Narcissistic Mother, Lost Child, Scapegoat & Golden Child

by Michelle Piper

Two broad categories of narcissistic mothers are the engulfing narcissistic mother and the ignoring narcissistic mother.

When you are engulfed, you are often put in the golden child role or the scapegoated role.  When you are ignored you may be in the lost child role or, again, the scapegoated role.  Sometimes, the narcissistic mom will switch between the styles. Below is a brief description of both.

Engulfing narcissistic mother: Even though an engulfing mother pries into your business, never leaves you alone, and believes you are an extension of her, at least it can show she might care.

As for an ignoring narcissistic mother, she is the complete opposite.

Ignoring narcissistic mother: She shows no interest in you and makes it apparent you’re not loved by her. You were never paid attention to by her and although she was physically there, there was no sense of emotional attachment whatsoever.

In fact, it might have seemed she was even annoyed that you were around, jealous of you soaking up any attention she believed she deserved.

If your narcissistic mother was of the ignoring variety, chances are she didn’t pay much attention to you when you were younger.

You were forced to care for yourself and were in charge of your own grooming, bathing, eating, and clothing habits. As a child, that is a lot to handle, especially if you were never taught how to properly care for yourself.

She may not have payed attention to what was going on in your life. If you got good grades, it went unnoticed. If you won the spelling bee, scored the game winning goal in your soccer game, or sold the most cookies in girl scouts, she didn’t even blink in your direction.

If those accomplishments did not benefit her, she didn’t care. If it was not all about her, then forget about it.

It can be seen as both a blessing and a curse to have an ignoring narcissistic mother.

Though you are hurt by her inattention, her emotional or physical absence can feel like a welcome respite in contrast to the engulfing narcissistic mother who is demanding of you and always in your business.

If she ignores you, then you don’t have to worry as much about her trying to take over all aspects of your life.

Both types of narcissistic mother can be abusive emotionally, but at least if you decide to cut off contact with her, chances are she will let you go, which is often better for you in the long run.

Either extreme can be exhausting, emotionally damaging, and take a major psychological toll on you.

The thing that can drive anyone crazy is having a narcissistic mom who believes she is a great mother. In her mind, she is doing all the right things and makes you feel ungrateful for questioning her parenting.

In fact, she may even think that she is better than most moms at what she does and that it is your fault if things don’t go right in your life. In reality, she doesn’t even pretend to care about you and what you do.

Ignoring narcissistic mothers under-parent to the extent that there is no guidance, support, or attention provided. You are invisible to her, a lost child. She may not treat her other children this way though.

She may have her favorite, the golden child, and completely engulf him or her to the point that they become enmeshed and you are ignored. This can switch at any time. One day, she may not even know you exist, and the next she won’t leave you alone. It is confusing for you and your siblings to never know where any of you stand with her.

If you don’t give her an adequate amount of narcissistic supply, she may ignore you as a punishment, thus scapegoating you.

She may “forget” your birthday or “forget” to pick you up from school to get back at you.  You then may experience feeling the lost child role. Because her children are just objects to her, it is easy for her to dispose of her motherly duties and treat her children like old furniture.

There is a way to overcome this.

Set boundaries with her or establish a complete no contact policy. When you cut her out of your life, you open up the possibilities to healing the emotional wounds of having a narcissistic mother who did not care for you the way she should have. Be strong and firm with the boundaries you set and with time you can put a stop to the abuse.

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Roger January 11, 2013 at 11:16 am

I had an ignoring NM who left me in charge to completely care for myself. I had no idea that as I got older I had to shower more and after I played sports or anything like that. She never bought me new clothes. I had to pay for my own. If she did buy me clothes, they would be from a garage sale or a thrift store or something like that. If I wanted anything I was on my own to get it. That’s why I got my first job when I was 13 years old. I never understood this and thought it was kind of strange that I was the only one out of my friends who had to pay for everything myself. None of my other friends had to get jobs, their parents gave them money, allowances, etc. When I would go to my friends’ houses their parents would pay more attention to me than my own NM. I just thought that they were really nice and never put the pieces together that my mom was the exception, not the rule. Parents are supposed to treat their kids with love and kindness, not ignore them and leave them to fend for themselves. It has been truly eye opening to find this site and see that I’m not alone.


elizabeth February 8, 2013 at 2:27 am

My mother treated me as a scapegoat and ignored me… I use to hide under my bed and just fall asleep as a child. I could never do any good in her eyes. My sister was the golden child, right up to mother died 2 years ago. She would always spend over board amounts on her. Leather sofas, rent paid, power bills and food.I was lucky if she remembered my birthday.As a child the other children would make fun of my hygiene, as I had no idea as a young child. My best friend’s mother helped me. I believe she hated me, and thats the truth. She would constantly tell me she wished she never got pregnant with me. I heard that so often. It got to the point I believed she would poison me, so I would hide my food at 10 years of age. I lost weight, began to have fainting spells and never once did she take me to a doctor. She would get really nasty if I went out with my friends. Why? because she wanted me to go out with her golden child who was 5 years older than me. She would buy me clothes to make me look older so I could get into clubs.. All at 13 years of age. Then the worse thing happened. I was abducted out the front of one of these clubs and my sister didnt even mention it when she arrived back home. I was found under a bridge hours later. My mother blamed me.. She told me “look what you have done and when the police ask you questions you must say what your sister says”.. Appauling!!!!! I left home not long after that. My safely was at risk. Two years ago mum died and I do not miss her one bit. I am releived she has gone… Yes I do get therapy with a wonderful doctor who has made me see my childhood for what it was. CHILD ABUSE!!!!!!! nothing less than child abuse.


Melissa March 2, 2013 at 8:18 pm

Thank you both for sharing your stories. My heart goes out to our healing. This website is very helpful, confirming, affirming, and hard to swallow. But I am glad I am. My mother would flip roles, but mostly I was the lost child…it’s a sad upbringing. Glad to be an adult and embracing the potential of healing.


eleonora March 17, 2013 at 9:01 am

My youngest sister is the lost child, the middle one the golden child and pride of place I’m the scapegoat. But its interesting i was the golden girl/ golden child from 0-5 and then again at different times plus always get idealized on and off so my sisters always thought i was the golden child. But i thought it was my middle sister. My mother triangulates & talks about us to the other. This is the saddest thing i have felt in my life.. Most of time i feel lost & unloved. Why? When all i did was love. Love my mother, father,sisters, friends other peoples children. I am shell shocked.


Anonymous August 14, 2014 at 7:28 pm

This is so heartbreaking this is my mother and sisters and brother as well I don’t think I can take this any more I just don’t no what to do at this point it’s very very hurtful


carole August 20, 2014 at 2:49 pm

Listen honey there is nothing you can do.
you can’t fix something you did not break.
understand this she has a personality disorder!
not you.can promise
you will get threw this I did at the age of 61.
you could not believe what she did to me in the name of love.
belive me when you cut the ties you will be replaced and very
soon, forget the guilty feelings after cutting the ties.
I can promise you that she is not even thinking about you
they are masters at this they are habitbitchal liers.
where everyone beloved them.
I’m writing a book unpublished so I can pass around all these
copies to the family she managed to exile my twin and myself
and to all those people she lied to.
remember what goes around comes around and your actions does
have consequences, and she will pay a big price maybe not in this world but the next.
. just let it go


carole August 20, 2014 at 3:50 pm

Baby when you can run away not walk there is always the authority’s therapist who well understand this behavior and will totally
belive you trust me honey it’s not worth your life
I lost count how many times I’d want to stop breathing,baby I’m 61 belive
me you are not alone.
you are the scapegoat and most likely there’s a golden child,right it will
never change they can’t they have to be the center of attention all the time and when you
dare stand up to them they can be brutally cruel thier sick not you.
you did nothing wrong none of us did.
do you realize how many of us are suffering from a nariccissticmothers? Hundreds and hundreds of us crying out saying why? Why?.
they are masters of this,all the time claiming that they love you and want only the best for you,
when they beat you or throw you out a second story window, or locking you out in all kinds
of weather,you cannot beat them at this game they will lie threw thier teeth and have others believing them, let it go and if you can’t leave endure it till you can and for gods don’t get pregnant as a way out trust me. Don’t do anything stupid its not worth it I promise things will get better
its to late for me as I’m 61 don’t make the same mistake


wendy April 1, 2013 at 7:02 am

wow I totally identify with this. I was always the scapegoat. my next youngest sister is also a scapegoat. the youngest is the golden child. but I am seeing that she is a Narcissistic Golden Child. she is worse than my mother. I hate them both and have been no contact with that evil sis and extremely extremely low contact with mean mother. she calls once in a blue moon to gripe about the other two, and I just listen and say mmm hmm and then we hang up. I no longer feed into her triangulation. it is sick. they are sick. my psychologist is helping me so much. she says not to feel guilty about not wanting toxic people in my life.


kimberly May 27, 2014 at 12:13 pm

I totally agree with you..i was emotionally and mentally abused by my adopted American mom for 30 years,it took me this long to figured out that she’ s narcissistic..i hate that old bitch s I wish would die soon..


les June 9, 2014 at 2:01 pm

I have just started standing up to my mum and she started ignoring me now I feel like she had me to use me. What do you all feel when you saw the light? what is the best way to handle this and move on? What happened when you stood up for yourself? Do you think its strange when I don’t do stuff she ignores me


June August 13, 2014 at 9:01 am

Hi Les,

Keep reading and keep seeking. The same happened to me…I have managed this myself over the last 5 yrs and yes she has pulled back completely. When I look back I wish I got support going through this, counselling (I’m in the uk). My journey lead to me going NC with her. Every persons journey is different though. I had a lot of healing to do and realised that I had to go to that extreme boundary, I am not young so don’t want to waste anytime over the family fall out ( my family it would have been worse for me in the long run and I figured nothing gained by telling her she is an abuser, so I just severed contact. My bro understood but he is still in contact, his choice.

I’m sure she has BPD or NPD or both. I never got anywhere trying to talk it out with her. She has a new family (divorced twice) so I think I will leave her it. Since going NC, months now…it has given me a lot of space for reflecting and healing.

Good luck with your future


June August 13, 2014 at 9:05 am

oh… to answers your ‘light’ question…when first pieced it jaw hit the floor.. I simply couldn’t believe it was true. I tried to give her benefit of the doubt and prove my theory wrong but when I couldn’t I realised what the missing bits of the puzzle were, its still a shock to be honest, I mean…its my mother!


Anonymous September 19, 2014 at 12:24 am

I am right there with you. Part of me wants to stay in denial because she’s my mom and I suppose all those times when I DID feel special to her it was when I was being rotated through the golden child scapegoat role. My younger sister now wears her golden child badge with pride–the NPD sort of “pride” I could say. The more I learn about the typical behaviors of NMs, however the more I know this is the problem with her. But… how do you get over the guilt of confirming what you already knew but can’t seem to accept fully? That is the part I am struggling with. My spouse whom she tried since our wedding day to push away has had it with her patterns and it took him to finally help me get the strength to pull away from her grasp. I have been more so the scapegoat since I married him. She almost ruined our destination wedding by raging at him because she felt she paid for the expenses so she should have the right to make the whole trip about her. She has never liked my or my brother’s spouse. He (my brother /fellow scapegoat) went no contact about 2 years ago but because I participated in her triangulating schemes by taking her side and her word for the truth & the result– he also stopped contact with me. Now I want to talk to him so bad and validate him for his feelings.


FORGIVE July 2, 2014 at 4:23 am

This is absolutelly one of the best articles on this topic I have ever read. I had NM of neglecting type and I grew up alone taking care of myself. I recognize my childhood in every single description here. If I would speak about the fact she had never ever bought me a single thing, left me deprived of every heritage, never kissed me, nor gave me a hug, moreover, she abandoned me when I was 2 leaving me to her mother that was narcisstic as well , luckily, in a much smaller extent. She distroied a familly of her next huspand, made her younger son *my half-brother her golden child and brought hell to everebody in her life. God, forgive her for tears, sadness and pain she inflicted to at least 10 people whose lifes she attempted to destroy. the list is long. i forgive her , since she is not bitch, she is not evil, SHE IS ONLY VERY<, VERY SICK! And this diesease is very malevolent since it is very unrecognizable for the rest of the world.


desdemonamcphee December 22, 2014 at 3:56 pm

Isn’t it fun being shifted from one role to another? :-/I was the golden child until I hit my teenage years. I didn’t turn out like my mom was “picturing.” I was goofy, quirky, artsy. She wanted a bland and robotic clone of herself, and I just couldn’t pretend any more. While I was enduring humiliation and cruelty as a scapegoat, my lost child sister got a brief turn in the spotlight as the golden child. She quickly found out it’s not all it’s cracked up to be! She became very troubled for many years, even ending up homeless for quite a while.


JustMe June 30, 2015 at 8:36 pm

Wow, this post really hit home. Thank you. It has been a long struggle and up until two years ago I thought she was bipolar. So I started to recover and pull away two years ago… and did relatively well at not feeling guilty. I did it for myself and my children. It was MY DECISION. Finally I did something that was my decision!!! Unfortunately it back fired and she lied to CPS and a psycho social worker to take my kids based on lies. I had witnesses that proved their lies were wrong but the courts didn’t care— its an assembly line system.. and they make money and keep their jobs.. by taking children (many that should NOT be taken… yet give back kids that shouldn’t be given back– messed up system…). According to parenting courses I am a very good mother– which I always doubted.. I thought I was a horrible mother… I am gaining confidence and just recently got my children back. I am currently divorcing a narcissist as well— funny part is that they hate eachother and think its the “other one” that is “evil” (mother and soon-to-be ex-husband)!!! I cant help but laugh. I am terrified to do no contact, but I must. I am currently doing “no contact” with her (have restraining order on him), as much as social services allows.. since I have my babies back.. they suffered so much with her. They are so happy to be home. We have a peaceful home without her around… and I finally met a mentally/emotionally healthy man who is patient with me and my kids… I guess I finally suffered enough to be worthy of happiness… I am grateful. Forever grateful for my children, my boyfriend and our happiness. I am finally experiencing some of my most precious dreams as real life. I just wish my nightly nightmares and ptsd would stop…. Thank you again… and sorry for the long post…


Sheri July 14, 2015 at 8:25 am

My mother in law is a narcissist and her adult children and I just became aware of what that is. She has a daughter and younger son (my husband) that are both in their late 40’s. As we read and learn about how she operates it has been hard to find specific help for the role my husband has been in. I do find the articles here to be more enlightening since so much out there seems to focus on healing the scapegoat. When my mother in law had young children she was a neglectful narcissist. Most of the time both of her children were lost children. It seems to me that the roles of golden child and scapegoat did switch around some as her children became successful adults but in the end my husband ended up being the golden child and his sister (and I) became scapegoats. I met my husband when I was 16 and have been “a part of this family” ever since. It seems my mother in law thinks of me very much in the same way she thinks of her own daughter, but maybe worse because I am her competition when it comes to her son. My husband clearly recognizes the damage his mother has caused in his life. It didn’t really begin to play out until a few years ago. We all spent many years just joking about how he was the favorite. Now I see that since he was a forgotten child in his youth he obviously was attracted to being the golden child in his adult life. We are now at a point where he can begin to heal and move on but I wish there was more information out there to help the golden child that “got away”. I know he is struggling with how to stand up to his mother and her “affectionate love”. He is also hurting and angry over the neglect suffered in his childhood.


Eowyn November 17, 2015 at 4:52 am

I have just come to this site today after the realisation that my mother is narcissistic and my father virtually the same. I have been the scapegoat in my immediate family and my extended family, my younger sister is the golden girl and my brother is also very loved. Fortunately I am married with children which gives me my own family. However, the legacy, as described by people on here, never goes away and I find that no one around me actually understands what I’ve been through and the damage it’s done and can still do. I have always had a reasonable but distant relationship with my siblings, but my brother is in denial and stopped speaking to me when I distanced myself from my parents five years ago. My sister has never stopped being jealous and just recently inexplicably ignores me! Perhaps due to her marital failure against my happy marriage? Who knows, but the severing of this last link has been difficult to accept.

To those people wondering what to do, I can only speak for myself but it was only when I cut my parents out of my life (at age 39) that I could finally move forward and think about a future instead of lamenting the past losses, pain and sense of inadequacy. Previously every meeting with my parents had been depressing and painful and it felt like I was picking the scab off a wound that could never heal. After cutting the ties I started a course for personal interest that eventually led to a university degree. I found that I am not useless but very capable when given the right environment and mental conditions. The main difficulties can be overcome if you can find I way of seeing a positive future and stop looking back.

Best wishes


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