The narcissistic single mother and only child dynamic often accelerates the cycle of narcissistic abuse, enmeshment and neglect. For this child, the stereotype that “only children” are spoiled and overindulged is an added confusion to one who’s experienced the painful chaos of a narcissistic mother.
Whether or not a child acts chronically spoiled of course, largely depends on the kind of parenting the child experiences, not on their inherent character. Being an only child does not guarantee unconditional love from the narcissistic mother.
There are perks as an only child, like not having to compete against other siblings for mom’s attention, but the child pays dearly as the mother’s only captive source of narcissistic supply. The narcissistic single mother, especially without the temporary relief of a partner around, will force the only child to wear many hats.
An only child of a narcissistic mother may be placed in many roles such as golden child, scapegoat, mascot, and best friend. Sometimes, several roles are demanded in a single day, depending on the mood of the narcissistic mother.
With a single narcissistic mother, the only child is at risk to care for her, make her the center of attention and assure her she’s constantly adored. This is tough on an only child, for they have to do all the work to survive without hope of a sibling or healthy parent with which to relate or commiserate.
The child gets the blame for everything because there’s no one else for the narcissistic mother to put it on. Of course, she’ll never say anything is her fault or has caused any problems unless she has an ulterior motive.
An only child often has to play the role of empathetic counselor for the narcissistic mother. The child has to listen to her problems, hear about perceived or real illnesses, and have his or her ears burn upon hearing of the narcissistic mother’s latest intimate relationships.
Relationships with a single narcissistic mother are tumultuous, to say the least, and those in her romantic life aren’t spared. She sees her chosen partners as objects. She can walk into a room and know which suitor wants her the most, which ones to avoid, and which ones will give her the most narcissistic supply.
She has no shame or conscience, which makes it easier for her to partake in affairs with those who are committed or married. If that person’s committed to someone else, it just makes the chase more exciting and intriguing.
Narcissistic mothers look for the next best thing, something more exciting and exhilarating. Relationships are a zero sum game for a narcissist mother and she aims to win.
Narcissistic mothers have difficulty maintaining real relationships because they do not seek out people for love. They do it to boost their own egos and to make themselves feel wanted and adored as another source of narcissistic supply.
Sex can be a potent weapon for narcissistic mothers. They know how to work a room, gain interest, and make people putty in their hands. Narcissistic mothers often forget to parent their children when they are out prowling for a partner.
An only child may be left alone to fend for his or herself while mom is out finding her next source for an ego boost. The child, her captive source of narcissistic supply, is enmeshed with mom until pushed aside for something new to fill that void.
During the time the child is her main narcissistic supply, the child may feel cherished or needed but when a new partner comes along, however briefly, the child is often emotionally and sometimes physically abandoned.
Narcissistic mothers don’t have children for the same reasons other parents do. Narcissistic mothers do not enjoy the process of watching the child grow up but are instead threatened by the child’s increased ability to exercise healthy free will.
The child is born for a source of narcissistic supply and for someone to be able to take care of the narcissistic mother. She does not measure successful child rearing like other mothers may do.
My clients express fear they will somehow turn out to be like their narcissistic mothers. I explain that true narcissists don’t worry about narcissism, so the fact they examine themselves in a such a way is a good sign they are ok.
But, yes, if we’ve had a narcissistic parent, we do need to develop awareness of our own behavior and evaluate whether it repeats what we saw modeled. I think of the adult child’s repetition of the narcissistic mother’s behavior as a “remnant.”
Most of us have noticed we can regress when around our narcissistic parent or family system as adult children of narcissists (ACONs). But some of us have not yet fully evaluated how we treat others in our lives in order to find less than useful behavior and shed it for a happier life.
What “remnant” behavior do you either imitate from the old family system or do out of a habit of defending yourself from the dysfunction of a narcissistic parent that does not serve healthy relationships in your life?
When you let yourself notice remnant behaviors and place them aside without beating yourself up, you are on your way to reclaiming your own true value system and building more self worth.
Praise yourself for catching the remnant and commit to extinguish the old behavior, instead of criticizing yourself. If you skip the self criticism, your ability to catch the bad behavior in yourself actually raises and then you can gain traction in getting rid of it once and for all.
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