The problem with narcissism is that it results from a deep-seated sense of shame and self-loathing. A young child who is developing narcissism will bury what they consider to be a flawed sense of self and replace it with a false ego. They infuse that with grandiose ideas, and they need other people to constantly prop up their self-esteem. That makes them selfish, and they also lack empathy for how their actions affect others.
The cause of narcissism and its resulting symptoms make it very difficult for a narcissist to be a good mother or father. Good mothers are focused on their child’s wellbeing, but the narcissist is unable to focus on anything other than their own needs. They simply can’t be a good parent to anyone.
It’s not possible to know what another person feels in their heart, but if a narcissist loves their children, it often doesn’t seem like it. They treat their children as extensions of themselves rather than growing independent humans. Understanding this is crucial to realizing why a narcissistic mother treats her children the way she does.
Why are Narcissistic Mothers Such Bad Parents?
Narcissism creates a constant need for praise and adulation that overshadows every aspect of the narcissist’s life. Because they have infused their false self-image with grandiose ideas of superiority, they constantly need people to prop up their self-esteem.
The false-image they created is unable to do the work of a real sense of self. The narcissist has no internal support system they can use to either comfort themselves or reinforce inherent feelings of self-worth. That’s why they manipulate and attempt to control other people – so they can get that constant flow of adulation called narcissistic supply.
Typically, a good mother is considered someone who is nurturing and puts her children first over even her own needs. The narcissist has no ability to nurture themself, and they certainly don’t know how to nurture someone else. They usually have never experienced nurturing themselves, and so, they don’t have an understanding of what that looks like.
Moreover, narcissistic mothers see their children as extensions of themselves. This is also why narcissistic mothers will sometimes try to convince their children that they are superior too since they came from such a superior person. Because the narcissistic mother sees her children in this way, she has extremely high expectations for their behavior, and she believes they should be solely focused on pleasing her.
Of course, children are not born with the ability to meet such high expectations, and the narcissistic mother certainly never gives them the tools to do so. That’s why, as psychologist, author, and narcissism consultant Elinor Greenberg notes, “It is difficult for people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder to be good parents—even when they are trying very hard—because their own problems get in the way.”
Is It Worse for Daughters or Sons of Narcissistic Mothers?
While a narcissistic mother harms all of her children, her behavior is particularly caustic for her daughters. Because they are the same sex as their narcissistic mother, daughters are often viewed by her as sources of competition.
Narcissistic mothers are frequently jealous of their daughters and will work to undermine their successes and self-esteem. It’s classic talk of Snow White, whose mother was, in fact, the narcissistic queen in the original version of that story.
Still, narcissistic mothers do plenty of damage to their sons as well. They work to keep them from becoming independent, and in doing so, they often undermine the development of their masculinity. They become the classic ‘mama’s boy.’ As such, they are often unable to make a move in their life without first consulting their mother.
This is exactly what the narcissistic mother wants. Unlike a good mother, she doesn’t want to foster independence in her children. She wants them to stay with her and continue to feed her egoic needs as long as she’s alive.
Without any empathy, the narcissistic mother is unable to see the harm that is done to her own children, and she doesn’t have the ability to care. If her children are unable to break free from her poison spell, they will spend their entire lives trying to please their mother and failing.
When she’s gone, they will struggle with the shame and self-loathing that is her legacy. It can be devastating for them if they don’t recognize the problem and take steps to heal themselves.
How Can You Tell Someone Had a Narcissistic Mother?
There are a number of telltale signs that someone may have had a narcissistic mother. I know that my husband had one, and one of the first things I noticed was that he was very hesitant in making decisions.
Now, everyone is cautious when making big decisions in their lives, but he was cautious even with minor decisions. I could see that he felt the need to consult someone, and initially, he tried to make that someone me.
It took a while to help him build his self-esteem up to the point where he felt confident making his own decisions. I also noticed that when he spoke of his mother, he talked about things she said to him that he seemed to think were completely normal. To me, however, they were horrible statements that I had learned a mother should never say to her children.
I also had a narcissistic mother, so I had to learn what she should have been like had she been a good mother. When I met my husband, he had yet to make those first startling realizations. As I gently called his attention to how different his mother was from what mothers should be, his awareness grew.
Eventually, with the help of a good therapist, both my husband and I were able to learn more about the damage our mothers had done and how to prevent it from happening again in the future. It’s not unusual for children of narcissistic mothers to be unaware of the emotional abuse they’ve endured. How would they know?
Once they do know, however, there are ways to heal that abuse. It means being open and honest with yourself, and then, being willing to confront your narcissistic mother.
What Should You Do When You Realize Your Mother’s a Narcissist?
When you make the realization that your mother is not like other mothers, there are steps you can take to reclaim your life and rebuild your self-esteem. This is often a slow process because it takes time to uncover the extent of the damage.
As you begin to realize the abuse, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to learn about the emotional triggers your narcissistic mother helped create. These result from core beliefs her behavior caused you to adopt about yourself.
When you realize what those are, you can begin to take back control over your own emotions. These triggers are what your mother has used to control you throughout your life. If you get them under control, you can stop her abusive behavior.
Additionally, you’ll want to set and maintain strong personal boundaries. If you will continue being in contact with her – as both myself and my husband opted to do with our mothers – then you will need to make her aware of your boundaries and the violations should she decide to cross them.
If you choose to go no-contact with your mother, which is often the better choice, then you’ll need to break it off cleanly. You’ll also need to find a way to vent your feelings. One good way is to write her letter, and this can even work after she’s deceased. The point is not to keep those feelings pent up inside.
After that, you’ll need to embark on the journey of healing your inner child. It takes a while to heal, but it is completely worth the time and effort.
Children of narcissistic mothers experience a tragic form of emotional abuse. Narcissists simply don’t make good parents because they never experienced good parenting. Their own childhood abuse destroyed their developing sense of self, and that resulted in their narcissistic tendencies. Their children often struggle with the abuse their entire lives, but it is possible to heal if they recognize the problem and take the appropriate steps.
If you have realized that you had a narcissistic mother, this video about the steps you can take to heal your inner child from narcissistic abuse you suffered can help with your recovery. It has important insights that can get you on your way to a happier, healthier life.
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