Your Parent Should Never Be Your Friend

A boundary is crossed when parents treat their children as their friends

Photo by Sai De Silva on Unsplash

My mom treated me like her friend while I was growing up and living under your roof. She still does.

During my parent’s divorce, my mother confided in me. She told me “all the horrible things” my father had done.

This is wrong on so many levels I don’t even know where to begin.

She crossed a boundary and she damaged my relationship with my father. I was only hearing one side of the story so I built up anger and resentment towards him because she made it seem like she was wronged and the angel in the whole affair.

I lapped up her words though.

I was intoxicated. My therapist observed, it must have been seductive.

Being the confidant was seducing. I was being told private things, I was being elevated from child to friend. I was equal to my mom now. She sought me out and made me think I was special. We were a team the two of us. Building anger and resentment to not only my dad but all men.

For the longest time, I did not want to get married. I lapped up all her anger towards men and made it my own too. My mom still thinks all men are jerks and there are no good men in the world although she does admit there are very few. My partner included.

I felt important when she confided in me. But the boundaries were blurred.

Boundaries that should have been in place. Boundaries that should not have been crossed.

Boundaries are there for a reason

Your parent is your parent and not your friend. You need to rely on them. They are meant to be a rock for you and put your needs for first.

You are not equal to your parent. A parent should never divulge intimates details of their marriage to a child. A parent should never ‘hang out’ with their child and act as if they are the best of chums.

Don’t get me wrong, as I have gotten older my relationship with my parents changed. I am able to hold a conversation about current affairs and discuss common interests and books. Our relationship has become more ‘friendly’. We are more like friends as they can no longer boss me around or tell what me to do. I am an adult. I am living my own life now.

And yet they are still my parents. They will always be. I have many friends but only one parent.

My mom used to get angry with me when I choose to spend my time with friends instead of her. She told me I was taking advantage of her. She was hurt because I wanted to go out with my friends on a Friday night instead of going out for dinner with her. At 24 spending time with friends is healthy. At any age wanting to have friends and wanting to spend time with them is normal.

The problem; she mistook me for a friend. I became her person to hang out with while sacrificing my own needs in the process. I became the person she wanted to unload to. I became her pseudo- husband. I became a parent of sorts to her. And I missed out on being a child. I missed out on having a mom who listened to me and wanted to hear about my day.

It leads to enmeshment

“Enmeshment is a psychological term that describes a blurring of boundaries between people, typically family members. Enmeshment often contributes to dysfunction in families and may lead to a lack of autonomy and independence that can become problematic.”

Family enmeshment is not good. I felt a lack of autonomy while under my mom’s roof. I couldn’t choose my own friends over her because she wanted to be my best friend.

She wanted to be too close to me. She wanted to do everything with me. She spoiled me. More than my brothers. But it was unhealthy.

A child should grow up to be an autonomous individual. They should have their friends and they should also be able to rely on their parents for their own emotional needs. Because as soon as the child puts their parent’s needs before their own it sends them a dangerous message.

The message that they are important. They are not enough.

Your parent is not a friend. You can have fun with your parent. You can enjoy spending time with them and doing fun things. But they are the parent, always.

I know my parents are not there to solely serve my needs. They have their own needs. But a child should not be the one to fulfil those needs. I want to hear about my mom’s life and her work but I don’t want to spend an hour on the phone listening to her complain about the latest problem at work. I don’t want to her ask me how I am doing only so she can launch into a diatribe on how she is doing. I don’t want the conversation to be 80% about her and 20% about me.

I have cut friends out of my life that talk too much about themselves, unfortunately, I cannot do the same with my mother.

I used to think it was normal to have a mom who confided in you. Who wanted your advice. But it’s not. Years after I mended my relationship with my father and realised that not all the things she told me were true but coloured deeply by her anger, I realise that she crossed a boundary. A boundary I wished she had not.

Your parent is your parent. They are the one you seek comfort from. They should be genuinely interested in your life. They should want to hear all your news. They should have someone else they confide in. Someone else they can hang out with and be friends.

I had to be my mom’s friends. But she was never my friend. She was and is always going to be my mom. I could not as a child recognise that she was being selfish or tell her to stop. I could not enter into the ‘friendship’ on an equal footing because as soon as I did not do what she wanted she pulled the mom card. She was the mom when she wanted to be and I was the friend when she wanted me to be. It was unhealthy and unbalanced.

Your parent is your parent and not your friend.

I write about family, relationships and love. I write to have a voice.