Cinderella syndrome is a term I like to use to help describe what scapegoats go through when they are forced to endure being a maid or a servant for their narcissistic parent. Even though Cinderella’s evil stepmother and stepsisters were the ones plotting and manipulating, it is also unfortunately true for biological and non-biological parents. Cinderella syndrome can also follow the scapegoat in other areas of their life like in their romantic and professional relationships. Cinderella syndrome is often an adaptive trait to avoid punishment.
Some narcissistic parents use their children as their maids and servants. Having chores is normal growing up, but it's not normal to be forced to constantly be at someone's every beck and call or to be the only one in the house cleaning.
So let’s talk about 6 ways narcissistic parents force their scapegoats to be their "Cinderella."
This blog is for educational and awareness purposes only. The terms narcissist, sociopath, and psychopath are used as descriptors to identify types and levels of toxic behavior. The said terms are not intended to diagnose anyone with any disorder.
The narcissistic parent, regardless if they’re biological or not, will act like they own your very existence. As the scapegoat, you are designated as the at-fault person and therefore you are responsible for any issue in the home and even outside of the home.
Any mess that they make in the house, you need to clean it. You have to “earn your keep” regardless if you keep yourself, your items, and your area clean at all times. Often it feels like the narcissistic parent purposely makes a mess just to watch you clean it up.
Sometimes this extends outside. It all depends on your location and what is around the home. Yardwork is forced on scapegoats as well. The garden or flower bed must look perfect, or the lawn has to be a certain length to keep up the outward appearance for the neighbors in many cases. Narcissistic parents often have children just so they have a person to take on all the tasks that they don't want to do and later become their caretaker when they are aging.
2. They use cleaning to isolate you.
Being forced to clean for hours a day leaves you little time to do anything else like plotting your escape, maintaining relationships and friendships, or having any time to yourself in which you could learn about how toxic your situation is. Your brain in this situation is deep in survival mode because of how stressful your situation is and how overworked you are from not only having to handle everyday life but you also have to enter back into this toxic environment. These parents sabotage your friendships, relationships, and education by forcing you to clean and re-clean messes that they have made or you are faced with unreasonable threats and disgusting consequences.
3. You wait on them hand and foot.
Narcissistic parents often force their scapegoat to wait on them hand and foot. For example, the narcissist may have you make them food, bring it to them, and then wait for them to be finished to take their plate. Once that is over you may have had to clean the kitchen entirely to avoid conflict to “keep the peace” to protect yourself from more chaos.
As I mentioned earlier, Cinderella syndrome often is an adaptive trait that is used to avoid punishment. This is a trauma response. This response is known as fawning. Fawning is where you appease the threat to avoid the threat's wrath. Fawning can look different in many situations but in this case, it is often doing tasks for the abuser to please them to avoid punishment.
4. Nothing was ever good enough.
As the scapegoat, nothing is ever good enough, but in this case, cleaning is never enough. It must be spotless. If it is spotless and the narcissist is having a bad day, they may say you don’t even know how to clean, you did it wrong, you have to scrub this again, or you folded something not up to their standard. You may be forced to do it again or they will try to have you offer to redo all of your hard work with some passive-aggressive comments like, “If you want something done right, you have to do it myself,” or “No one ever helps me.” The narcissist wants to manipulate you into doing more work just for their enjoyment. They need their supply.
5. Lack of Good Quality items
This may or may not apply to your situation, but often the scapegoat is forced to have lower-quality items than the golden child. You don’t have good quality clothes, electronics, shoes, etc.
It is common for the narcissistic parent to downplay any need the scapegoat has. Like if you needed new shoes or clothes because yours were falling apart, they were too small, or they were too big and you tell the narcissistic parent, they might say, “I always go without for you. I never get to get something for myself” because the narcissistic parent wants you to believe that you are the reason that they don’t have any money for them to get anything for themselves. When it’s actually their lack of financial understanding or just a manipulation tactic to make you feel guilt and unfairly shame you for having normal needs. The narcissistic parent is not putting your needs first. They are trying to manipulate you to feel guilty. It has nothing to do with you. The narcissist is just trying to find another way to get more supply by seeing sadness and guilt on your face.
However, when the golden child just wants something, they typically get it. The golden child can also get things that you've wanted just because the narcissistic parent wants to triangulate the siblings.
6. Love Bombing
There are very conflicting times when the narcissist will love bomb you and compliment you for your work. Cleaning, cooking, yard work, and waiting hand and foot on the narcissistic parent and other family members only began because you were programmed to be the “helper of the family.” The narcissist and other family members complimented how good you can do XYZ so that became expected of you.
You became exploited for your kindness. You wanted to have positive attention, affection, and have a family that was proud of you and you, most likely, did receive some praise when you did things for a while. Then it later, it became expected of you. Maybe sometimes you did get a “good Job” once in a while to keep you reaching desperately for more praise and positive reinforcement.