Tuesday, May 4, 2010

my mother is a narcissist

Mother’s day is fast approaching. It is an ambivalent time of year for me. Since becoming a mother myself a little over three years ago I have come to realise that my own mother is in fact a narcissist. She has been a narcissistic parent for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until I became a mother myself that I began to recognise the nature of her behaviour, its inherent cruelty and the damaging extent and impact that it has had on me as a person.

I moved out of home and interstate when I was seventeen years of age under the guise of going to university – but the choice of an educational institution far away was a means of grasping some room to breathe. Some space to be myself, to separate myself from her so that at least to me I was no longer an extension of herself – it was hard. As long as there is contact between us her claws are in me. My mother is the queen of sulking, guilt, emotional blackmail and passive aggression. She will always get her way.

Following the birth of my first child a very unwanted, but nonetheless essential, emergency c-section my mother’s sulking and criticism began the moment she entered my hospital room. It was awful. Not the uplifting celebration of the birth of my son that I had imagined, dreamed of and longed for so dearly. Instead she sulked and engaged her systems of passive aggression as my partner and I attempted our journey as parents on our own path – rather than hers. This marks the beginning of my awakening. No apology for her behaviour was ever offered – in its place was her at length discussion about the emotional turmoil and hardships of becoming a grandparent. She turned to me to support her through her journey at a time when I really needed a mother of my own.

I have no photos of myself as baby or a child as they belong to her. Apparently she doesn’t have the time to scan them or make some copies. Interestingly however she has had time to scan photos of herself as a baby and email them pointing out the physical resembles between herself and my daughter. Resemblances that don’t exist – my daughter is very much her father’s baby.

There is no reason or time (I am almost a middle aged woman now) to write about all the aspects of my relationship with my mother that have hurt me. The list is too long, it goes back too far and really it serves no greater good. But I do grieve. I am still hurt. And I am still angry.

I am terrified too. Terrified that I will become her. That I will hurt my children too. As time goes on I know that I won’t, that I couldn’t. The silver lining is that she has shown me exactly the mother I don’t want to be.

I am healing. It will take me some time. I limit my contact to her now. It is my only means of defence. At this time of year I feel overwhelmed and confused. I feel guilty too. Guilty because that is how I have been conditioned to feel all my life. Throughout society, on television, in advertising, on blogs, people celebrate their wonderful mothers. I feel guilty and ashamed that I don’t – rather here I am expounding to the world that my mother is indeed a narcissist.

I have however sent her a gift for mother’s day. I suppose mostly because I don’t want her to be complaining to anyone who will listen to her about what a terrible daughter I am. I guess too because I want to make something for my mother – the kind and caring mythical mother that I long for so much – and if I send it then maybe it will happen.

It is in the post now. I think I have made a mistake.


  1. Oh...there is so much I could say...So much I could tell...so much I could share!! One day...one day you will realize that the demons left from her have gone, you would have moved on to another way and found your peace. Happy mothers day to you Mrs Sally. May all your parenting dreams come true and the nightmares disappear into the distance. xxx

  2. My heart goes out to you, reading this post, it could be a post that I could write. I know cause I there right in the thick of it myself. I have cut ties from my mother, but it doesn't stop me from missing what could have been. I remember a line from a song lyric which goes "I'm homesick for the home I never had" and this really hits each Mothers Day (or Christmas Day, birthday etc).
    I hope you have a sweet Mothers Day with lots of hugs.

  3. Thank you so much for opening you heart Sally. With each post you write I feel we have more in common. I know how you feel as you read of all of the loving mother daughter relationships in blog land.
    I am about to embark on my annual quest to find a mothers day card that will say enough to keep me out of “trouble” without being a complete lie….
    I hope that now that your gift is in the mail you can put your mother aside for now and look forward to being adored and loved by your own sweet babies on Sunday.

  4. Thank you for such an open and honest post.
    I wouldn't classify my mother as a narcissistic parent, but we have other issues. I love her, she's my mother, but she's never really been a mother to me, she's been too consumed by her own problems.
    Just like "Chasing Purple Dreams", I too, struggle every Mother's Day to find a card that says more than "Happy Mother's Day", but doesn't gush on about how she's the best mother in the world and is always there for me, blah, blah, blah.
    I doubt your mother (or mine), will ever change. But we can learn from their mistakes and prevent the pattern from repeating with our children.
    I hope you enjoy your Mother's Day with your kids, this Mother's Day is for you!
    Kelly :-)

  5. No doubt that was tough post to write (obviously you aren't expecting her to read it) and came from the heart.
    I guess you have to remember that not everyone is cut out to be a parent and she comes from a generation that if you could have kids, you did.
    I think these things round out and you've probably had other people in your life that have helped fill the void she created. My mum was ill for a long time and died when I was young (17) and I have been extremely fortunate to have people come into my life that have given me love and support. They given it not becuase they had to but because they wanted to.
    I'm not being trite and saying look on the bright side but don't forget to see your other 'mothers' who have given you so much.
    I hope you enjoy YOUR mother's day!

  6. Good on you for putting it out there. Now where's the spot in the card section for Happy Narcissistic Mother's Day? Just goes to show what a super lovely person you are that you sent her a gift anyway. And ofcourse you will not do the same stuff to your own kids.
    Enjoy your Mother's Day!

  7. I had the perfect mother but your post took me straight back to all the fear I knew married to a narcissist. They just don't get it and never will. One wonderful thing your mother did though was to pass on life to you and give you the choice to make a good life for yourself and those around you. I am sure you are doing the best you can. Cherrie

  8. Sally I am so sorry that you don't have the mother that you deserve. The whole subject of mothers brings up a lot for me as you know I don't have one any more. I hope you know that you are not your mother, you are the mother that you want to be.

  9. Oh My goodness Sally, I wish I had the freedom to write this way about my own experiences and thoughts. Suffice to say I could have written most of these words myself and am gasping at the similarity in our stories. If anything like mine it wouldn't matter if you sent the gift or not, what ever you do there will be an issue surrounding it. Hugs to you.

  10. So much love to you Sally. XX

  11. I don't know what to say Sally- I am sorry for what you have been through. My problems with my folks are piddly by comparison. But stay strong, enjoy your Mother's Day with your children and know that you are not your mother.

  12. I'm another one with a mother with issues, although nothing on the scale of yours and last night i wrote a lengthy post about it, but with a bit of a different angle - it's scheduled to post on friday - and a focus on the person in my life who filled that 'mother' role for me. I hope you have someone in your life who helped to fill that role in your life - celebrate them instead, I know I do.

    As others have said, you are not your mother and as your children grow up and thrive under your love and care this will become more and more obvious to you. I hope your family spoils you on Sunday as they celebrate what a wonderful Mother they have in their life.

  13. Sometimes the comment box just doesn't cut it. And it doesn't cut it here. Big hugs to you, sweetie. I have no doubt that twenty years hence you'll be standing proud. Proud in the knowledge that you give being a Mum your best shot - not perfect, (never could be), but filled to the brim with all the important stuff.

  14. You have shared such a lot of yourself, Sally. I hope you are taking good care of yourself during these tough times. I had forgotten all about mothers' day. It sucks the big one for me, too. You know my story.

    I really liked what an almost-mother-in-law once said to me. We owe nothing to the generations past, we only owe to the generations to come. I love that sentiment. Forget those old battle-axes, now it's all about us and our amazing children! Have a happy mothers' day, Sally. There can't be too many better ones than you out there. Honestly.

  15. Sally, so brave to share so honestly, which helps make your blog both real and beautiful. I hope that you find healing as you become the mother that you never had and as your realise the amazing legacy you are passing on to your children. Trace xx

  16. That someone so self-aware, humble and outward-focussed can be the product of a narcissist is a wonderful miracle Sal. Love to you... and I say good on you for choosing to go ahead and 'honour your mother' with a gift anyway, even though she has failed you badly. It won't ever change her or cause her to repent of all the crap she's loaded on you; rather it speaks volumes about your own character.

  17. i think we all have areas of conflict with our mothers at different times and in different ways. i think that you are to be congratulated and admired for having the clarity and ability to express your amazing insight into the truth of your relationship with a woman who has done so much for herself and so little for you. be proud and glad that you have not fallen into the trap of playing her game but have instead had the integrity to take the bad lessons and turn them into a strength by resolving not to be that mother. your cup is indeed half full.

  18. Oh Darling Sal I had mega mother issues too! You've got me reaching for the tissues as I read your brave and honest post over again. Darling you'll never be her.
    My lifelong quest was to never let history repeat and my girls will verify I succeeded. I understand exactly, totally exactly, everything you write - the searching for that card year after year was a brain drain. Nothing I ever did was right yet I sought approval right till mine died in 2001. In her last days I'd graduated with a degree and when I took the photo's to show her I finally saw that glimmer of pride I'd waited so long to see. Doing my degree was a saviour in many ways. I learnt to be objective, I learnt to look deeper. I finally sought the reason as to why she was like she was - and found it. If you can get the opportunity to understand why, the loathing diminshes! The hurt never goes away, but understanding why she was like she was gave me back my sanity. From the bottom of my heart Sal I hope you can find this one day too.
    I'm sure your Mothers Day will be bursting with LOVE that your new and beautiful generation brings. You're a wonderful woman Sal, it's her loss, she'll not have one iota of what she's missing. That's her loss and definitely not your problem. Do yourself a massive favour ... cut that cord now, you will never get what you want. Please go through the motions for the sake of your own cherubs at least till they're old enough to make their own opinions of her. Don't let them hate you for depriving them of their Grandma. My girls worked it all out for themselves eventually.
    OMG I so want to give you a massive HUG ;) xoxo

  19. Thank you for sharing with us your feelings because as hard as it must have been please know that we will all be thinking of you on Mother's Day and that you enjoy the day for the wonderful mother that you are to your children. I understand your feelings towards your mother, I too have an interesting relationship with mine. Sometimes it makes me sad and sometimes so mad but I will try my best to do things differently with my girls so they always feel wanted and special to me. Take care and I hope you have a wonderful celebration of you being a great Mum to your little ones. xo

  20. Sal my dear friend, you are nothing like your mother and you never will be, you are the most caring, earthy, healthy, grounded, helpful, inspiring and funny mother/partner/friend I have come across. I look up to you as a parent, you are so engaging, you encourage your kids to the max, you support them and their endeavors, you love them wholeheartedly and you are happy to show it to the world and most importantly you are strong enough and confident enough in yourself to let them do their own thing. You are you and you are great! Happy Mothers Day.

  21. Thanks for sharing this difficult part of your life with us. Your honesty is so appreciated. It's not fair that you had to endure this as a child and as an adult. Not fair at all. Hope you enjoy Sunday as you celebrate your role as mother with your little family. xo

  22. I feel deep thanks for your sharing this with us. Being so open and honest is a wonderful thing - hopefully good for you to expel the negative energy. It is hard in our society to talk about relationships that aren't the "perfect norm".

    I do hope that the gift you sent your mother is received with a tiny amount of humble-ness. Perhaps somewhere she got herself caught up in this way of being, and doesn't know how to change - perhaps, perhaps this offering from you may help to change her.

    You seem a strong woman, with a warm, honest and giving heart - your children are nourished by who you are. Perhaps one day you will find just one beautiful aspect of who your mother is and you will see that in yourself - one tiny thing that peacefully connects you.

    I wish you a beautiful Mother's Day, being pampered and loved unconditionally (guilt free) by your children.

  23. Thanks for such an open and honest post Sal. You will never become her - of this I am sure.
    I hope that Mother's Day is not spoiled by a terrible call of 'thanks' from your mum, but rather one that makes you think you did the right thing in sending a gift.
    Take care.

  24. Wow, so similar! Your title drew me in and I'm not sure if you will see this comment as it is an old post but I have learnt thru trial and error and now have a sort of relationship with my mother. I have accepted that it will never be close and it is not as hollywood depicts that it should be but if I put up the boundaries and stick to them it works. She can't hurt me unless I let her and I have a choice as to how I react to her thoughtless comments. I also know that as a mother myself just being aware is breaking the cycle. Stick to your guns and remember that you are aware so the pattern is not being repeated. Even if we do sometimes sound like our mothers we see that and help our kids deal with it differently so that they themselves are not passing on the pattern. Mothers day for me is no longer about my mother although she is in my thoughts its about making it special for my kids and letting them and my husband spoil me and enjoy the nice feelings that that brings. :-) My mother was only doing the best that she could in the moment as we all try to do....

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  26. Sal, the only thing I can say, is if you're thinking about the fear of becoming "like your mother"; chances are...you're not a narcissist, and you never will be one. Your fear will keep you from becoming the parent your mother was. I know, I'm the son of a narcissist and I have had her claws in me for a long time now. I've now learned to "manipulate" her in return to get what I want...so that I can "finally be free" of her. My sanity and that of my family are of utmost importance and I'm planning on cutting ties as soon as our financial leverage is such that we can make the break. In the meantime, we just have to keep hoping that there's a future out there. Sal, it may be that you have to cut ties with your mother entirely for your own sanity. Here's wishing you hope and happiness; for you, your husband and your little baby daughter. There's light at the end of this tunnel of being a victim of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.


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