Transitioning into adulthood is probably one of the weirdest things that anyone ever has to go through. It seems like it happens overnight. One day you are a university or college student depending on your parents to survive, and the next minute you are a whole adult paying bills and with a lot more responsibilities.
We often talk about black tax, which is the money that black professionals are expected to give every month to support their family members. What is less talked of, however, is emotional black tax.
By definition, emotional black tax is the emotional distress your family puts you through. In some instances, it is tied to monetary requests, but this is not always the case.
Emotional black tax comes in so many different forms. You receive a call in the middle of the night because your siblings got into a fight, and they expect you to help them solve the problem. Or it could be something more trivial – your younger sibling has refused to eat, and you need to give them a pep talk. In many of these instances, your family members expect you to drop everything and attend to them.
With emotional black tax, you become the solution to every problem. In itself, this may not seem like a big issue. But when it starts to come in between your work, life responsibilities and expectations, that’s when it’s a problem.
How do you deal with emotional black tax? First, learn to set boundaries. Our parents may not always be understanding that we are now adults and have our own things to attend to. That’s a fight you may never win. But what you have to learn to do is say no. You have to learn to stop being a people-pleaser and especially when it starts to come between you and your family.
Of course you can’t completely cut ties with your family and say no to all their requests, but you have to enforce rules and stick to them. They need to understand that as an adult you are just kickstarting your life, and you need the time and space to do so.
The burden of emotional black tax is often transferred to first born children. They are expected to act like parents, and so every slight problem becomes their responsibility. They receive phone calls every so often, to take their siblings to hospital, talk to them about their poor behaviour, and many other things.
The emotional blackmail that comes with it is worse. In some instances, parents will manipulate their children into doing things they don’t want to. They will profess how they paid your school fees and brought you to where you have reached, and thus they need ‘compensation.’
But it’s not only from older family members. You can go through emotional black tax from anyone, even your cousins. I know a story of a girl who’s cousin reprimanded her to take leave so that they could take her child to the hospital. When she said no, her cousin guilt tripped her saying that she didn’t care about her anymore.
In other instances, emotional black tax looks a lot like your relatives making you feel bad for your success. They will claim that you’ve ‘changed’ ever since you landed that new job or got that promotion. It can become a toxic situation, and in that case, you may have no option left but to distance yourself from them.
While you can’t necessarily and outrightly say no to your family members’ requests, there are ways to explain your boundaries. Blogger Zanele Dlamini says, ‘My solution is to encourage my relatives not to budget on my salary and to plan better for the future.’
It’s super hard to say no to people that you love and especially when they are your family. Still, you just have to put your foot down and do it. Respect should be reciprocal, and your people should realise that you are no longer a child. You can’t be manipulated into doing things that you don’t want to. You have responsibilities to meet, and knowing that will help you to learn to say no.
Dealing With The ‘Black Tax’
Dealing With ‘Black Tax’ Part 2: Building Generational Wealth To Break The Black Tax Cycle
Black Tax Led Her To Living Hand To Mouth Until She Couldn’t Take It Anymore
Family: Types Of Toxic Sibling Relationship Dynamics
Parenting: Ways To Help Your Children Build Strong Sibling Relationships
Parenting: How To Deal With Sibling Rivalry
I Am Tired Of Being The Firstborn