Narcissistic Mothers & Mixed Feelings on Mother’s Day

by Michelle Piper

Mixed feelings on Mother’s Day are common when you’ve had a narcissistic mother. Even the most malignant narcissist can appear supportive or loving when it suits his or her needs. As a child, you were likely to soak up that elusive supportive energy, believing it to be the much needed love you craved. Unfortunately, “love” is always conditional with a maternal narcissist. When you didn’t satisfy her needs, either through choice, naiveté, or chance, you may have felt the terrible absence of positive maternal support.

Sons and daughters of narcissistic mothers usually feel dread as Mother’s Day approaches. The card isle at the local drug and grocery store and even the email marketing for your favorite charity does their best to bring the day to your attention, lest you forget. For those who look for a way to express any sincere sentiment for the narcissistic mom, a long time could be spent. One comment on this blog expressed the wish for a Mother’s Day card that simply read, “Shame on you.”

There are three things you can do for your own self care that may help. Here are three tips my clients have successfully used.

Give Yourself a Break:
Today is a day to look at the healthy territory you have staked out for yourself in your adult life through good boundaries based on your own chosen values. What is one piece of your life you have carved out for yourself that is healthy?
Today is also a day to look at when you’ve had a “boundary failure” and either put up with too much from your narcissistic mother or have acted in a vengeful or angry way that you regret. Trust yourself. You are not a malicious person and you are doing your best. Forgive yourself if need be and spend that energy on moving forward.

Give Yourself a Reward:
Mom may never understand what you’ve been through but people in the ACON community do. You’ve had to mother yourself in many ways. Commit today to give yourself a treat that you will really follow through on within the week. This can range from calling an old friend that you think of but never find the time to visit, to planning a future vacation. Also, think of a reasonable tradition you can give yourself this day each year. One of my male clients always goes sea fishing with his family. A female client of mine replaces all of her towels for her bathroom. What rewards and traditions might you build for yourself that is nurturing to you?

Give Yourself Credit:
Take credit for what you’ve accomplished and hold yourself accountable for how you can improve. How have you taught yourself what your mother could or would not? In the present, what improvement do you want to hold yourself accountable for in the next year?

Happy Mother’s Day…you had to have done a good job raising yourself to get this far.

It’s our first Mother’s Day for this blog and I’m looking forward to seeing how we all grow this year. Thank you for being such an articulate and supportive community.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Sheila May 12, 2013 at 5:40 pm

Today is Mother’s Day. It was always difficult to express what a wonderful mom I had whenever Mother’s Day came around. I never felt I truly wanted to give my mom the credit for being a “great mom”, because she was a monster to me, not a mother. Every year, I felt like I had to praise the person who mistreated me for years & didn’t know how to treat me like a human being. I envied those who had parents who actually cared about them, parents that were fun to be with, parents who would hug their children, interact with their children, & not scowl at them, or make them feel like losers, etc. I could go on and on about what I feel makes a good mom, but then again I could go on and on about what makes a monster mom. It took me a long time to realize things were all about my mom, & she must’ve thought being a “mom” meant making her children terrified of her & scared to be around her, yet there was no escape from her as a child. We relied on her because we were too young to be independent of her. I always wondered when mom would snap out of her anger or wonder when she would eventually say she loved me or give me a hug. Maybe I’m one of the few people visiting this website who’s mom actually admitted to the horrible motherhood I endured from her. She admitted to it many years later (as I’m now in my 40’s). She told me (as she was speaking of herself)….”I was a horrible mother, & I don’t deserve Mother’s Day”. My mom refuses to celebrate Mother’s Day. She knows it’s for the mother’s who actually cared for their children & treated them as human beings. She knows her behaviour during our childhood was inexcusable & she has learned to hang her head in shame on Mother’s Day. Now as she ages, I’ve seen how the monster she was back then come back to haunt her, coming back to cause her all the pain she dished out to her children. Karma has come back to her & she can’t escape the awful mother she was. She can’t leave that person behind because that person was part of her, & always will be. My siblings & I are not young children anymore. We grew up. Nobody can go back in time & correct the damage that happened to us as children with our mom’s bad parenting. However, we’ve moved on to become better mother’s to our own children, mother’s who deserve a Happy Mother’s Day. We know what it takes to be a great mom. We are mothers that our children are not ashamed of. We’ve become mother’s our children are proud to have. I wish that others who visit this site can find hope that they are not alone, & learn that some mother’s do hang their head in shame on this day (maybe not to our faces), but deep in their hearts, they know they could’ve done better in raising their children. Many years later, it really is too late to turn back time & be given a second chance to make things right. The damage has been done to us, the scars are very real & the healing process can take a long time, if not a lifetime. I still think about things that were done to me as a child once in awhile & I can easily feel anger over those things all over again (but I don’t want to live in the past). I tell myself “that WAS the past. This is now…be strong & be a better mom to your own children. It’s one of the good things that you can do for yourself & for your own children”. I refuse to repeat what my mother did to me, but I will encourage others that you can move on, & you can heal from the pain of having endured a narcissist mother. We are all survivors.

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Sophie Allen May 12, 2013 at 9:47 pm

Thank you, I needed this today. Mext year I’d like to be well on my way in a new life without self-sabotage.

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Rose May 12, 2013 at 10:06 pm

I am glad to read about Sheila’s mother. Thanks for posting it.

This was a difficult Mother’s Day for me as I am still dealing with the emotions of fear and terror from my life with my mother. I mostly watched Netflix all week to avoid seeing celebrities extoll how “great” their mothers are/were on regular TV. Perhaps next year will be better.

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Mish May 13, 2013 at 2:24 am

Thank you for this site. It has helped me enormously. As someone who suffered at the hands of a terrible and extreme NM (she ticks 90% of the boxes every time) I had some great therapy and my very caring and nurturing therapist ordered me to have no contact with my NM until I felt strong enough to deal with her hideous ways and constant emotional abuse. The good thing is I stopped all contact and also with the rest of my family, as we have all been pitched against one another so there is a lot of jealously, resentment and constant attempts at intimidation for ‘top dog’ status. I have not looked back since cutting all contact. I do not EVER see my immediate family and feel so much better in myself and my life as a result. Although I was planning to stay away from my NM and siblings (golden hair children, and me the scape goat) for a short time, once I began feeling so good about myself and my life, there is no way now I could go back into that terror. If you have an NM, doe yourself the biggest favour and cut her from your life altogether. Make no excuses, feel no guilt, you deserve a good life, the best life, and you will NOT have it if your NM has ANY influence in your life at all. She will NEVER love you, she does not have the ability to love you. The only ‘love’ she feels is for herself and her constant need to manipulate. I see my NM occasionally, and because I have confronted her with various printed information defining what a NM is, and that she is the worst kind of NM, she looks at me with disgust, and as though I have done the unthinkable, and I laugh, because we all know NM’s HATE being exposed. I feel totally empowered and since doing without my NM altogether, I have quadrupled as a person. I hope this helps…:)

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Laurie May 13, 2013 at 7:12 am

All your comments helped incredibly thru this very difficult “day of celebration”. Though in my mind I understand, my heart seems not to comprehend. I have not cut ties with my mother. At times I see her as a scared child when I look deep in her eyes, but who can also switch in a moment to be ridiculous in her opinions and outlook on life, also verbally abusive. I limit my visits and will promptly leave when the conversations start to go downhill. I think I do keep coming back to provide her with unconditional love, but also to try and nurture the scared child within her.

I have one brother who has cut ties completely and another who only visits her on Mother’s Day. She sticks to her story that they are all flawed and out to get her (as with anyone else who was in her life — she has no friends now except neighbor acquaintances). So sad …

As she gets older (now in her seventies) her behaviour seems to be magnifying and I endeavour to continue to build my strength and maintain my boundaries for myself and my family.

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Angela May 13, 2013 at 6:49 am

wow…my mom is currently in the throws of a narcissistic rage and depression right now. good times…I’m struggling with my love for her and my anger at her for not being a better mother. She can not give what she does not have. I”m angry because what could my life have been like IF it had not been all about her. If she had encouraged me to trust my intuition and allowed me to make decisions, mistakes and all, as I was growing up. The tips are helpful. I did mother myself! I did take a step back and nurtured myself and now trust my instincts and mother my children in the way that I believe I would have blossomed! And I did blossom despite her attempts to create a mini her for her own validation. I am going to allow myself this anger in the hopes that it will pass because what I want is peace in my life and in my soul and to have compassion for her. No one who truly loves themselves can ever harm another. Thank you to all, because in your struggles, I see myself and I don’t feel so alone and embarrassed by my mother…like everyone else got a good one and I did not. Thank you.

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Laurie May 13, 2013 at 7:04 am

All your comments helped incredibly thru this very difficult “day of celebration”. Though in my mind I understand, my heart seems not to comprehend. I have not cut ties with my mother. At times I see her as a scared child when I look deep in her eyes, but who can also switch in a moment to be ridiculous in her opinions and outlook on life, also verbally abusive. I limit my visits and will promptly leave when the conversations start to go downhill. I think I do keep coming back to provide her with unconditional love, but also to try and nurture the scared child within her.

As she gets older (now in her seventies) her behaviour seems to be magnifying and I endeavour to continue to build my strength and maintain my boundaries for myself and my family.

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Rebecca May 13, 2013 at 7:53 am

The sinister legacy of being a child of a narcissistic mother is that for the longest time I felt that being anything less than the “dutiful” daughter by trying to fix my mothers problems was not fulfilling my expected role in society. Through hard work, reading and therapy, I’ve learned that NOTHING can change my mother or fix her inability to love me. What she tries to portray as “love” is done only as a guise, either to impress others or as a means to get something she wants. I have been more aware of establishing healthy boundaries, and while I’ve not gone NC, I’m just about there. Having no contact with her over the past six months, but for a Holiday card and a Mother’s Day card (just wishing her a happy day without any comment on her mothering — which was SO abusive) is the best thing I’ve done for myself, in addition to finding a truly caring and brilliant therapist. Role reversal is typical for us DONMs, so I’ve stopped it completely. I have spent ENOUGH energy trying to be a mother to myself, the worst thing I could do is to try to mother the awful woman who got off on being deliberately cruel to me. Where DO we get that Mother’s Day Card that says “Shame on You?” I HIGHLY recommend trying to find a therapy or support group of children of NMs. It’s been incredibly validating and helpful to know that our stories, while each individual, carry a common thread that can make us feel very alone. Only other people who are the product of NMs can truly understand how damaging and insideous our upbringing has been, because those who have had healthy mothering find it inconceivable that a mother could be anything other than good. Sadly, we know otherwise.

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Anonymous May 13, 2013 at 12:59 pm

I sent my mother a card, a fairly neutral one. I couldn’t bring myself to send the best card I found, though, which said, “Wishing you, Mother…the special kind of Mother’s Day you deserve.” That card had to be written by an ACON!

I invited my mother (via phone message) to spend the day with me and my family at my brother-in-law’s house with my mother and father-in-law. She called back and got my husband, telling him to thank my brother-in-law, but bowing out of the invitation, with some kind of explanation about how all her senses are leaving her, and ‘it’s growing dark’. The melodrama regarding her physical state never ceases, but her guilt trip didn’t work.

My mother spent both Christmas and Easter with my husband’s family, after much coaxing from me. Initially, she always refuses, saying she would be ’embarrassed’ to impose on them. Of course, if we go along with that, she’ll just sit home stewing in her juices, working herself into a righteous rage over how we neglect her. I promised myself that for Mother’s Day, I would invite her, but I would take no for an answer. My oldest sister has given up inviting her, only to be refused, and the middle sister has gone mostly NC, as well. When my mom does show up at my in-law’s gatherings, she charms the pants off everybody, and nobody sees the narcissism.

So I had a great Mother’s Day! My family treated me to some nice gifts and a lovely breakfast, and my husband’s family is wonderfully sane and kind. It was relaxing and pleasant, the way it ought to be.

I am not looking forward to my next contact with my mother. In spite of having refused the invitation, I have the feeling she will be fuming over feelings of neglect. On top of it, her 86th birthday is coming up this weekend, and she’s already shut down my sister’s attempt to plan something (“There’s nothing to celebrate, life is not worth living!”) I’m working through this, one day, one event at a time. Thanks for all the great, supportive posts. It truly does help.

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Tatum May 13, 2013 at 7:40 pm

My mother in law is the narc woman in my life, and my husband and I decided to cut contact nearly a year ago. I haven’t spoken to the woman in almost 2 years. My husband and I both texted her on Mother’s day, and even that was a chore. My husband has been completely ostracized from his family because he made the courageous and difficult decision to expose her narcissistic ways. Of course the entire family turned on him but at least we have peace of mind. I feel bad that he has no contact with any of his family, but we went to therapy and that helped us. His dad just wants us to fall in line and take her emotional abuse, but no more. Yes, mother’s day is difficult, but really, it’s ALL holidays that are tough. None of his family call me on mother’s day, my birthday, etc. It is what it is. The price of admission to be a part of his family is too high a price to pay. It would cost me my sanity, my peace of mind. I can’t do it.

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Anonymous May 13, 2013 at 8:09 pm

Thank you!! I am proud of myself. I just spent the weekend meeting my boyfriends parents. And I came back immensely depressed. I finally realized it was because of Mother’s Day. I have a wonderful aunt who stepped in many times during my childhood, was a saving grace. So I went and celebrated her!!! Allowing myself to heal and doing my best to open into a loving relationship. I find it hard not to be paranoid that my boyfriend is going to turn out to be narcissistic too. I am looking for a therapist who knows narcissism. A lot of stuff is coming up, and I am glad for it. I felt empowered for time today, fully accepting all of this and deciding not to feel guilty for not going to see my mom. This confirmation is further gratifying. Along with the permission to take care of myself and be loving.

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Terri May 31, 2013 at 1:50 pm

Just now had the presence of mind to read this about Mother’s Day. It has been about 3 months since I’ve gone NC with my mother and only have felt a small amount of guilt. As soon as I start to think “but she’s my mother!” then I remember that she is not the same kind of mother that I am and it empowers me. Was I a perfect mom? No, but I tried to be the best mom to my kids that I could be. I ‘trained them up in the way they should go’ and have let them live their lives the way they wish and we have good relationships with each other. My own mother is a prime example of what NOT to do and thankfully I have a wonderful therapist who is able to help me recognize the rough spots and I have learned to expect them and navigate through them. I did not send a Mother’s Day card. Initially due to the false nature of the sentiments and then I realized I would be violating my own boundaries that I had set in regards to her and I did not want her to begin phone-stalking me again. I have removed one side of my family from my life because they choose to believe her and I just don’t need the aggravation. I have chronic health issues and have decided that the stress and anxiety were contributing to my problems. Thank you all for sharing your triumphs and experiences. It helps to remind me to stay true to myself and my boundaries that I have gone through great lengths to learn about and establish. I will not allow her, nor any other narcissistic person, breach those boundaries ever again!

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