Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers

by Michelle Piper

The road is long and winding for the daughter of a narcissistic mother. Many twists and turns along the way, with no light guiding her. She may feel lost, not knowing which direction she should turn due to lack of guidance and without the proper care and nurturing for her to be able to find her way. Yes, it is true, being the daughter of a narcissistic mother, the route on the road to recovery is not an easy one. But, once you find your way, there is light at the end of the narcissistic tunnel.

The daughter of a narcissistic mother has been psychologically abandoned and abused since very early on in life. Whether she was the golden child or the scapegoat (most likely the scapegoat), she was not given the tools to become an authentic individual. She was made to be an extension of her narcissistic mother and play by the rules her mother has created. She was made to be a carbon copy of her narcissistic mother.

When a narcissistic mother wants the daughter to be a copy of herself, she wishes to use the child as a source of narcissistic supply. Perhaps there’s something she feels she wasn’t able to do in her youth that she expects you to do in yours, or maybe you’re blamed for stealing her life when you were born. Whatever the reason, she feels you “owe her” to be an extension of herself.

Children are naturally and innately dependent on their primary caregiver from birth and the narcissistic mother intends to keep the child dependent on her for as long as she possibly can in order to enjoy a sense of control throughout the child’s entire lifetime. Often, inheritance and financial favors are used by narcissistic parents to manipulate their children throughout their lifespan. The narcissistic mother expects her child to put her needs first, no matter how she treats you, your children or your significant other.

A narcissistic mother wants complete and total control over her daughter’s life, especially when the daughter is at the point in life when she wants to establish independence and autonomy. Her narcissistic mother will sabotage her daughter’s freedom any chance she can. She is ruthless and relentless.

Having children is seen by narcissistic mothers as the perfect answer to the desire to have a captive narcissistic supply. Unfortunately, the narcissistic mother often gets overwhelmed by the natural demands of a child. Parenthood intensifies the NM’s abusive behavior and the child may then be blamed for the narcissistic mother’s inadequacies or failures. Sadly, many DONM’s are further betrayed by a father that enables the narcissistic mother’s abuse.

She yells at you? It’s your fault.
She hit you? You stressed her out.
She ignored you? You didn’t approach her in the right way.

But, you were an innocent child, not a “mini-me” of the narcissistic mother. A child is born perfectly imperfect, with the need to be protected, accepted, sheltered and nurtured. Answering these normal biological needs are seen by narcissistic parents as favors, not a precious duty, if given at all.

Narcissistic mothers want their child to do what they want, how they want it and when they want it. Many readers of this blog have experienced an “engulfment-abandonment cycle” where the mother engulfs, through boundary-less or abusive behavior, then abandons them when confronted or when something is more interesting to the parent than the child.

As these daughters grow up and become independent beings away from their mothers in order to one day make a life for themselves, select their own choices, and be functioning people in society, the narcissistic parent struggles to retain control. She will continue to force her child into whatever role provides her the most narcissistic supply, such as the blamed scapegoat, the forgotten lost, the falsely empowered golden, or the enmeshed and parentified child.

Because of being the same gender, daughters of narcissistic mothers are especially vulnerable to being seen by mom as a copy of herself. The narcissistic mother can therefore believe she may do as she pleases, physically and emotionally, when it comes to her daughter. She may expect her child to pursue the life partner she chooses. In this case, she wants the daughter’s significant other to be the most prestigious reflection of her genetic material’s potential.

A narcissistic mother will attempt to destroy her daughter’s romantic relationships so she can keep her child around for longer or if she doesn’t see the mate as being a fit counterpart. She will flirt with her daughter’s significant other, spread lies, and manipulate in order to keep her daughter all to herself and retain the narcissistic supply.

Daughters of narcissistic mothers are shocked and saddened to catch their mothers lying directly to her own children or spouse. Narcissistic moms try to cause break ups, doing whatever she can to get her daughter back to only having one person in her life: her narcissistic mother.

Sons of narcissistic mothers aren’t immune to being objectified in similar ways by their narcissistic mother, but they may experience less blatant “copy of herself” behavior, like that of buying similar clothes, for instance. Often the narcissistic mom will see your partner alternately as competition or an ally to be manipulated against you. Your well meaning spouse may not understand they’ve a narcissistic mother-in-law and fall prey to her plea for help when you’ve set a boundary and your narcissistic parent is trying to get around it.

Daughters of narcissistic mothers can become enraged as mom refuses to see them as their own person and are therefore not treated as such. Conversely, the daughter of a narcissistic mother may not realize this is happening and thus continue to become completely enmeshed with the narcissistic parent.

There are different ways narcissistic mothers keep their daughters dependent on them to maintain this source of narcissistic supply. Below are two common tactics of the narcissistic parent.

Parentification: The narcissistic mother expects her daughter to take care of her when it should be the other way around. The daughter is made to feel responsible for the mother’s physical and emotional needs. These needs can range from an unfair share of cooking and cleaning to playing therapist while her mother talks about her relationships, sex life, and other issues. These are much bigger roles than any child should have to take on, but a narcissistic mother does not care. She only cares about her own wants and needs.

Infantilization: Never being allowed to explore her own autonomy, her daughter is kept vulnerable, naive, and scared of the world and being on his or her own. A narcissistic mother will brainwash her child into thinking the world is a cruel place in which one would never be able to survive on one’s own. This leads a child to never feel safe and fear leaving the support of the narcissistic mother, even though they may be miserable.

Both of these tactics, along with numerous other ploys, are how narcissistic mothers try to make their daughter into a clone, a copy of themselves for their own twisted satisfaction. If a daughter of a narcissistic mother tries to gain any sort of independence, it is met with rage and tactics meant to keep the child in her control, terrified of what the narcissistic mother might do if boundaries are enforced or even requested.

Daughters of narcissistic mothers keenly feel the trouble mom has in setting boundaries between the two of them. This can result in the child having psychological symptoms like “dissociating” in order to have a mental if not physical break from the narcissistic abuse.

Daughters of narcissistic mothers can also convey their distress through physical symptoms, especially at a preverbal age. Unexplained physical symptoms such as stomach aches, headaches, and muscle twitches or spasms are common non-verbal expressions of anxiety.

Narcissistic enmeshment continues into the adulthood of the daughter. The narcissistic mother will try to intrude on personal relationships, marriage, and child rearing of her child’s kids. As a narcissistic mother-in-law, she will tell her child that his or her partner’s healthy desires for privacy or boundaries are abnormal or manipulative.

Even in death, the narcissistic parent can try to control their daughters, daughter’s children and spouses from the grave by using the assets of their will and their distribution as yet another way to pit the siblings against one another. Pitting people against one another in this way is a toxic narcissistic behavior called splitting.

Sons of narcissistic mothers often are badgered by mom’s incessant desire to control their interactions with their own partners and can feel put in the middle between a mom “who means well” but is intrusive. The narcissistic mother “means well” only for herself. In the case of a narcissistic mother or mother-in-law this is, again, her inability to see her child as separate from herself. She tries to possess the child instead of support the child’s independence with love.

With an engulfing narcissistic mother, it can be very hard to get rid of her. It is important not to buy into her lies, intimidations, and manipulations. Don’t give in to her gaslighting or when she tries to tell you that you won’t be anything without her. Don’t be emotionally blackmailed by your narcissistic parent, your time is too precious.

Gain your own financial, physical, and emotional independence from her and do your best to enforce low contact or no contact (although, no contact is extremely difficult with these kinds of narcissistic mothers.) Involve the authorities if you need to or feel you’re in any danger. Protect yourself first. Set firm limits and be strong when enforcing them.

Our community is full of those who work hard to leave the old narcissistic family system. The battles a daughter of a narcissistic mother (DoNM), must fight in order to gain this hard won independence often costs time and tears. Both sons and daughters of narcissistic mothers deserve well earned peace and freedom.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Ashley January 16, 2017 at 9:00 am

I’m in my early 20’s and just recently figured out that my mother is a narcissist. I’ve honestly always known something was not right with our family relationship but I never could quite put my finger on it. With everything having to be her way and ignoring me and my dad for days at a time if we didn’t do exactly what she wanted. She never listens to me when I say things unless it has something to do with her in some way. My brother is the golden child and can literally never do anything wrong. Even when he does mess up she has never ignored him for days at a time like she has done with me and my dad. I don’t know how to properly express my feelings and I let them build and build until about once a month I just break down and cry over the smallest things. I can’t get close to people every time I try to open up to anyone I end up just feeling dumb. What really was the last straw was over New Years I had a legitimate emotional break down. She had been ignoring me for about 4 days at this point just throwing passive aggressive looks and comments my way and when I confronted her about what I had done to make her so angry she would just tell me to leave her alone and that she didn’t want to talk about it. I just broke down and I sat in my car before work and cried for about 20 minutes until she finally realized I never left. I stupidly tried to explain to her about how sad and lonely I had been feeling for about the past year and her only words of advice were ” I know you hate your life but it’s not my fault. If you want to hate me to be able to get through life then by all means you can.” I felt like I got slapped in the face and in all honesty I wished she would have cause that probably would have hurt less. Even just this morning she lost something she bought this past weekend and spent the whole morning yelling and slamming doors and cabinets looking for it ultimately blaming me for taking and hiding it from her just to aggravate her. Saying things like I’m a stranger and she doesn’t know me anymore but that’s just because I’m not falling for her tricks or games and I’m starting to stand up for myself. The only thing is that I still live at home and I’m partially financially dependent on her which is what I’m working on this year to move out. That is the only way I am ever going to be able to lead a normal life to not be constantly under thumb. I don’t really have anyone in my life I can talk to about this and it is still new to me. If anyone would have any advice I would be greatly appreciative! I am so glad pages like this exists cause it really does make me feel less alone.

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Mel February 19, 2017 at 3:25 pm

In most cases when out family is like this we cannot ever count on them to offer real support or empathy. It is healthy to keep learning about NPD and connecting with people who actually care, feel empathy, and consistently support us getting strong

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Mel February 19, 2017 at 3:28 pm

In most cases when out family is like this we cannot ever count on them to offer real support or empathy. It is healthy to keep learning about NPD and connecting with people who actually care, feel empathy, and consistently support us getting strong. This isn’t about us. Regardless of how they may treat different people or be “nice” sometimes, it is their nature. Best wishes.

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Joanna January 17, 2017 at 2:51 pm

Ashley, I have just read your comment and I also felt less alone with my problem. These very hurtful words you heard from your mother make me think of things she has sometimes said to me, of her attempts to convince me that I was unhappy and taking out my frustrations on her … I am much older than you – in my mid-30s – and I live on my own, but I often feel that my mother does not want to accept the fact that I am an adult.

My brother is the golden child, too, and he is always ready to defend my mother. Like your mother, she is quite a bossy person who loves having things the way she wants … And I really hate the fact that she clearly thinks that she has the right to feel and express contempt for other people (unless they are people she really likes). I sometimes feel horrible during my phone conversations with her because of her cold contempt for people she does not even know and her condescending attitude towards me (when she talks about my personal life, she often makes me feel like a complete failure !).

It’s great that you have realized that your mother is behaving in a very toxic way – the mainstream message is that mothers are always wonderful and loving and I am so fed up with it ! Achieving financial independence and moving out is crucially important, but it’s not enough – I have been financially independent for many years and live on my own, but my mother does not want to treat me like an adult (I guess that her attitude would be different if I had a husband …)

I think that you should really try to find a friend to whom you could talk about your life and problems – a friend who does not think that all mothers are wonderful. When you find the right kind of friend, you will not feel dumb while talking about your mother … I fully understand you because many people assume that my mother has good intentions etc. (though the truth is that she can be very condescending or spiteful to me) and I feel so completely misunderstood when they say such things !

I really hope that your mother will never again be able to make you feel miserable. You have done absolutely nothing wrong to her – you really sound like a kind and gentle person. The fact that she said cruel things to you after you told her that you had felt sad and lonely speaks volumes about her. And of course she portrays herself as the victim of a “bad” daughter ! (My mother often does exactly the same).

Another advice: please do watch the movie “Now, Voyager” (you can watch it even on YouTube) – it is partly about a very toxic mother-daughter relationship and you will probably find it helpful and uplifting.

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Abha February 5, 2017 at 8:21 am

Dear Joanna and Ashley, I am much older than both of you- I shall be 50 this year. I am not trying to be dramatic, but my heart cried while reading your comments. Keep at it-Believe me, it is possible to become your own person and be happy about who you are and what you decide to do. For the first 30 years of my life, I was completely under her thumb… I had no self esteem,had relationship issues and was completely scared of a confrontational situation. Thankfully, my husband’s support and understanding,helped me to ‘grow up’ literally, and now I look back to find my own family to be my greatest allies. As mentioned on different websites, my mother did try to poison my kids’ minds against me, and has recently begun telling my husband that he is too indulgent towards me. Even though I am aware and stronger now, every time I chat with her over the phone, she succeeds in making me feel inadequate and sad-I guess I am a work in progress 🙂 She doesn’t like that I don’t visit her, and refrain from telling her stories from my present life.I am Indian, and therefore have an issue with breaking contact with her, but it hurts me that my brother, who she adores, feels that I am not giving her the attention and respect she deserves.My best wishes for both of you. Please know that God resides in you and you have the power to heal yourself

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Sarah February 11, 2017 at 11:21 pm

Ashley,

I can relate in many ways. I am 21 and figuring out that my mother is a narcissist. My father and two sisters are completely brainwashed and the more I realize the true dynamics of my family, the more I am ostracized.

The main thing making life difficult is that I live with them and I am also partially financially dependent on them. But the more I make big strides towards becoming independent, the more she tries to tear me down.

My grades have continually gotten better each semester of college, I have my best job so far and I’m working extra hours and I’ve also started to work out more. Well, the more I do this, the more backlash I get.

“Why are you never home? Hmm you’ve been spending an AWFUL lot of time at the library, gym, etc…” that’s her favorite phrase. Whenever I do something for a longer time than she sees fit, it’s an “awful” long time.. the more I try to better myself the more suspicious and controlling she gets.

I always get a look or negative comment whenever I say I’m going anywhere. She always needs to know where I’m going and for how long. And even when I’m home I’m constantly monitored.. I will go in the kitchen to get food and I hear her downstairs pause the TV. Once I leave the kitchen and am out of hearing range, she turns it back on. Every time. If I leave for school or work a little early it’s “where are you going?” Heaven forbid I change my shoes before I come home and it’s “aren’t you supposed to wear white shoes at work?”

I am 21 years old… I am making great progress in my life and she acts as though I am a sneaky teenager, but I have never been caught doing anything wrong because well, I dont.

I have my life together, but the only time it feels like it’s falling apart is when my mother closes in on me to the point I can’t breathe.

I can hardly take the microscope I live under. I’m blamed for not spending enough time with the family and when I do, they ignore me and watch tv. Im trying to move out asap but the more I look back on my years in the workforce, the more I see the manipulation they’ve used to keep me in their financial clutches. I am now trying to dig myself out of a hole.

It’s a long confusing and difficult process.

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Dominique March 5, 2017 at 7:57 pm

I am in my late twenties and still living with my mother. I few years ago I was seeing a therapist who told me my mother was a narcissist. I couldn’t believe it and I didn’t until one day recently, I searched “will I ever be good enough for my mother?” There it was, plain as day….what he had told me all along. The reason I still live at home, the reason why she is jealous, or always saying things like “if I wasn’t around or wait until I die” it all makes perfect sense. Just tonight, I was out and forget to do a chore, of course when she wanted it done, and boy did she do her normal routines of: “I see who’s more important” and now she isn’t speaking with me….simply because I didn’t do something on HER time, before she got home. Needless to say, when she did let me know I forgot, I ran home and did the chore immediately as to avoid conflict, but that didn’t work either. It’s always about her since I was younger. I couldn’t try out contact lenses because they didn’t work for her but when I was finally 22 years old, at the time, I was able to get them on my own. Another thing she does is constantly criticize my weight. I diet, lose weight and she tells me I am too skinny. Then, I recently gained a lot of weight and I am constantly reminded about how fat I am. It’s a constant cycle of tiptoeing or bowing down. It’s exhausting.

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Pam March 9, 2017 at 6:44 am

My mother is Narcissistic. I am nearly 58 and my brother would have been 59 (he died 5 months ago aged 58). My brother was the golden boy, the rising star, and he was very talented and popular, his downfall was drink. He died of liver failure in my arms. My mum has ALWAYS controlled me ALL my life and I have had many many rows with my husband over her. After all she’s my mum she must be right. Now she’s in a care home and is vile to everyone there, no friends and no visitors. My brother was unemployed and broke, no heating and no food, I spent as much money on him as I could afford, when that ran out (hubby doesn’t know) he wen tot our mum who refused to help him. When he was dying my auntie went to tell her and she asked where was I, to which my auntie responded, working all day, then finishing work, going to his flat to spend an hour with his kitty as it was a heatwave, then sitting at his bedside until 11.00pm until he finally died in my arms after 4 long hard weeks. Mums responses good so she should its her duty. Not a tear did she shed when he died, only when she thought she would get the “oh poor Rose has lost her son” response. I am really struggling with this loss as my brother and I were very close and he was my go to person. I am feeling scared and very very lonely.

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