Parentification is defined by Newport Academy as occurring “when parents look to their children for emotional and/or practical support, rather than providing it.” Essentially, it’s when parents seek emotional and/or practical support from their children.
Arizona community property laws require that spouses who are divorcing either a) sell their property and split the equity 50/50 or b) buy the other spouse’s portion out. When my parents started their divorce in 2020, we decided to sell and split the equity. Interestingly, I found that, at 15, I was the person responsible for getting it started and for finding a new place.
I was looking for realtors, then I was arranging for photos to be taken, and lastly I was making sure the house was clean for showings. I was also the one looking for a new permanent place for us to live. In my downtime, I was beginning my sophomore year of high school. I always imagined being an adult as having more freedom, but taking on too many adult responsibilities at 15 is hectic. While I was trying my best to find a new place, there was only so much I could do with little help from my parents.
In a desperate effort to not go completely homeless, I suggested purchasing an older RV until we could get an actual house. I planned on buying an adequate RV locally, living in it for a month or two, and then selling it at a loss. This plan, unfortunately, went in an entirely different direction from what I intended.
After just a few weeks, the $18.5k that we had gotten in equity was completely gone and we had less than $1,000 in income coming in every month. My dad gave me around $1,400 of the equity as a reward for selling the house. Instead of getting cash, I decided to just buy things at the store over the course of a couple weeks as sort of a combination of my birthday and Christmas. Had I known what was about to happen, I would’ve held on to that $1,400 for as long as possible.
Within a month and a half, the entirety of the equity was spent. I simply couldn’t wrap my head around it. How was the other ~$17,000 gone overnight? To this day, I have no idea how that happened. Regardless, that was the situation, and we had to make the best of it.
After a month of scraping by, I started to complain about our living and financial situations. I realized the extent of my parentification when I was reminded that our situation was my fault, as I was the one who came up with the idea of buying an RV. It became obvious that living like this was going to be the new norm, and I couldn’t figure out who was to blame for it. Now, I realize that it was the result of serious parentification and irresponsibility.
While there were many instances of parentification growing up, the above example is probably the most serious. If anything, it taught me the importance of letting kids be kids and of taking responsibility for one’s own actions. That’s not to say that children can’t have some responsibilities, but there’s a limit. Children shouldn’t have to be drowning in responsibilities like the ones above.