playing multiple roles

February 11, 2018

I have written a few essays about my family – like this piece about my parent’s lack of emotional intelligence, but today I want to share something beyond that – and I feel like my fellow first-borns / eldest kids or any family member would relate. Or I am hopeful someone will understand what I am about to share –

Believe it or not, I grew up angry.

A lot of yelling in the household from my parents and my childish self included. Over the years, I have remain my loud-self with laughter, but have managed my anger issues. I don’t like to feel this way; it is very much an unwanted emotion for me – but lately, it has re-surface due to family matters.

For those who don’t know, I am the oldest. And most days growing up, acting as the parent. I have a dual role in my family as the big sister and the parent because my actual parents have depended on me.

What did that dependency look like? It can be a variety of things, but mainly to support my siblings emotionally in my case, because I have no financial means.

My interpretation is that my mom is exhausted because she has four kids. I can understand that by the third or fourth child, you’re kind of checked out of this parenthood thing, and you see that child number one and two turned out decent and exploring life so they can show the two younger ones what’s up…

I know for a fact that her priorities are scattered at the moment for whatever reason and given the circumstances life handed us. So it was up to me and my brother (child number two) to raise child number three and four. I get it, we look out for one another. We are family.

However, when it came to some disciplinary stuff, or big life moments, my mom expected me or my brother to take control of the situation and find solutions.

Why?  I am also a child in this family. Not a parent. Note: I am also trying to navigate life myself, so I don’t know much!

I remember the constant argument when I was younger – when all this stuff did not make sense to me. This banter between my mom and I went something like this in Khmer:

Why do I have to do this?

Because you are his older sister. You have to tell him this and that.

But you’re the mom, he needs his mom. He will listen to you,  I am his sister.

Every time I have uttered that I am the sister/daughter in this situation, my mom always felt that it was somehow my responsibility to oversee my siblings. If the kids did not soar with flying colors in school, it was my fault that I did not allocate enough “homework time” together, or if he and/or she was misbehaved, I had to put them back in line.

This also opens a flood gate of guilt – especially when things did not steer right. This constant feeling I live with. 

Right now, I am trying to break away from all of this and try to explain this more in laymen terms to the actual parents in all of this..and I am stuck. I just feel this may be a cultural thing. But please interject if I am mistaken.

Right now, I am angry. Angry at my family and my parents for giving me this unwanted responsibility and title as “parent” that I did not even sign up for and had no intentions of taking.

I am exhausted, to say the least. Emotionally depleted.

So for friends who have ever felt this way, how do y’all advise for me to move forward besides enrolling into therapy and creating boundaries amongst family?


PS: Give this podcast a listen about “role overload” via Stuff Mom Never Told You