My heart sinks every time someone tells me stories of how wonderful their relationship with their mother is. I would give anything to be able to say the same. I don’t have memories of closeness with my mother. I don’t have the kind of relationship where I can call her up and we go do lunch and go shopping or get mani/pedis. My relationship with my mother has always required a certain level of skill and mental preparation and planning. Almost like playing a game of chess.
It took me until I was well into my thirties to realize that my mother is a narcissist. The lack of love and nurturing I experienced growing up prepared me for a lifetime of challenges. Growing up, I noticed how much my mother was different from the other mothers, but never understood why. I was always amazed when I would visit friends and their mothers were so… motherly. They baked and took us shopping and braided our hair. What was this voodoo and how did I get one of these?
Mothers are so necessary to the development of a child. Growing up with a mother who is incapable of meeting emotional needs is like being thirsty all the time and no one ever has any water.
How do you know if your mother is a narcissist? Here are some signs.
1: Everything you do is a reflection of her: A narcissistic mother believes her children are a direct reflection of who she is as a person. She will treat her child as a puppet instead of an individual. She will micromanage every decision, from your clothes to your taste in music. Children of narcissists often find it hard to make decisions as they get older, because they’ve never been taught to think for themselves.
2: Everything is a competition with her child: Every failure her child has, she will take personally. Every hard time, she had it worse. Sick? She’s more sick. Tired? She’s more tired. Sad? She’s sadder. Often times, this will result in neglecting to show her child empathy and comfort in times of trials and failure, instead making the child feel worse because she will make it about her. On the flip side, she will take credit for every win as well. Made straight As this semester? That’s because she is so smart, you obviously got it from her. Did you win an award? According to her, you wouldn’t have won it if she hadn’t pushed you. Narcissistic mothers will make every win feel less special to her child because she will take credit for everything and it will never be about the child.
3: Narcissistic mothers are incapable of empathy: Love and nurturing are so important to the emotional development of a child. Mothers who are narcissistic will withhold love, empathy and many other emotions children need from their parents, often times as punishment, but also just because they are not able to show them. These mothers will often give their children the silent treatment when they are angry. This can create issues as the child becomes an adult because they often have trouble relating to others, accepting love from others, and experiencing love in general.
4: The Narcissistic mother will always be the victim: This mother will have many broken relationships over the course of their child’s life. Family members who no longer come around, friendships that have ended. If you ask this mother, one thing will always remain the same. It was never her fault. The narcissistic mother is unable to accept blame or acknowledge responsibility in any way, and will always blame broken relationships on the other party. If the child challenges the parent, they will likely receive a response like “After everything I’ve done for you”, accusing you of being defiant or ungrateful, but you will never receive an apology.
5: Gaslighting: A Narcissistic mother will deny, deny, deny. If you tell a story that paints her in a negative light, she will challenge your memory, accusing you of remembering wrong. She will tell you “I never said that” or “That never happened”, in an attempt to save face and cause you to doubt your own memories and sometimes even your sanity.
So, how has all of this affected how I parent? In every way. Unfortunately, growing up with a narcissistic mother means that my child has grown up with a narcissistic grandmother. It is hard to watch your child grow up, not understanding why his grandparent doesn’t show up for him in the ways other grandparents do. Because of that, I have tried very hard to show up even more.
Apologize. I make a point to apologize to my child when I am wrong. I am human. I screw up. A lot. We put so much pressure on women to thrive in a job they’ve never had before. As a new mom, I had never taken care of a newborn. As a mother of a teenager, I am new to this as well. Every stage of life we enter into is new territory for me. So I make sure to apologize to my child whenever I should. I’m going to screw it up, and that’s ok. The difference is acknowledging when I do and being ok with it. We are learning together. A narcissistic mother will deny to her death that she ever made a mistake, and would walk through fire before she would ever apologize for it.
Be human. Show emotion. My son has seen me have great days, bad days, sad days. I have sat with him and cried. I have been honest with him about how I’m feeling and when things are hard, I tell him. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe in putting adult problems on kids, but it’s ok for them to know that sometimes we struggle, too. I make sure he knows that I am doing the best I can, but some days that is going to be a little less than others.
Show up. Be there. Be there for the big stuff and the little stuff. Get excited for them. Be sad for them when they are. Just be there. Let them know they can talk to you about anything. Sit with them when they’re sad. It’s ok to be sad with them. Pump them up when they do something good. Make it about THEM, not you. Did they win an award at school? That’s because THEY are a freaking rockstar and you are so proud of THEIR accomplishment. Accept the fact that everything they do is not a direct reflection of you. Embrace that. There are so many things I am not good at that my child is. There are also things I’m good at that he isn’t. That is ok, because he is his OWN PERSON.
Honestly, I think that being raised by a narcissistic parent has made me a better mom. So for that, I can be grateful.