Parentified Daughters as Female Leaders: Keys to your Emergence

Night Unlocked by Lucy Campbell

One of the many manifestations of the mother wound is the pattern of the “parentified daughter.”

A simple definition of a parentified daughter is when a daughter plays the role of mother for her own mother; the roles are reversed.

Often a parentified daughter must grow up very fast and loses the chance to be a child, as she is expected to manage the emotional and/or physical needs of her mother and/or father. This kind of dynamic sets up the daughter for low-self-esteem, poor boundaries, a deep sense of shame and co-dependent relationships. Often these daughters grow up to be high-achievers and/or emotional care-takers (among other patterns). Major challenges for these women can be self-care, self-compassion and self-love.

Patriarchal values that support the parentification of female children have been in place for centuries; the belief that female children are particularly adept as care-takers, emotional laborers and the dumping ground for disowned family wounds and secrets. Especially in generations of old, mothers and fathers alike felt a certain entitlment to the daughters; having them play out their own attachment wounds and feed upon their empathy, vulnerability and powerlessness. (Many of these patterns are also true for male children.) Often these women talk about wanting to become “real”, as they were regularly made to feel like dolls or that they had to wear a mask of cheerfulness, politeness and gratefulness amidst abusive and dysfunctional family scenarios.

Journey From Darkness Into Light by Rita Loyd

One of the main challenges parentified daughters can have is the sense that struggle, hypervigialnce and striving are necessary to feel safe. This is often due to early trauma related to abandonment and/or invasion. The pattern of hypervigilance can be ingrained very early if the mother’s behavior was  erratic and unpredictable, causing the child to be on constant alert. Until the early trauma is addressed, this hypervigilance and fear is a constant backdrop to adult life and can get projected onto various other areas of life as a way to unconsciously manage it. For example, trauma-related fears can get misplaced onto relationships in the form of co-dependency; or onto careers in the form of money fears, overwhelm and burnout/depletion.

Finding Peace Amongst Chaos by Jessica Joy

The misplaced trauma-related fears can make it seem like the problem lies in these surface, present-day areas, when in fact, they are really related to the attachment wounds of early life. Once these attachment wounds are sufficiently addressed and worked through, the present-day, surface problems begin to lighten and dissolve with time. 

The fear of this aloneness often lives at the heart of many entrenched fears:

  • Fear of being successful
  • Fear of speaking our truth
  • Fear of receiving
  • Fear of being visible

This can manifest in a feeling of “I just need to find the right partner” Or “I just need to make x amount of money.” The panic and anxiety related to these areas usually is much more intense than the situation calls for, indicating that the panic of attachment wounds are stimulated. It can manifest like “I can relax once I buy that house, finish my PhD, have another child, leave my current marriage,” etc.

In this way, the wounded infant child at our core is looking for mother, looking for that “north star” of safety so that it can relax, and feel ease. For parentified daughters who could not feel supported or safe in the emotional environment of their parental home, struggle was mother. In that gaping void where mother should have been, struggle and striving were the only ways that the child could get traction and a sense of control over her environment.

The Impossible Dream of the ‘Good Mother’ Returning…

The Psychic Development by Sergio Oliveira Eugênio

At the heart of many parentified daughters is a narrative, that one day your “real” mother will come for you and everything will be OK. Or it can be something like “One day when my mother is healed, she will finally be able to be a mother to me” or “One day when I am good enough, mother will be here for me.” This is the dream forged in the heart of the parentified child, that her hard work will pay off one day and her mother will finally “come for her” and she will then be able to rest and finally be a child. The amount of energy and effort expended unconsciously is vast and we usually don’t realize this until afterwards, when we can feel the energy returned to us as it is released from the wound.

The key to Freedom: Giving up the “Impossible Dream” 

The impossible dream is a survival mechanism that helps the child survive an emotionally abusive and barren maternal landscape. In this way it is brilliant and effective, yet this adaptation is a major barrier to our fulfillment as adult women.  Until we address this unconscious, powerful dream at the heart of present struggles, we will continue to exhaust ourselves with hypervigilance and projections onto various areas of our lives. Freedom dawns when we can come directly into the center and address the primary scarcity at the core, the primitive, unmet ‘need for mother’ from our earliest days.

Our inner child must take in that “Mommy is not coming…”

The Calling by Patricia Ariel

Once we have the courage and sufficient tools and support to face this early mother wound, we can feel safe enough to allow ourselves to fully feel the pain and grief that was unsafe for us to feel as children: the profound and primordial grief from early moments of abandonment by our mothers.

Surrounded by safe, loving and professional support, a woman healing this early wound must allow her infant self to take in three things in conjunction:

  • Mommy is not coming.
  • I am loved.
  • I am  safe.

The Rose by Christian Schloe

Through this process, we can eventually put down the existential exhaustion that emanates from that constant waiting and longing for mother. We can finally STOP the struggle and striving that has been driving us from our earliest days, which has been projected and transferred to countless people and situations. We can finally rest in our core and put down the impossible dream. Here is where we claim our lifeforce from the mother wound. Giving up the impossible dream is what makes it possible to truly create the life of your dreams, rather than grasping at things in reaction to the mother wound.

As we heal the mother wound, we must create the inner safety to face two kinds of aloneness:

  1. The original traumatic aloneness of our childhoods
  2. The aloneness that may come up as we evolve and diverge from any dysfunctional norms of our families and culture. (And getting support to face any resulting backlash that may happen from family members (including mother)

The first kind of aloneness is the original traumatic aloneness of our childhoods. Facing this loneliness is essential to getting access to our core, authentic self and cultivate bond of inner safety with the inner child. This inner safety is what allows us to feel unstoppable and deeply grounded in our own truth and power.

This second kind of aloneness is necessary for us to face as leaders, to be able to be bold, to be visible and to bring forth new ideas and solutions that are unprecedented. 

Guardian of the Heart by Vera Atlantia

As we heal the original traumatic aloneness of our early childhoods, we gain greater and greater access to our core, authentic, divine self; that divine intelligence that which wants to express itself through us. When we rise it may trigger those around us, mirroring back to them their own unlived dreams or disowned longings. Things that were never our responsibility, but in their pain they may lash out and try to assert that it is your responsibility. Not taking this backlash personally is critical to continuing to move forward in our lives, which IS our responsibility.

We mother ourselves into mastery

I’ve found that the women who are attracted to this work of healing the mother wound are often women who have done an enormous amount of work on themselves and are bright, accomplished and advanced on many levels. All the prior work done before they get to this work is often preparation for approaching that sacred inner space of claiming the inner infant, and being ready to really claim her as your own, her innocence, purity and wisdom. This step is when your inner infant can more fully realize her goodness, deservingness and freedom through your consistent attention and love.

YOU are the (inner) mother you have been waiting for…

At a recent workshop I led, one of the participants discovered the inner narrative “My mother couldn’t be my real mother, because my real mother wouldn’t abuse me. I believed one day my real mother would come for me.” This woman’s big “a-ha”moment was realizing that SHE, as her adult self, IS the mother that her inner child has been waiting for! After a guided meditation, she reported a huge degree of relief and exhilaration in feeling her inner child really take it in that the waiting is over, that even though her actual mother wasn’t capable of meeting her needs, her adult self IS willing and capable of giving her all the love and nurturing that she needs. The joy exuding from her was palpable and profound.

Integrate by Miles Toland

As we effectively mother ourselves, we can more effectively mother the world

As we embody the inner mother, claim our inner infant and care for her, we can then increasingly be more effective mothers to the world, bringing forward the new ideas and solutions that the world is needing. With each tiny step on the journey, we become more capable of embodying the radically healing, revolutionary powers of the Divine Feminine in a very real way.

Circle of Light by Sandra Bierman


And an invitation…

I’m feeling called to reach out to female leaders, change agents, and entrepreneurs who would like to make a quantum leap in their leadership. I invite you to apply for my new Private Coaching for Female Leaders on Healing the Mother Wound.

This is an invitation to go on a deep journey within yourself that results in leading from a place where you effortlessly radiate a higher vibration and drop the struggle and striving and pushing

How to apply…

To set up an initial consultation with Bethany via phone or Skype, please sign up here. I can’t wait to connect with you!


A world where women leaders everywhere have transformed their mother wounds and are connecting to one another to build new organizations, communities, and businesses that embody cooperation, inclusiveness, and compassion, lifting up all life.

© Bethany Webster 2016-17

(Art credits in order of appearance: “Night Unlocked” by Lucy Campbell,“Journey from Darkness into Light” by Rita Loyd, “Finding Peace Amongst the Chaos” by Jessica Joy, “The Psychic Development” by Sergio, Oliveira, Eugenic, “The Calling” by Patricia Ariel,The White Rose” by Christian Schloe, “The Guardian of the Heart” by Vera Atlantia, “Integrate” by Miles Toland, “Circle of Light” by Sandra Bierman)


<img height=”1″ width=”1″ style=”display:none”


13 thoughts on “Parentified Daughters as Female Leaders: Keys to your Emergence

  1. Thank you for this amazing write ! it resonates to my spirit , i feel the healing …thank you .. sending you light n love …Viola

    On Thu, Feb 11, 2016 at 4:25 PM, Womb Of Light wrote:

    > Bethany Webster posted: ” One of the many manifestations of the mother > wound is the pattern of the “parentified daughter.” A simple definition of > a parentified daughter is when a daughter plays the role of mother for her > own mother; the roles are reversed. Often a parent” >


  2. ” The amount of energy and effort expended unconsciously is vast and we usually don’t realize this until afterwards, when we can feel the energy returned to us as it is released from the wound. ” wow. Profound. I am just starting to experience the Magnitude of energy that is “available” to me now after having claimed my own Happiness and walked away from pleasing my mother.It most certainly is not an “easy” route, but oh is it worth it ! I am finally feeling FREE, experiencing the Freedom that has always been mine by Divine right, but only now am ready to “receive” as I have given myself permission … to SHINE! 💖


  3. Everything you write hits the nail on the head for me. I am so happy to not be alone in this. I didn’t know there were others dealing with the same thing.


  4. Thank you so very much Bethany for all of your posts. I just discovered your blog last month and have read all of your posts on your blog since then. Your writing resonated with me at such a core level. Thank you for helping me mend my heart and heal my spirit.


  5. This article has been so profoundly helpful for me right now! Thank you so much Bethany. I mostly haven’t read your posts as I never felt a abandoned or abused, however I realize that I have I inherited and carried my own mother’s wounding, as her mother died when my mom was only 5, leaving her to be the mom to 2 younger sisters, as well as taking care of her father in practical ways. She became nurse, again a caring role, then a housewife and mother of 4 children. I soaked up her example like a sponge, and now trying to start up my private practice, I find I am totally blocked and highly anxious.


  6. Thank you, Bethany…when taken in and pondered in my heart, your posts are very healing. When do you expect your book to be available?


  7. As always, your articles speak so clearly to a truth that’s hidden in many of us.

    It took me until my late 20s to begin to unravel the legacy of abuse across the generations and how it played out in my parents AND my sisters and I through parentification (among other things, including gaslighting, yikes).

    My mother told us over and over about how she was an ideal example of healing from a very abusive childhood, a perfect wife and mother, and it was my father who was a mess. Yet, Dad was allowed to do whatever he wanted in the house – including yell and “bully” and have control of all/most the finances. He didn’t have to be polite, didn’t have to talk at the table, didn’t have to wash or clean, etc. He was rarely home, but when he was, he was the Boss. So… not so great.

    But my mother was a mess, too. She was extremely anxious – needing to be emotionally propped up by us at least once a day and using us as a sympathetic ear to criticize my father/her friends/coworkers/neighbors, etc. also on a near to daily basis (often faux-diagnosing Dad and others with psychiatric disorders – OCD, autisitic…). Both of them would regularly tantrum in different manifestions – Mom would pace back and forth in front of us, usually cleaning up something that she would complain about cleaning later or Dad would begin to grunt, pace and yell, throwing his arms around like a child because he couldn’t find his keys.

    I heard my mom’s story so many times it was seared into my brain. In my teens and 20s I felt like I was going crazy with frustration, anxiety, anger and depression because I couldn’t reconcile all of the messages from my childhood with reality – and I had no idea who I was – I was the doll you were talking about. Inside I felt empty and like I was waiting for someone to come grant me permission to be alive and myself.

    My late 20s and early 30s have been the time of unravelling and re-putting the pieces together, thanks in large part to your articles. I know my story is not so unusual. We are brainwashed by society into thinking excessive care-taking/being an emotional dumpster is normal for little girls. This is wrong. My sisters and I were the dumping ground for both of our parents and it has taken decades to start to see the ground underneath all of the refuse.

    There IS hope. Brittany is so right that there is a light on the other side. When you face the wound and move through – when you become a warrior and you fight against this pain you are fighting for your life. And when you emerge, you will begin to become your Self – which is the greatest thing you can do for yourself and the world.


  8. —– Often these women talk about wanting to become “real”—

    F*ck, that’s come up ALOT in my therapy sessions. Thanks for your writing Bethany, that and your emails have touched me in a way that I’ve needed for a long time. xx


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s