A narcissistic mother is a parent with narcissistic personalty disorder who is “psychologically constructed to garner attention, be it from charisma, beauty, smarts, or finance.” 1In this definition, there exists a catch. When the world views a charismatic, attention-seeking woman- and chances are she will be in a powerful position for all to admire, such as a lawyer, judge, head of the PTO, etc. – the family witnesses the other, unpolished side of the coin.
Children of narcissistic parents go through their lives feeling confused and lost, and in search of love they never received from home. They expect their mothers to nurture and support them, but when they are dealing with narcissistic mothers, they aren’t given the love and support that healthy parents provide. The signs of a narcissistic mother are not always easy to spot, but once known, there are ways to deal with the situation.
15 Traits of a Narcissistic Mother
Do you suspect you have a narcissistic mother? The signs are not always easy to spot, and some well-intentioned, but misguided parenting can be misconstrued as narcissistic. Narcissistic mothers share these traits:
They like to keep control
They like to have complete control over all aspects of their children’s lives, from friends, to music, to clothes, and habits. Manipulation is their game, and they play it well. They use guilt trips through emotional blackmail to make their kids dance to their music.
“You need to take computer science if you are going to amount to something- not waste your time in that art class!”
They divert the conversation to center on themselves
Their children may be trying to communicate a problem at school or an issue with friends, but their mothers will take control and change the direction of the conversation to focus on themselves.
The child may start talking about how sad they are because their friend is moving away and suddenly find themselves off topic: “Mackenzie is fine, but when I was your age I had a dozen of friends and my best friend and I roomed together in college…”
They get angry when things don’t go their way
They lose temper quite easily and they always throw the blame at their children and others, instead of acknowledging that they may be the problem. Their children and spouses tend to tiptoe around certain subjects in fear of releasing the dragon’s wrath.
“That check never arrived. You didn’t put it in the mailbox, did you? It’s your fault!” They place blame- never shoulder it.
Ironically, they care what people think about them
They go out of their way to make themselves look good in public, at the expense of their children and spouses.
Before the public outing, the family will hear: “Don’t you dare forget to say “please” and “thank you” to my boss. Fix your hair. It’s a rat’s nest!” Once out with her boss: “My Jimmy received the Presidential Medal! I’m so glad I made him do those sit-ups everyday and pushed him all the way.” She turns her child’s victory into hers so that she will look good.
It’s all about them!
Narcissists are self-centered and they feel the entire world should revolve around them. The moment they come in the door, they expect everyone to come running. They feel they are the most important member of the family instead of being one of the team.
“I’m home! Someone help me with these bags. I am so tired. I worked such a long day. I- I -I.” They forget to ask anyone else about their day.
They carry grudges
This last for a long time. If someone slights them or doesn’t do what they think should be done, or chooses a different lifestyle choice, they harbor the resentment for a very long time. The recipient will receive the cold-shoulder or find themselves disinherited for a slight that happened years ago that anyone else would have forgiven and forgotten.
“Well, I picked Frances to inherit my business because she never abandoned her mother for four years!’ “But mom, I was in the army!”
They use love to reward and punish.
Narcissistic mothers know that the most powerful weapon over their children is their love. They don’t often part with it, and when their children receive it, it’s usually in full public view to make them look good. However, they withdraw their affection as punishment for when their kids fall short- which, in their eyes, is often the case.
“You are my favorite child now…”
They treat others as their servants.
The child of a narcissistic mother will often act as a personal slave in hopes of catching a sliver of affection.
“Get me a glass of water and grab those grapes while you’re at it. Put a pot on for the spaghetti.” The list become endless, and leaves the child feeling like Cinderella.
They are in competition with their children.
The boundaries between child and parent become blurred. This can happen with narcissistic mothers who feel their beauty and sexuality are being challenged by their adolescent daughters.
“You’re going to a school dance? Well I’m going to a real dance at a night club!”
They find constant fault in their children and compare them with other “perfect” kids.
Their unreasonable expectations set the bar too high for any child.
“Can’t you be more like John? He always says ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and holds the door for me.” or “Allie gets straight A’s, is on the Honor Role and is captain of the cheer squad. Why can’t you be like her?” Chances are, if John or Allie were their children, they wouldn’t be good enough either!
Their children live in an emotionless void
Children raised by a narcissistic parent grow up missing the nurturing love they should have received. They feel little or no emotional attachment or closeness to their parent- only confusion. The years of manipulation take their toll.
Narcissistic mothers lack empathy
Because they are so super-focused on themselves, they are unable to sympathize with their children or their children’s plights. They are blind when it comes to seeing situations from their children’s viewpoint.
“I see a “D” on your report card. A “D” is unacceptable. I don’t care what you have to say.”
They have low self-esteem
Their grandiose, supermom act is an empty facade hiding the fact that they suffer from low self-confidence. Though they won’t let the world see them crumble, their children see the other side, and often have to pick up the pieces and deal with their bouts of depression.
They never want to let you go
All parents know their kids will grow up and leave the nest. It may be painful, but they can accept this fact of life. However, a narcissistic mother will hold on to her child as long as possible- even into adulthood to maintain control. She will use every tactic in the book to make them feel dependent on her. “You can’t leave me. You need me!” The truth is that narcissistic moms need their children and their full attention!
How Their Children Are Affected
Children of narcissistic mothers often deal with a roller coaster of childhood emotions. Sapped of a carefree youth, they spend their time trying to please or appease their mothers, sometimes walking on eggshells so as not to invoke anger from the one person who should be providing them with unconditional love and boosting their self-confidence.
Instead, their highly-judgmental parent pokes at all their faults, criticizes their choices, and manipulates their childhood to suit their own needs. They will be accused of being ungrateful. They will be told, “It’s my way or the highway.” They will feel they aren’t enough, and for narcissistic mothers they never will be.
These children will spend the rest of their lives, desperate for a love they never received- an approval that didn’t happen. Some will turn to therapy for help, others will unwittingly seek out narcissistic partners subconsciously feeling that if they can “fix” that relationship they will be able to “fix” the one with their mothers, and still others may become narcissistic parents themselves, continuing the cycle.
Breaking Free from a Narcissistic Mom
If you feel that you are dealing with a narcissistic parent, you can learn ways to cope. If you visit your friend’s houses and are able to view other family dynamics, chances are you’ll realize something is wrong. That sliver of enlightenment can set you free.
- Avoidance: Choose not to be goaded into situations and caught in uncomfortable encounters by avoiding the perpetrator. It may take evasive actions worthy of a spymaster, but it is possible.
- Maintain privacy: Living with a narcissistic mother can sap the energy from anyone. Maintain a personal space where you can escape the drama and find peace, whether it’s your own room or Grandma’s house.
- Seek outside support: Sometimes you need to talk with someone who will actually listen, be it the guidance counselor, a therapist, or a relative.
Adults may still find themselves under their mother’s influence, but as an adult you have far more options available:
- Therapy. You may need to talk to a professional. Narcissistic parents can emotionally wreck their children, and cause them to unconsciously seek out equally damaging narcissistic partners. Consider getting professional help.
- Distance. Sometimes the best avoidance is distance. You may find you have to move away to remove yourself from your narcissistic mother’s manipulations. It’s easier to put down a phone to end a conversation than to walk from a room.
- Choose not to follow suit. Just because parent acts in a certain way doesn’t mean you have to as well. If you see the problem for what it is- a personality disorder- you can choose to break the cycle by not becoming a narcissistic parent.
- Didn’t receive love or praise in your childhood? Hug your kids every day and shower them with affection. Tell them that you love them and leave no doubts in their minds about that love. Be the parent of your dreams.