It is assumed that all mothers want to do the best for their children, but that is not always the case, definitely not the case when it comes to narcissistic mothers (as seen in the life of Joan Crawford and her daughter Christina). This raises the question, “What makes a good mother?”
It would seem to me that the ingredients required for being a good mother are the same ingredients that are required to be a good person generally (i.e. having empathy, being patient, kind and considerate, being able to admit when you are wrong, etc.). Also, it is important to be able to give and forgive, and to be able to go beyond the self to that of the other.
Children are people too; they are just smaller and sometimes less able; therefore, they need a little more help and understanding. It is not a hard task to be a good mother, not when you focus on the essential requirements of a child. Being a good mother has nothing to do with being a superwoman, although many parents push themselves in that direction.
What Are The Healthy Attributes Of A Loving Mother?
Before you look at the self-absorbed narcissistic mother, it is important to know what makes a “good mother”. I consider that I had a wonderful, magical mother, a woman who loved being in the company of her children above all else, and was willing to give quality time to each of her children, and make happy memories that would last us a lifetime. But she was not silly, she knew each of us well, each with our different foibles, and she responded to our differences as well as our sameness accordingly. My mother was always supportive, encouraging each one of us to follow our dreams, and helping us to feel good about ourselves. She never made us feel a burden; she enjoyed being with us as much as we enjoyed being with her, and we knew that. She was sensitive to our needs, and never resorted to shaming us when we got things wrong. Making a mistake was always allowed. In fact, our mistakes were seen as great teachers that we could learn from, and we learned this from very young. Not being afraid to make a mistake allowed us also be able to apologise when we got things wrong.
Mum taught us to be optimistic; she always mirrored to us that her glass was half full, not half empty. Even though she had five living children of different ages, she was in perfect attunement with each of us. She always allowed us to be age appropriate in the tasks she set us, therefore, never fostering premature independence upon us. This built confidence and emotional intelligence and helped us not to be afraid of making our decisions when we felt ready. She delighted in our self-expression, whether it was through music, art, dance, writing, cooking, anything that gave us pleasure; and expanded our interest and growth.
In my case, I was making my clothes from age 13 (Mum was a wonderful seamstress that I learned from), and she never criticised my attempts at fashion, no matter how independent or bizarre my thinking was. She would offer her help, but if I refused it, she would respect that, and leave me to figure things out for myself. Of course, there were times when I made a mess of things, but she would wait for me to ask for her help, and then give it lovingly. She encouraged each of us to be independent thinkers; she even told us not always to follow like sheep, but to sometimes take the lead, and whenever I did take the lead she was very patient with my decisions. She did not make too many rules, but she would take the time to explain the logic behind each rule, and then she would expect us to adhere to that rule. She was clever, the few rules she did make seemed to cover a multitude of behaviours that we understood would not be acceptable. We were all made very clear of the boundaries, but she was open to negotiating when the boundary needed shifting. For example, I knew what time I had to be home each night, but on special occasions (like a dance) I could negotiate getting an extension that was fair to me, and would keep me safe.
Mum inspired us to self-govern and take responsibility when we were out of her range, and she trusted us, to tell the truth, always. It was an unspoken law that if you did something wrong but told the truth, you may or may not be in trouble. However, if you lied, you would be in trouble, no two ways about that. This instilled a sense of truth in us all, and when asked if we had done some misdemeanour or not, we would be truthful regardless of the consequences. This worked well for keeping us safe, especially outside of the home. Mum was always consistent in her rules; therefore, we knew the guidelines well and lived by them. We grew up in a home where our parents were both respectful to each other, and that was extended down to us children. She was always there to listen to our problems, but she would give us the space to work those problems through without her interference. She neither judged us, nor indulged us, but we always knew we could depend on her support in doing the right thing. She was not one of those mothers who told us “wait until your father gets home”. If there were a problem with our behaviour she would deal with it on the spot, and then it would be forgotten. We were never sent to bed with the fear of punishment hanging over us or the fear of being pulled out of the bed from sleep to an angry parent. We trusted both our parents, and it was Mum who regularly encouraged us to stretch ourselves, and would celebrate each of our accomplishments with us. She did not spoil any of us with material possessions, but she shared all her love by giving us individual attention and stretching us to be the best we could be.
What Are The Attributes Of A Self-Absorbed Mother?
All of the above qualities are those of a mature mother with normal, healthy maternal nurturing instincts, a woman who is selfless, validates and loves her children unconditionally. She parents her kids with empathy and attunes into their inner emotional life as she prepares them for independent living when the time comes for them to leave the nest. A narcissistic mother, on the other hand, is the antithesis of the mother I described above. She presents with the following criteria: –
(1) She has a grandiose sense of self-importance.
(2) She is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, beauty, or ideal love.
(3) She believes that she is special and can only be understood by high status people.
(4) She require excessive admiration.
(5) She has a sense of entitlement.
(6) She is interpersonally exploitative and takes advantage of others to achieve her goals.
(7) She lacks empathy.
(8) She is envious of others, and believes that others are envious of her.
(9) She shows arrogant behaviour.
The narcissistic mother is a mother who, instead of nurturing her children, is self-centred and mainly focused on herself. Rather than taking care of herself, the narcissistic mother expects to be taken care of and therefore expects her children to respond to her needs, and make her feel like a real mother that is lovable, the best Mum ever. It is their job to hold the spotlight on her and keep her centre stage. Unfortunately, she does not trust her children or believe in their essential goodness. She is brittle, controlling, does not observe boundaries, never apologises or remembers her inappropriate behaviour, needs to be always right, will fly into rages at the speed of lightening, and project that anger onto her children. She frightens and upsets her children, and discourages their independence. She needs to be the centre of attention and is jealous or resentful if the children get attention from others. Her children are mere objects who represent her and show her in good light, but at the same time, she is envious of their accomplishments, gifts and talents. Her punishment is inconsistent and punitive, and she often uses the threat of abandonment to control them. All of this craziness serves to confuse her children and undermine their self-esteem. Of course, to the outside world everything is perfect, but behind closed doors, the child is exposed to the horror of a mother with a personality disorder. Where a narcissistic father is concerned with performance, the narcissistic mother’s emphasis is on appearance.
Therefore, if you are the child of a narcissistic mother, or if you are a therapist working with the adult child of a narcissistic mother, then you need to understand that you are dealing with the behaviour of a mother who acts from a different set of criteria than the healthy mother. As you can imagine, this disordered kind of parenting creates significant emotional damage to the child. Generally speaking, children of narcissistic mothers grow up insecure because they have not had their value mirrored back to them in a healthy way. Because they have always had to look after the mother’s needs, they become over responsible for everything; they go on to act out this behaviour in all their future relationships. Usually, they tend to be unaware of their needs and feelings, always putting others before themselves. When they do put themselves first, they are filled with guilt, worrying that they are inherently insensitive or selfish, and this makes them feel anxious, or even worthless. They become consummate “pleasers” and work hard to cater to other’s demands. They always take the blame for any interpersonal problems in their relationships. All of their adaptions are unconscious; therefore, they are unaware of their behaviour. However, they are the ones likely to be found in the therapy room, because they consider they are responsible for fixing themselves. So it is vital for therapists to understand how the narcissistic mother operates in the home, and may have contributed to the dysfunctional patterns displayed by the adult before you that is seeking your help.
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My parents married when they were 16 and 18 and spent the rest of their lives being totally self-absorbed and brutally abusive to their children, me being the black sheep. When I was 29 and in the middle of a divorce from an abusive man and trying to raise a 3 year old daughter in a better manner than I was raised. I confronted my parents, asking, “Why can’t you ever be supportive?” They about lost it, accusing me of wanting their money. They barely spent money on their children when we were small, so, no, that’s not what I meant. I stopped talking for a moment, shook my head and turned away, saying, “That explains a lot. You don’t know what being supportive is or how to do it. You are incapable of being supportive.” They were mystified at first, and then went ballistic, and I left. Went home and packed up our things and moved 1,000 miles away.
I’m still dealing with the effects of my childhood at 62, even with therapy. But my daughter appears to be in a happy long-term relationship and was supported enough to get a great education. My father died three weeks ago. I realize I never knew my father. Not one thing about him personally except he like playing cards. My mother has turned into a screaming, selfish, crazy child. Then she learned my father hid all the assets, or that’s her story. She’s driving my siblings crazy. I don’t hate her. I knew her father and he was the same only a male with different ability to cause great harm. Still, if my life lesson was to learn to deal with her, what I learned was to place boundaries and if she crossed them, I just said good bye and left. Though I knew my grandparents for 50 years, I never knew my grandmother. I have no idea what kind of person she was or what she thought or believed. I knew nothing about her though for the first 10 years of my life, she lived across the street.
The narcissist makes the partner a non-person. Saw it in my grandmother and my father. Makes the children feel like non-people. My siblings have never had a honest conversation until three weeks ago because our mother controlled communication. We all are very angry about our childhood. We are all cracked in the head in different ways.
My siblings and I had a short talk. We are all in our 60s. We all feel our lives were greatly harmed and ruined by our parents. What is the purpose of being born to people like this only to end your life with a sense of everything that is important in life was never offered or it was stolen?
I tried to leave as a teenager. Back then, people just returned you to your parents.
Long lasting effects on the children due to their selfishness. Children are not an accessory nor they are to be used to fix a marriage problem.
A Narcissistic mother is worse than a crack head mother. The crack head mother knows what the problem is and at least has a chance to change. The Narcissistic mother will never admit that her behavior is the problem, and will never change. She will let one of her children be successful (golden child) as long as she can be enmeshed and take credit for it. The other child (scapegoat) cannot be allowed to outshine her in any way. It’s too threatening to her control if both children outshine her. She will find ways to sabotage your success without you knowing it was her that went ahead of you and stacked the deck against you. Then she will pretend she was on your side, knowing you were headed for failure. The same thing with any relationships you may have. It can take decades to figure out the things she has done behind your back, you would never expect your mom to behave this way. Thats how she slips past the radar every time. What did you do to deserve this? You existed. that’s all.
You have to decide if your willing to play the role you’ve been assigned. The scapegoat usually is first to recognize the toxic family life, and is first and possibly only one to escape. This could be decades of anxiety, guilt, shame, gaslighting, triangulation, devaluation, manipulation, projection, deflection, denial, and diminishing the narcissist throws at you through out your life, before you figure it all out. When physical issues start to arise, the only way to turn off the anxiety is to get out! They will keep it up if you stick around and let them! “Words can hurt you, it just takes longer and KILLS you!”
I find this conversation so hard because my mother is not overtly mean, in the sense that she is not pitting people against each other…. She does not throw obvious fits when she is disagreed with. But still, she is the most self-centered person I know. There is no line of conversation that she cannot relate to herself, there is no memory or experience that anyone else can have that she can’t match and “top” with one of her own. I have been invisible to her my whole life, and when I have tried to share my gifts with her, she’s turned those moments into something about her. If she is not getting enough attention, she cries (pretending to cry to herself but sniffling loudly until someone notices), saying she’s missing her husband (my father, who died in 2013). I feel guilty for saying it, but I have minimal contact with her and do not want any more. For some reason, this year I’m particularly noticing that this relationship with my mother is not the norm… that most people seem to love their mothers, enjoy their mothers, or miss their mothers. I feel the worst about myself when my mother is around; I would prefer not to talk to her and certainly to not spend any time with her. I’m trying to reconcile the idea that this can be true and that I might also still be a good person. How can both things be true simultaneously? “Good” people do not feel total and utter disdain for their mothers, but I do. The way other people are with their mothers – loving, kind, generous, open, appreciative of their mothers- all of these things are completely foreign to me. I wonder if I’m a monster, but I feel all of these warm feelings towards my husband and children so I know I’m capable of feeling them. It is confusing and sad.
I’ve grown up with a narcissist mother. When I developed breast cancer in my early 40s, I needed help badly. She promised to see me through it and not to leave until my treatment and surgery was over and we knew I was out of the woods. Somehow she talked me into paying her and my step father, both retired with a pension, $100 per week and giving her full use of my car. At the time I had to take off work without sick time and shit down my business. She stayed in my home and I provided food and all her living expenses were taken care of. Two months into my 9 month chemo schedule she left. She tried to blame me saying she just couldn’t deal with my fearful attitude. The day she left me was one of the worst days of my life. I had a very aggressive form of breast cancer that had went undiagnosed for a long time and my prognosis was unknown. I was suicidally depressed, and having people there who loved me was the only way I was hanging on. Thank the Good Lord and old girlfriend had heard what happened to me and dropped everything in her life to see me through treatment and surgery. The treatment was weekly chemo for 6 months and it was like living through a nightmare. Jill, my friend, was my Angel. The hurt was SO deep when my mother abandoned me I couldn’t even process it. I spoke to my mother on the phone today, 4 years later. She was talking about unconditional love. She said “you know I love you unconditionally, right?”. I said, no, I’m not clear on that. She replied “well, staying with you when you had cancer should prove that”. She failed to mention that I had to pay her, and that she abandoned me!!! She really sees herself as the savior which blows my fucking mind! Further, she hates my friend who came in and actually did stay with me for the next 6 months and saw me through the most of the chemo, surgery, and radiation. Her words were “who the hell does she think she is?” She’s totally jealous of my friend Jill. When I think back, I ask myself how could I allow my self esteem to be so low that I would pay my own mother to help me through stage 3 cancer? And why was I shocked when she left me? Why did I even think I could count on her? My friend Jill is 20 years older than me. I’ve asked God why he couldn’t have given me a mother like Jill? I really don’t know what unconditional love from a parent feels like. As I write this I realize I’ve had to either buy affection or try to earn it my entire life, by over giving or over loving, in a desperate attempt to be “enough”, to be lovable to a woman (my mother) who is so obviously incapable of truly loving her child. I move through life trying to fill this hole. I look to others to help fill it up. But who truly can replace a mother’s love? And how does one ever fully heal if you’ve never had it?? That’s the big question. If you’re reading this and also have an empty hole in your heart that longs for the safe place of a mother’s arms, I’m sorry, you’re not alone…
I have recently become educated in NPD having just left a dangerously abusive man. Upshot is i have realised that ALL my relationships with men have been reflections of my telationship with my Mothet. Mum is ithink a covert narcissist. The quite above : ” Where a narcissistic father is concerned with performance, the narcissistic mother’s emphasis is on appearance ” really resonated with me.I am the only girl of 4 siblings and the youngest too. In spite of acheiving high academic qualifications and good job my mother never refers to this but has always belittled me for my looks (or lack of them). She wanted a little doll to dress up i think not a living being with its own mind. I will never be thin enough pretty enough well dressed enough feminine enough for her. I have terrible self esteem issues and have had 4 long term relationships with abusive men and im convinced its my mothers influence on me since a child. She is shallow, emotionally witholding, spiteful, negative and entitled with no respect for my boundaries at all. My mother uostaged all of us with her constant dramas, attention seeking and incessant barbed comments. We all fled home at 18 and went off in the world and did our own thing. It is only now (shes 89) that im realising ( via talks with brothers) that we all suffered but believed we were the only one who felt this way. Unfortunately I live the nearest to Mum n so have most contact with her but niw her control is lessening due to her age and my sekf education in narcissitic abuse her influence is lessening. Poisonous but weaker. I now see its no coincidence that neither i or 2 of my brothers wanted children of our own and 2 of 3 brothers have had relationship with NPDs. A part if me hates her n wishes shed die…my healing has started though and i can detach more now.
We have 2 grand daughters. Their mom divorced our son. She has created so many false stories and allegations, and has alienated them for the last 7years from the whole side of our family. The oldest is 19 today, and the youngest is 17. When the youngest wanted to see her father but she was threatened– by her mom. “SHE WAS TOLD SHE WOULD NEVER BE HER DAUGHTER ANYMORE AND TO MOVE OUT”.
The oldest tried to commit suicide this Christmas. She says she hates us but we have done nothing but love her! The youngest loves us but is afraid to even contact us, if her phone hasn’t been taken away or blocked from receiving any comm. from our son or anyone in the family. She would be punished.
The court sys. is a joke, besides I think the youngest would be afraid to tell what her mother has really done to her. What are we to do to save their lives? I’m afraid they have Stockholm synd. and are really messed up. HELP!!
Just this week I discovered that I could be the poster boy for NVS. No Money. No friends. But now the INSIGHT is so sweet! Old friends lack of support is forgiven. Money will get you anything you want but nothing you need. Daddy once told me “If you have a problem that money can fix. You don’t have a problem.”
I still have a problem that is unbelievable even to me. Our adult child is being psychologically murdered (never used those words before but they fit.)by ex and her husband. Between 2001 til 2011 my ex blocked child from getting help 5 times. She knew child was sick but told me and DHS she was fine. After an involuntary evaluation in 2011, ex told her not to speak to me or child’s 10 year old child. Child has had no treatment since. Id discuss this by email gut not here.
My mother has always wanted nothing to do with me, she is very much into herself only. I am im my forties now and when I was a teen she met a married man and she is still with him. She only sees him and obeys all his needs and wants to only be around my children and me in a holiday or a birthday until I got sick of that. Then if she does see us , the bf fights with her for days. So I decided to ignore her. She only wants to text and email at certain times and blame why she doesn’t see us is because she works forty hours a week and has five cats which is a excuse. I’ve had it with her. She isn’t friendly there’s she is around and rushes to leave and keeps checking her phone. To ad I’m she only lives fifteen mins away. She uses that as a excuse also . ?
I am an escaped victim of a narcissistic husband and I have just realised – a narcissistic friend who I now work for, I have been manipulated into the position and have ended up running her business whilst she floats around busily being admired on fb for her achievements!
I retreated from the friend zone last year when I realised something was seriously not right and I was becoming very very unwell due to stress, I could not cope running her business single handedly and being involved in all her massive dramas, as at that time we seemed to be in each other’s pockets,
One of her main dramas is her 13 year old daughter who is severely depressed, self harming and attempting suicide, this is still ongoing and the friend is now revelling in the fact that she has a blog and is writing about her journey with her suicidal daughter!
Would you say the effects of the mother has resulted in the actions of her daughter?
I went into pleasing, and have become a victim many more times in the future…I am a narcissist magnet. My sister was like my mum… at this point I have been thinking about moving to Spain with my mother after all family members have drifted away. until today I have been thinking it was a golden opportunity, but now it seems it might be something a whole lot worse than my worst nightmare. with warmth and loving kindness x
Having a narcissistic mother myself, I would encourage to approach the situation with empathy. You have no idea what the mother may be saying to the daughter about you. Narcissistic people have only 2 kinds of people in their life: those that toe the line, or an enemy. You will definitely be in the latter category.
My mom told us all kinds of horrible things about out Stepmom, rewarded us when we made fun of or made her life difficult. She was always pitting us against our step-siblings. Ie…”oh they got better gifts from your father this year” (even though we got from him what we had asked for). She was always saying we couldn’t have things, because our stepmom “bounced the child support check”. Of course, she was always in ample supply of cigarettes and God knows what else.
My stepmom never rose to the occasions, she never once said a bad word about my mother. When my sister and I initiated no contact with my mother, she actually tried to encourage us to talk to her. The old “you only have one mother” line.
In time, I knew exactly what kind of women they both are, and I look back with guilt at the way I treated my stepmom.
Be the better woman, have patience, be always supportive about your stepdaughter’s relationship with both of her parents, never say a bad word about the mother and try not to take any of the abuse personally ( I know it’s hard). However, one day the daughter will come around and love you all the more for it.
Hope this helps you to have peace in your family.
Yes Shannon, without any doubt. Some children learn the best way to survive a narcissistic mother is to identify with them….. where another child will go into “pleasing” in order to stay safe…. and then may end up becoming the victim of another narcissist in the future. Warmest regards. Christine
Could a narcissistic mother raise a narcissistic daughter? For example, my step-daughters. One is exactly like you describe above but the other is just like her mother. Very self-focused, deceptive, and entitled.