a pedestal. It is self-serving narcissism masquerading as feminism. There is a lot of righteous anger in this daughter, but really we are raging against what we think is the dad figure or men in general. For a very long time.

Sometimes we even get to the point of seeing the narcissism in the mother-in-law but it takes so much work to see it in the mother. Until we figure out that it is actually the manipulative, covert narcissistic woman in our lives that are the source of that rage.

Well played, Patriarchy.

Patriarchy gives these women various medals for sacrifice, patience, virtue, purity, and what on the outside looks like resilience. They are upstanding citizens of the community, always helping their families, being at everyone's beck and call. But take a closer look. There is a pervasive victimhood narrative in that story.

She is the "poor aunty" who has been through so much in life, and now the daughter/son is ungrateful or the DIL/SIL becomes the villain in this story. There is a chronic lack of self-reflection and a completely compromised ability to take accountability.

More importantly, it feels like nothing you do is ever enough for her. Nothing moves the needle towards agency and autonomy for her. And many of her children's marriages end in sacrifice to this bottomless pit of victimhood.

The cost of being "sexually pure" is enormous. Yes, re-marrying or claiming her right to sexual satisfaction, or even the thought of it was abhorrent for her. Yes, that is unfortunate. And it certainly does not make the emotional incest right. Because it claims entire families - children, spouses, spousal families, grandchildren, and great-great children in its wake.

Are all women who are sexually deprived, abusive? No, but many women in the previous two generations have been lost to this idea of purity. Thwarted sexual/emotional intimacy energy then turns abusive and spins a deep, wide web of intergenerational trauma that then gets passed on many generations after.

What is the cost of purity culture? If this describes your relationship with your mom, are you ready to break this cycle? Book Appointment Now.

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