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Parenting resources for those raised by narcissists(157 Posts)
Hi, I've been over on Herrena's 'regale me with hilarious/ridiculous things your narcissist has said or done' thread. I had a narc dad and when I became a parent I had a lot of problems dealing with...um...everything to do with children! I was frightened of my child, got angry easily, had no idea what was normal.
I think this pretty standard for people who grew up in dysfunctional families...and I turned to books for help. Like I always do .
I read some books that didn't help much at all. Unconditional parenting books were great in some ways because they focused so much on loving and caring, which were hard for me and didn't come naturally. BUT I had no common sense to temper them with partly because of not having much experience with children but also because of not really knowing about normal boundaries. I ended up with a three-year-old tyrant which didn't work at all.
Then I went to parenting classes, which were really incredibly helpful. Specifically I was on a course called 'Raising Children' which dealt with assertiveness, what children need, boundaries, and much more.
From there, I ended up watching the 123 Magic DVD. My husband and I watched this together, and I dithered a lot about it all, but can honestly say I think it saved our family. A very gentle discipline system that is practical, friendly, and works. The DVD is really funny too. I also have the book for backup.
I found two other books really helpful as well. Playful Parenting by Larry Cohen gave me really concrete strategies for playing and connecting with my kids (and how to deal with boring play). Buddhism for Mothers was also really helpful for general mindfulness practice. (I'm not a Buddhist, by the way, am actually a church goer- but loved this book.)
These three resources work really well together...123 Magic focuses on behaviour, Playful Parenting on connection, and Buddhism for Mothers on getting my own head right. I don't think I could be trusted to follow one book, because of not really knowing the common sense limits to what they are saying. So I usually take bits from several and sort of patch them together.
Full disclosure: I also had group therapy and individual therapy, both focused on CBT.
I'd be really interested to hear if others from dysfunctional families or with narcissistic parents in particular, have found their own helpful resources for parenting.
Hi building, I cannot help regarding the parenting side of narcissism, because I made the conscious decision not to have children due to the fear of passing on subconscious bad traits from my mum.
I'm sure someone will come along soon, but you have my support anyway.
Really good thread, by the way, loads of information there for parents
Just a thought, but maybe it would be best to move the post to, say, parenting, or behaviour and development via the being a parent topic. You might receive some replies there.
Not parenting as such, but my friend let me read the book on toxic parents and it helped me deal with many of my own feelings?
Marking my place...be back in the morning
Your recommendations are brilliant Taken alongside the parenting classes and therapy, I imagine lightbulbs must have been popping like fireworks in your head! It must also have been hard at times: learning about children, and parenting with love, tends to throw our own childhood into unflatteringly sharp relief.
Before adding my bit, I'd better declare I haven't got children. I have cared for many. The most profound recommendation I have is inner-child work for our selves: at the beginning of Homecoming, John Bradshaw says that we can't really parent well until we have 're-parented' ourselves. This is heavy stuff; I found the book hard going in places, but I do now agree. After doing the work I saw children in a fresher, glorious light. I'm sorry I haven't seen all the children I cared for so clearly.
On a similar note, but much more in tune with your original question, I absolutely love How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk and the Teens version. They're all about understanding and respecting your child as an individual - and they work!
Nice thread, OP
Just place marking so I can go and have a look when I don't have The Cub crawling all over me
What a fanastic idea!
Well done OP in tackling such a taboo and complicated personal issue. You sound like an excellent parent and exceptional human being.
I grew up in a lovely family and am a huge fan of Unconditional Parenting and Playful Parenting especially. I will say though that even for someone who grew up in normality, the UP book is very challenging. The fact you can see that and take it on board demonstrates your "normalness" to me.
Good luck, you sound like a super mother!
Excellent thread, thank you for the reading advice, now my daughter is three it is starting to show the enormous gaps in our parenting skills created by two sets of narc/depressive parents.
Communication is an issue at present in our house and I cannot emulate my mother and go for a shouting 'do as I say now' style because I know what that has done to my head
A couple of books are on their way already
Happy Easter all and thank you OP
Building wow - you've really done it. I feel strangely proud of you - great thread.
Hello all, and thank you so much for joining in!
I do not have it all sorted, of course. Just in case you thought I had, um, 'answers'. .
But I do find it helpful to think that although other parents (maybe from more functional backgrounds) might be interested in reading parenting books, they might not NEED guidance the way I do.
And then I have to also recognise my desire to do it right and perfectly is also a result of my background and personality, and remember that my kids will probably be pretty fine, actually, and I'm probably doing a good enough job, and that there isn't a way of being a perfect parent. But there are ways of avoiding being a terrible parent.
And thank you also those who are sharing despite not having children. I respect your conscious decision not to perpetuate the mess.
I, in my naivety and arrogant youth, thought it would be easy to a better parent than my parents...I have more compassion for them now. I can't imagine being a parent with the levels of drama and rage and despair my parents must have had. Urgh. I want it to be easier than that...and it is paradoxically hard to get there.
123 Magic is fantastic!! It worked a treat with our 3 year old!
Thanks Building for starting this. Just ordered the parenting teens book. Hard times are upon me big style
Great idea and thanks OP for starting this.
DC1 due in ten weeks and DH is worried about his narc mother's influence affecting his parenting, I keep telling him the fact that he is worried makes him Not a Narc! But all resources would be useful and I will definitely pass these on.
rhondajean. Do you think the toxic parent book has helped you in any way?
Great thread, building, sounds like you're helping a lot of parents out here, and helping the next generation also
I think it helped me understand my mother a lot more and realise the effect she had on my reactions. That let me start to forgive her and her grip on my life was loosened.
I wish I had understood and read these books 13 years ago, I'm worried I may have replicated some of it particularly with my 13 year old as I was much less aware when she was younger.
But, I'm working on it!
Hey I have had some similar issues, particularly around those 'difficult ages' where my short temper and instant 0-60 shouting have scared my dc.
I think my mum did feel guilty and couldn't control herself, she saw what she was doing and then explained it away as me being a difficult and moody child, that has affected the way I see my dc, it's not them in charge I am the adult and if they are being challenging its up to me to help sort it out.
I read stuff on here at the time, when ds was 3(he was really arguementive ) and it really helped. Now dd is coming up to 2 I think I will have a look at those books as I can feel myself slipping back into just getting annoyed with her
rhondajean sounds like the book has done you some good, if you're working on it with your dd
garlic I have heard the Listen book recommended soooo many times.
I might have to get it as mine regularly don't listen to me... .
Oh, and how do I get a thread moved? Think it is a good idea.
building-I think you have to report your thread and follow instructions in order to do it
Ohhh, thank you for this thread.
For me as well dealing with my own mess in therapy, supported by reading books like Toxic Parents and Homecoming and lots of MN threads on narcissism and toxic relations, was the first step to being a proper parent. Before I had such little grip on life that the practical, proactive tools of parenting books like The Incredible Years (lots of Supernanny type ideas) seemed completely out of my reach. That is much better now.
But I'm still struggling with the bit in between soul searching and day-to-day interaction. It often feels like living in two realities at once: one where I'm constantly preoccupied with all these deep changes taking place in me and my life, and another where I'm solely responsible for two little people and I need very much to be in the now, to handle the fall-out from not having fixed all this stuff before they were born (as if ) as well as all the 'normal' stuff that I don't know much about anyway.
I mean questions like:
- How do I make sure I'm actually parenting rather than addressing my own problems?
- How do I respond to my children as an adult when I often feel like a child?
- How can I be in charge without using anger or anxiety to get my point across?
- How do I make sure my needs are met without disappearing myself?
- What do I do when I'm triggered by my child's behaviour, an MN thread, or some other thing that brings up old panic or detachment? How do I make sure it doesn't interfere with my interaction with my children, without simply ignoring it?
- How do I help my children overcome problems that are similar to what I'm still dealing with? Such as feeling awkward in groups or standing up for themselves.
A lot of this has to do with healthy boundaries. Where do I end and do my children begin? How do I know what I'm 'allowed' to ask from them and what I'm responsible for as the parent?
In the other thread, I think, someone suggested Alice Miller, I think, and her idea that healthy boundaries are the natural, personal boundaries of the parent. That it's not about thought up rules and aiming for certain outcomes, but about knowing what you as a person think/feel is okay and parenting directly from that. Which of course ties in neatly with the work you do in therapy when you discover who you are and what you want.
I'd be very happy with suggestions for books/techniques that deal with these kinds of issues.
Telling slip of the keyboard, should be 'How do I make sure their needs are met without disappearing myself?'
Well, making sure your needs are met is pretty damn crucial too!
It often seems to me that the biggest failing of dysfunctional parents (and other child carers) is an incapacity to see children as children. I suppose one could say, an incomprehension of what childhood is. I don't know whether you'll be able to do anything with this?
Too many grown-ups treat DC as if they had adult, or near-adult, world experience and capabilities. The child's brain doesn't finish developing until around 21yo, when theory of mind should be fully formed. Before then, various styles of thinking are unavailable to a child - as, of course, are life experience and emotional maturity. Tragically, most dysfunctional adults' own development was arrested before completion. Consequently they, themselves, lack full capacity for theory of mind and remain unable to grasp the full extent of their child's difference from them.
Reading about the stages of mental development - from a neuropsychological point of view, rather than educational - was revelatory for me.
Here's a nice photo about teaching boundaries
Garlic you hit the nail on the head. So so helpful.
Following with interest.
Thanks for posting this OP
wow I am going to try those books. I am always worried about psychologically damaging my child like my parents did me, its a huge burden and I could do with some help. Most nights you think tomorrow I will be more patient - but before you know it, it's ground hog day again and you are back to "short temper and instant 0 - 60 shouting".
I have fixed lots of my own stuff, just need to tweak the parenting now.
Any other books to recommend ?
It often seems to me that the biggest failing of dysfunctional parents (and other child carers) is an incapacity to see children as children. I suppose one could say, an incomprehension of what childhood is. I don't know whether you'll be able to do anything with this? and Tragically, most dysfunctional adults' own development was arrested before completion. Consequently they, themselves, lack full capacity for theory of mind and remain unable to grasp the full extent of their child's difference from them.
You're right, and I think I'm somewhere stuck in that. I need to think more about what it is exactly, because I do know they're separate people and they're not understanding the world like adults, and (unlike my parents) do not expect them to be perfectly behaved mini-adults, who after being lectured at length are naughty/difficult/obstinate/manipulative/nasty little bitches when they don't do what I would like them to do.
But... parenting is more than responding to children's behaviour with reasonable expectations. It's also about framing their experiences, so they end up with positive self talk and an honest yet positive understanding of the world. Showing them how to have relations with other people, how to stick up for themselves (I for one could never respond like the woman in the picture you posted, the words would simply not come into my head, even if I knew I didn't like what the woman did). And I think when it comes to these things, I still treat them like children, but from a child's persepctive myself. I don't have the adult view point that I need here.
And although I'm more adult through therapy, I still lack the practical skills that go with it. I might think more like an adult these days, but I haven't done the things that make people grow up naturally. Do you think this comes by itself from just working on the inner child stuff? Or do you need to do things as well, to transfer that inner change into practical skills? I genuinely don't know.
Just now, for example, I spent my evening on MN and watching a film, while I have a bag full of easter eggs waiting to be hidden. I've bought them because I think the children will like the hunt (they're both very young and these kinds of things are all new to them) and I will enjoy being the mother that sees them enjoy it, but I have to get my head around the fact that I actually have to hide the eggs to make the experience happen. It's almost as if I resent doing it, even though I enjoyed the anticipating when I bought the stuff.
Will do it now though .
Thank you for this. I have to stop myself several times a day to prevent myself from saying the controlling phrases my narc dad said to me. My dads control freakness extended to my clothes, hair style, food, friends, and what musical instrument I should play (despite the fact I hated playing an instrument!) I am determined to recognise my dc for who they are and to allow them to find their own interests and personality.
meiisme - procrastination ! I recognise that in myself - a lot ! (lol)
Meiisme, I love your Easter egg story and your self-insight! How did it go?
Do you think this comes by itself from just working on the inner child stuff? Or do you need to do things as well, to transfer that inner change into practical skills?
Ime you need to do physical practice as well as thought exercises - it's all about creating new neural pathways, and etching them in by doing them.
This would be a good time to confess I'm going through an extended phase of paralysis/procrastination myself! It's got to be about working with yourself, rather than trying to bully yourself (had enough of that, thank you.) Easter egg hunts, now, I could do: I loved setting them up for my younger sibs, so my inner child finds it great fun - I don't need a new pathway for it. Housework and paperwork are my current downfalls ... following this post, I've thought of a different mental approach ... thank you, thread Wish me luck!
Am trying to marshal my thoughts on this...I do it. ALL THE TIME. My husband has to be the tooth fairy as I do not seem to be able to do it. Lots of thoughts but a bit emotional about it. Will come back to it later.
Has anyone tried the book Growing Up Again: Parenting Ourselves, Parenting Our Children? link here My therapist recommended it for overcoming the feeling that I never learnt appropriate models for how to parent from my narcissistic mother. It has been very useful for me and might be helpful for others.
You'll have to excuse me dipping in and out of here and the 'regale me' thread.
Wow, yy to children never being allowed to be children. I don't know how to have fun. Really. No laughter in the childhood home, there wasn't allowed to be. Shhhhhhhh.
I tend to hide in a corner somewhere, freeze, or make excuses when the opportunity for fun arises. My friends seem to have noticed and suggest quiet meals/nights out, but it mustn't be fun for them. I feel I'm holding them back. We do have a laugh, but the fun element frightens me as if I'm scared I'll be laughed at. I wouldn't know what to do.
Crushed, I've just had a look at the reviews for the book Jacques recommended. I also found some teaching resources based on it. It includes advice on steps to take, should you be aware that you missed out on some crucial parts of your own development.
I'm sorry you missed out on the laughter & silliness of childhood - such a pity! I doubt your friends feel you're holding them back, by the way, but it will be nice for you to get some chances to run around giggling
Someone I knew took circus classes for similar reasons (I've only seen them in London). I don't know whether he learned to let his hair down, but he loved the course and took a second one.
Thanks dothraki for the , my first , and vanquish, garlicbrunch and building for recognising what I'm talking about. It really helps, I find, to dissect these issues, but I haven't met anyone in RL who is interested in discussing the interactions of parenthood in such detail.
The easter egg hunt went "good enough". I put some eggs in plain view, so the DC figured out themselves they were supposed to go on a hunt instead of me explaining (which would make me feel very self conscious), and hid others, so they had the surprise of finding hidden treasures as well. They were both quite excited and the whole living room is now covered in chocolate.
I didn't manage to create the complete Easter experience as I know it from my childhood, though. And the same is true of the other celebrations I've organised since I'm parenting alone: Christmas, New Year's, my birthday, Mother's Day and their birthday (I have twins).
When I think about these celebrations, that I used to love as a child, it does feel as if they fall out of the sky, while I just sit and watch, and try to not ruin the picture perfectness of it all. So my next step will be figuring out ways to create the experience together with the DC, while taking the responsibility as their mum to make them happen and to insert some magic in it.
Your Easter surprise sounds brilliant! Really, give yourself a huge 'stroke'! Well done for 'good enough', too ... although I'd venture that today was far better than that
What you're saying about the landmark occasions sounds very much like a psychological construct. You have this whole scene set up in your head, which is how it 'should' be. Nothing else is quite right. In fact, you've just created your own landmark special event for your family. Bloody excellent: not only are you forming landmark memories especially for your own family but, even more importantly, this is a reality not a 'construct'. Constructs are only window dressing. Today was an actual, tangible, happy family day!
If you still can't believe it, try going over it verbally with your DC tomorrow or write it down as a little story (with pictures?) This narrative replaces the construct.
God, I hope that made some sense.
Meiisme - have you read ' playful parenting'?
It transformed my life, made me more fun and much more connected with my dc.
I found 'how to talk' helped me understand responsibility better - what is mine and when to take my beak out. I intend to read 'Buddhism for mothers' next.
It feels to me like old-fashioned perfectionism, me.
I also try to protect myself against any possibility of failing my kids, and try to avoid raising their expectations too much, which is p robably not a healthy thing.
You want to replicate your happy memories, but I always remind myself that my kids have a better 'baseline' of happiness, so these events aren't going to be their only happy memories of childhood. Does that make sense? It is okay to do a bit of a half-arsed job, because actually, what matters more is day-to-day living and getting that right.
But then I think, childhood flies by so fast and you only get one chance, etc. I tie myself in knots and that isn't good either.
So, I just do what I can and then, learn for next time.
Just found this thread - what an excellent idea! Off to read through properly
thanks garlicbrunch, I'll take a look
I intend to have a look at the book about toxic parents too, that rhondajean recommends. Amazon are going to love me, aren't they?
My dh said that when he first met me, he thought there were basic things I should have known but didn't. He says I was unaware of what was going on around me and that I had tunnel vision. Said in a nice way, by the way.
Over the years since we met (23 this year), I've grown in confidence and knowledge, and even though I'm the same person as I was, I'm much better. I have gained qualifications and have a better type of job now than before. This is down to dh's unwavering support and love, so it just goes to show what parents can do for their children by showing them these wonderful attributes.
So thats like coming from a child (me) gaining love and support from a parent (dh), if thats another way of looking at it. Truly thankful to my dh.
I'm still a little sensitive to criticism (where does that come from, I wonder), but it's something I'm working on.
....oops, I meant to say 'the sensitive to criticism' part is aimed at my mum, not dh.
I forgot I'm on the parents thread.
Love this brave and helpful thread. Keep the ideas coming!
I am reading "parenting from the inside out" - quite science based but also helpful .
And not to sound trite but: by the very fact that we're on this thread, I think we are all better mums than we think we are!
This: Constructs are only window dressing. Today was an actual, tangible, happy family day!
This: You want to replicate your happy memories, but I always remind myself that my kids have a better 'baseline' of happiness, so these events aren't going to be their only happy memories of childhood.
And this: My dh said that when he first met me, he thought there were basic things I should have known but didn't. He says I was unaware of what was going on around me and that I had tunnel vision.
I've found Growing up again: parenting ourselves, parenting our children on googlebooks and am reading it now. And yes, it's the structure I'm struggling with, not so much the nurturing (sometimes that a bit, but I think I'm over the worst).
It's not only easter egg hunts I have problems with. I know that I'm a good mother when it comes to intention, but the day-to-day running of a house and taking care of children I find really difficult. I hate routine and pre-children spent a lot of time completely rejecting it, also in calm, quiet, staying at home periods. Now every day I'm battling myself to give them their vitamin drops, brush their teeth, wash their hair, get them (and myself...) to keep the house somewhat tidy, do something constructive with our time, keep them from hurting each other and me, get them to bed at a reasonable time, make decent meals... Don't get me wrong, most days I manage to make all (okay, not the vitamin drops and the washing of hair) happen, but each and every act is a hurdle. It's exhausting and to be honest somewhat discouraging that this where I still am, after a few years of parenthood.
And yes, as garlic said, I want to learn to do these things as a matter of course, but without bullying myself. Not just because I've had enough of that, but also because making myself do things fuels that obstinate teenager in me.
So I'm going to read Growing up again with interest, and after that the others recommended. How to talk to children and Playful parenting have been on my list for a long time.
Does anybody want to talk more about getting structure to work?
meisme - it sounds like you have got the structure there, and it is working its just that you don't feel confident. Thats ok. And alot of parenting is very boring and hard work -and you (not you - us) never quite know if we've got it right. I was skint when my dc's were little and I never knew if I had done enough. My eldest dd is now a mum of 2, and I feel very proud when she says - I loved it when we did - this and that when we were little - like going to the woods, splashing in the stream, film night giggling like mad over silly stuff.
Dd still laughs at me - she thinks I'm bonkers - dgs actually used to call me nanna bonkers - in a sweet loving way
I think every generation parents in a different way - that doesn't mean one generation is wrong.Its much harder if you've been parented badly. Recognising that - and deciding you are going to change things is something to be proud of. meisme thats the second bunch from me and x
whoops I didn't actually say - I thought I was doing everything wrong
Also, me. I think it IS resentment. I feel needy and not looked after, so why should I do something nice for the kids? But because I wasn't 'allowed' to be needy as a child, it is squashed down and hard to recognise and comes out in other ways.
It isn't nice to admit it. It isn't looked on well in some circles, being honest about it. But for me, the only way past it ... is through it.
If I notice I am resentful, I figure it out. I ask myself, what do I need first? Maybe it is a cuppa, maybe it is a little cry (again) about not having supportive parents, maybe it is telling myself to just bloody get on with it and stop wallowing, but once I get it out I can often get on with nice things for the kids.
It isn't fair that I have to work so hard to be an average parent, but there you go. I do. And I'd rather put the work in than not.
And the structure is very hard for me. More thoughts on that later.
I am coming back to the structure question, although I do feel a little bit like my confession about resentment means I am persona non grata due to no replies! Paranoia...?
Anyway, I sort of think that the difficulty with structure is partly because my mum was a bit...absent...emotionally and in many ways didn't really engage with us or give us guidance on how to do things. (My dad is the narc, btw.) So, as I've heard others say on the 'regale me' thread, she would say, 'Put some washing on' but I didn't know how to use the machine. Lots and lots of things about daily life were just never explained. In addition, we moved around a LOT as a child, which meant that structure was always being changed anyway.
Also, because there was a certain amount of (benign?) neglect or at least lack of discipline from my mum, we made up our own ways of doing things. She told me recently that when I was five she just got sick of all the mess in my room and left it up to me to tidy. I have a six year old and the thought of that is shocking to me. Aren't you supposed to help your children learn how to do this stuff, not just leave them to it?
Also, I discovered through therapy that one of the features of being traumatised (I had PTSD after a difficult birth) is 'foreshortened future'. When I was properly PTSD, I could not see my way to the end of the day. I could not organise my way to lunch, let along organise a playdate next week. The basic problem is now knowing whether you will still be around to have lunch...the mind just doesn't quite believe it. So it seems likely that somewhat traumatic events from my childhood affected my ability to plan and organise. Therapy helped with that as a sort of side-effect.
Finally, something a bit complicated to do with unmet needs ... you try to meet your needs in other ways, including through avoiding the boring bits of life. So, I certainly have had times when I have felt entitled to avoid the boring structures and housework because I'm so miserable/hardworking/put upon as a parent. I just want to duck out and do the fun stuff (like my dad did). Recognising that dynamic within me has helped a lot - now I can say to myself, as my mother never really did, 'I know you don't want to but you have to.'
Does any of this sound familiar or is this just my story here?
I'm keeping this thread in relationships, by the way, because it just feels safer to me...hope that makes sense.
no building you are not persona non grata. Sorry your post got missed
The part about being needy as a child being squashed, I can relate to that.
I will get back to you tomorrow around tea
Building - that last bit about avoiding the boring bits really rings a bell.
I'll come back too, I'm not really up to coping with anything heavy/serious just now but I'm still with you.
Hi OP. not strictly about moving on from Narc parents, but I have recently been reading "The emotionally absent mother: a guide to self healing and getting the love you missed" by Jasmin Lee Cori. It's not earth shatteringly great but it does have some useful elements.
Aw, hi guys! Thanks for 'strokes'.
'The Emotionally Absent Mother' sounds like the right book for me. She tries but in her own words she 'tuned herself down' to cope with being married to my dad, so she isn't as responsive.
Oh, and I also remembered in the night (out of guilt, I'm sure) that I did have to set the table and occasionally dust. So not a feral childhood. .
I totally agree - I had an emotionally absent martyr mother & narc father & any neediness on my part was squashed. We moved alot too, destroying friendships & any feeling of belonging anywhere.
I am a very organised & hard working mother but find it very difficult to play with my children or be a fun mum.
Really really familiar. Both my parents are narc or have those tendencies (or were just plain neglectful). I had a horrid childhood.
I'm currently struggling a lot and don't know how to articulate it, but I think the posts above have. For some reason I find the having to cook dinner everyday, dress everyone, get to pre school etc really really draining. I'm exhausted and unhappy most of the time and can't really work out why. My husband is away a lot which doesn't help, but surely I should be able to keep things ticking over at home. I'm bored a lot. I wonder if its all linked back to childhood and lack of parenting then.
I also compensate boredom, unhappiness with overeating. I seem this last year to have had no control over this and really hate myself for it.
Where do I go from here?
I certainly feel 'needy' in that all I want half the time is someone to sit me down with a cup of tea and ask me how I am and really listen. My husbands not great in that department (he's amazing practically though and puts us wi I a lot -working long hours and returning to a messy house and frazzled wife) . I'd love a parent figure. Its what I'd love most but I'm not going to be able to meet that need. I feel I need to 'get over ' it all but that's so hard and since having children I'm more resentful than ever.
I've got toxic parents and am halfway through. Finding it scarily accurate.
I wish I didn't have to struggle just to get the basics done.
I've dealt with my parents & I know I'm a "good" mother. Just wish I could be more fun though!
Thanks for the book recommendations, will take a look.
Oh, building, sorry for not replying. I didn't want to hog the thread, but forgot that responding to others is actually not that. A bit caught up in myself .
Your feelings of resentment resonate a lot with me, also - and I never thought about that, thanks - when it comes to structure. I do try to get out of the housework a lot, somehow upset that I have to do it, and only want to do the fun stuff. I've always had conflicts with housemates and my recent exP about me not doing my share, because I somehow feel I shouldn't be doing it. It makes no sense but is a very strong feeling.
Don't know where it comes from though. I wasn't forced to do a lot of chores as a kid. Actually the opposite: my mother took power from being the martyr/omni present queen bee who did everything around the house without us being allowed to chip in. Doing a chore was always about helping her, never about just doing your bit or learning to do something. So yes to having to figuring it all out yourself. I also have a thing about tidying up that I think comes from my dad getting angry about my mess, stuffing all of my toys etc in bin bags and telling me to sort it out, me then tipping over the bags to start tidying and going in a total panic standing in the midst of it. Or at least that's how my mum tells the story. I don't remember cos I was 3 .
Thank you so much for this thread building
So much of everyone's experiences are true for me. Having a narc, martyr of a mother and an alcoholic (who had stopped drinking but it was always a problem in the background) workaholic, bipolar father I didn't really have parents. They were always more wrapped up in themselves than their DC.
My siblings were much older than me so I really fended for myself. This did teach me independence but I left home not knowing how to cook, use a washing machine or anything useful. I had to learn everything myself. Parenting has been hard. Really trying not to repeat my mothers actions.
I'm off to amazon.
I only really recognised myself as being somewhat entitled when I read "Reinventing Your Life", a schema psychology book that helps you understand the unconscious scripts that are governing your life. Terrible title (what were they thinking?) but genuinely transformative for me.
I also find it hard to be a 'fun' parent, but Playful Parenting helped a bit with that, as did managing my own expectations. It is OK to be a fun parent twice a week. Or once a week. Honestly. It can be just a tickle fight after bath. You do not have to be a constant children's entertainer. That is unrealistic and exhausting, and children don't need you to be that. Pull it out of the bag every so often, but make sure it comes from a real love and enjoyment if you can. Being a parent is really tiring and it is no wonder we don't have fun all the time. Maybe I'm giving myself an out since I have had some kind of awful fatigue condition for the last year, but my kids are doing okay despite it.
For me, I spend a lot of time questioning my motives and over analysing stuff. So I don't buy my kids a lot of toys, for instance. Am I an awful parent to not get them the latest game? Will I spoil them if I do? Am I destroying their lives? Is that because I am trying to make their lives miserable
like mine? Maybe partially, but also because I live in the real world where there is not infinite money or storage.
So I ask myself, 'What do normal people do?' when I notice myself getting weird about something. Sometimes I answer that question with two or three friends in mind who seem well-balanced. It really helps me to just realise that there are lots of good answers to parenting questions....something that can sometimes be overlooked when you are desperately trying to be perfect to meet unconscious expectations of yourself or price yourself to your parents for their (always withheld) approval. Normal people buy their kids new toys sometimes, but not all the time. It is up to me to figure out what sometimes means for our kids.
Also, I work part-time at a job that I mostly enjoy. This helps because it means we can have a cleaner. Working adds structure to my week and means I have support for some of the boring stuff. Otherwise the house would just be drowning in mess. Times when we have not had a cleaner or I have not been working have been worse for me and thus everyone. I have gone round the houses with the inevitable guilt about working but it just is good for me. Sorry if that is not possible for everyone.
Meant 'prove yourself to your parents' not 'price yourself'! Weird idea.
I need this thread back on my active list Am going through a shocking self-neglect phase (thank god I haven't got kids!) and reading all suggestions avidly.
midwife,building - same here with the moving round a lot, and not belonging anywhere. Those feelings of not belonging still remain. I can sit in a room full of people and still feel like I'm on my own, on the outside looking in.
Building - regarding the structure part, I like structure (boring fart that I am). I like to plan for the week ahead. I like doing housework, a tidy house, a sense of control, perhaps. As for neediness, I can relate, those needs not being met. The need for me to be me a fully functioning well rounded, NORMAL person, the need for me to have been a CHILD, fgs !! That all squashed down and manifesting themselves in different ways...just shit, isn't it?
garlicballs - yy to the self neglect part. I still bite my nails, I don't wear make up to work/outdoors, only a bit of foundation if any, can't be bothered to use my straighteners sometimes though my hair is screaming out for them. No pride. And as for the wine intake....phew, not good
yellowhouse - [big hugs] Please don't hate yourself. I don't think you are resentful, just struggling with everyday parent things, just that its harder without the guidance of a parental figure. I hear from relatives of mine, and posters on MN with narc parent(s), say they cannot see the wood from the trees as far as being a parent is concerned.
Have you looked at books recommended on this site? I've seen one I'm really interested in: growing up, parenting ourselves, parenting our children by Jean Illsley Clarke. I'm seriously thinking of buying that, as well as a couple of others, to try and recoup what I never had.
Brilliant idea for a post. I have had counseling & CBT before where I started to recognise (very hard) & then deal with the fact that I had a Narc mother. Thought that all mums must be like mine until then!
I haven't read any relevant books yet, but I am about to order the Toxic Parents book from Amazon.
The best resource I've used for raising my 2 year old daughter so far has been my own experiences as a child, and the relationship I had / have with my own mother. Having my dd was like a lightbulb coming on for me, I was just so aware of not making the same mistakes my mum did with me, I guess I go out of my way to be different to how she was & that is my parenting approach!
I think what OP says about respecting your child as an individual is key, my mum has always treated me like an extension & reflection of her. With my dd I see her as an individual & respect her own rapidly developing 2 year old personality! So far I couldn't hope for a better relationship with my dd really, we are a little team & are v close, there is just that natural easy bond there, which I never had with my own mum as a kid, I was scared of her & have never lived up to her expectations. We play & have fun together, there are lots of giggles, which I never had, everything was always so serious.
I don't follow a parenting approach as such like UP, but I don't shout at my daughter unless I really have to, like if she's in danger or something. I try to explain everything to her & not just say no or stop without a good reason. If she gets hold of something she shouldn't have, I don't just grab it from her, I ask her to give it to me or put it back & explain why it's not good to have it. She may only be 2, but I respect her & don't treat her as inferior like my mum used to when I was a kid.
Beabea81- It shocks me that I see more and more about my mum coming to life, as it were, by different posters as the thread continues. I thought I covered every trait, then I see more, coming out of the woodwork, maybe in different dimensions:
Extension and reflection: Of my mum? Arrghh noooooo.
Never lived up to her expectations. 'Aw no, you should have done this/said that'. The feeling of deflation ever present.
Everything was always so serious' Got told off for laughing at a comedy sketch for christ's sake.
No natural easy bond. Enough said.
Through counselling and reading books such as "The Emotionally Absent Mother" I have been able to pin point roughly when in my childhood my mum stepped back from me emotionally. I know it happened at about the age of 11 or 12. I know it happened because I was the "coper". She thought she had done her job. My two older sisters had lots of issues, but I was bumbling along ok.
It was only when I became a mum myself 5 years ago that I realised that her emotional withdrawal wasn't about letting me be independent. It was easier for her. There were so many risky situations I stumbled into throughout my teenage years, too many to dwell on here .
I love my mum and I know she loves me. She just isn't really that interested in me (apart from her grandchildren of course, who she adores). It does hurt a bit when I see teenage girls and their mums out shopping/ having lunch etc. We never did this. I didn't go without. I was given an allowance for clothes etc from about 13 and just went out shopping by myself or with my mates.
There were never discussions about school, college, A level choices, Uni applications etc. I pretty much moved out at 17 without a backward glance. She never asked about my friends, boyfriends. All she wanted to know was if I would be home for dinner that evening.
I am now 38, with two beautiful children and a great husband who I have been with for over 15 years. I am successful in my career and have been in my current job for nearly ten years. I find it sad that my mum probably could tell you very little about my life (apart from the children) because she just isn't really interested. We see each other regularly, speak sometimes on the phone but its all pretty routine stuff. She is more like a Great Aunt to me than a mum.
All of this I have learnt to accept. I can accept it because I know why she is like the way she is. My mum was terribly abused as a very young child by her own mother. She then was in a children's home (WW2, grandad was in the army). She eventually went back to her dad. He remarried and my mum had a strong sense of gratitude towards her step mother, despite the relationship being quite cold. Mum never had contact with her birth mother again.
I find it so sad that there was no counselling for my mum, no self help books etc. no closure with her biological mother. She just got on with it. We were always clean, well fed, nicely dressed etc. To mum, that was good mothering. I know that the way in which I parent my children with my husband is very different.
For us, yes of course the basics are important. But so is the nurturing. If you have managed to read this (my longest ever post), I thank you. I have only ever discussed such issues in counselling, with my husband or with my sister. I hope my story shows that the cycle of deficient parenting can and will be broken. I work on this everyday and look forward to nurturing my children throughout their childhood and teenage years well into adulthood.
Thank you so much for starting this thread.
This is a bit like reading the Stately Homes threads for the first time and falling from one revelation into the next.
I like doing housework, a tidy house, a sense of control, perhaps. I think this is quite key, at least to me. On GB's thread someone said that it looks like part of the reason why she stays with her H is that she doesn't like to be in control or be fully responsible for herself and her actions.
Realising I did this was a turning point for me getting away from my controlling and abusive ex. And turning it over the last couple of days, I think it's a big part of the rejecting structure and housework as well. Running a house and caring for children efficiently requires you to be in control, to be on top of the situation instead of floating along in it. This is too adult, and at the same time too much like that kid who needed to run around after her mum, cleaning up the mess of her narcissistic and drunk actions to make sense of the chaos for herself, her younger siblings and the outside world, that needed to believe everything was alright.
I actually LOVE having a tidy house and crave, crave, crave order in my environment. I just can't quite seem to achieve it. But that is kind of life with kids, to a certain extent. I try not to be a neat freak at the expense of my relationships, and I try not to be a slob at the expense of my sanity. 'What do normal people do?' .
I hear the point about not actually wanting to be the grown up. I heard a phrase which seems apt: 'the parentified child'. I f you've had to 'take care' of a home situation as a child, emotionally, or practically, you don't like it when the real situation comes up in adult life.
Reading the stately homes thread has been useful in many ways. My situation is less "but we took you to stately homes. What more could you want?" and more "but you were fed, clean, dressed, had a warm bed at night. What more could you want?"
It took a very long time for me to identify the gaps in parenting in my childhood. A very long time to think that it is ok to have wanted more as a child. It is as a parent that I know that it takes more than the basics. There are at times when providing the basics are hard. There are times when I can just about do the basics (like this week while having the flu). But when it is consistently only the basics that there is the problem being built up. I have had to accept that I will never be my mum's priority. I never was as a child. Being able to accept the situation has been incredibly liberating over the past few months.
Back to the OP. Self help books and counselling are the way to go in my opinion. You can move on from narc / dysfunctional parents. The cycle can be broken.
meiisme - 'This is too adult, and too much like that that kid who needed to run round after her mum, cleaning up the mess...' :/.
Am I still doing that? The need to be in control, the need for structure still, to plan ahead, to know where I am. Yet the sense of pride I get when having cleaned the house is enormous. I'd rather hope its my current (happy) circumstances that is the cause of the pride, than still 'running round after mum'.
Speaking of pride, Garlicballs mentioned earlier about self neglect. Self neglect is one of the symptoms of not being taught to have pride in oneself. I might have a clean house and crave structure, but still bite my nails, wear minimal makeup if any, and hair in dire need of being straightened. Proud of my house and my current circumstances, but not proud of me. Another gaping hole in parenting.
Finola1step - The 'coper' ....my sisters had lots of issues, but I was bumbling along ok'. I can relate to that because there wasn't any other choice, as my needs were not met. I gave up and got on with it.
'Aw, crushed, aren't you the good one, never complaining. You carry on being independent, that'll be great'.
'Proud of my house and my current circumstances, *but not proud of me'.
*meant to say, but not proud of my physical appearance.
Why can't it all come together? There are things missing....
Sorry, and I even got that wrong, self neglect isn't just physical, it's emotional as well. Not having a good day:/
Crap day here and don'tknow where to start to improve life.
yellow I wonder if seeing your GP might help? They can be very very helpful. Honestly.
Yellow, I second buildings advice, please see your gp.
Remember we're here for you, you're not on your own
Hi Yellow. The turning point came for me last October. I was having a really rough time (house move, work problems) as well as the mundane stuff. To top it off, my health wasn't great and I had a cancer scare (which turned out all ok but put the bloody frightners on me).
I couldn't tell my mum. I just knew she wouldn't be able (or possible willing) to give me the support I needed and deserved. So I didn't tell her. If she didn't know then she couldn't disappoint me.
My GP was really good. I sobbed in his office one day when he told me about the biopsy I would need. He listened. Signed me off work. Didn't prescribe anti ds although he did diagnose depression and anxiety. We agreed on counselling and time.
Nearly six months later I see things quite different. I am actually quite enjoying the enlightenment that this journey provides. It is bloody painful at times. But finally talking to my GP about how fucking hard I was finding keeping it all together, was the best thing I could have done.
And mum? Well once I knew that it wasn't cancer, I did tell her a bit about what had been going on with my health and even used the cancer word. Her response ... "Oh ok". She then started talking about plans for Xmas. I finished my coffee and left, relieved that I hadn't turned to her for support. A bit angry too. I have significantly lowered my expectations of her over the past six months.
Please see your GP yellow and keep posting. Night night.
Hi Crushed. Just read your comment about being "the coper". I still have moments were I think it wasn't all that bad. And in truth, in comparison to my mum's childhood, mine was ok.
But it is only recently that I have been able to say to myself that I am not being ungrateful. It wasn't ok that I was just left to get on with it, even though they (my dad as well) thought I would be ok. Because ok isn't good enough. Many times I was not ok. I think I will struggle with this. Despite everything I know and have said... a bit of me stills thinks I am being ungrateful. A favourite phrase in my family was "you put up or you shut up!" It still gets me that one.
I think part of it yesterday was realising that if my parents weren't going to 'be there' for me when I was in intensive care, or offer to help when I came out its not going to happen is it?
I keep setting myself up for disappointment and then when I see them or call them get upset again. They really do think they're normal parents I think and that I'm the one expecting too much or with issues.
Yesterday I was just overwhelmed yet again that I don't have anyone I can lean on when its tough.
Finola - You're right, it wasn't ok to be left to get on with it. You are not being ungrateful. Funny,she used that word if I ever (dared to) question her. After all, she fed and clothed me, right?
We were denied a childhood after all, weren't we? A fundamentally important part of our life missed. Do you think the transgression between childhood to adulthood has been hard for you?
I tried to think it wasn't that bad too. It wasn't bad. Well, as long as I kept my mouth shut, stifled (many) tears, kept the fears bottled up inside, crept around on egg shells not to make any noise. My sisters had issues too, so made a lot of noise, whereas I had to be the quiet one. And I hate noise like you wouldn't believe, phone on silent, tv and radio off on my day off, lying there enjoying the silence.
I appreciate Mum didn't have much of a childhood. She was the youngest of 6 children who shouldered the responsibility to look after her Mum as her siblings went to school or were dating. Her dad died when she was very little. So I became the responsible one, many years later. It got handed down to me. 'Because it happened to me, I'll make sure someone else suffers for it'. Thanks Mum
....and in the cold light of day, I am an extension of her, the life she had, running round after a parent while the other siblings 'got away' with having issues, or in her case, her siblings were older and getting on with their lives.
Its too similar not to be an extension. She chose me to be her extension, to have the life she had. Thanks again Mum
Yellowhouse - 'they really do think they are normal parents'
Which means they are not going to change. Ever. The only thing you can change is your attitude towards them.
Don't set yourself up for a disappointment. That's hard I know, because although you know what they are going to say/do, you just keep thinking, HOPING, that maybe they'll, just this once, give you the attention you richly deserve.
I know its hard, but try limiting your contact with them bit by bit, not necessarily altogether. And see your GP. They may suggest counselling like Finola's did.
And We're all still here with a friendly ear too
It has taken me a very long time to see that my parents and sisters will never change. The family hierarchy is set in concrete. But I can change what I do, say, think, expect.
I have had to switch off a bit. Not completely, but focus on self preservation. I have my own family that needs me.
There is no point expecting any support from my mum. She very much sees it as "well I had to struggle bringing up kids, why shouldn't you?". Or the old favourite "well no one helped me out!".
Now I don't ask. I don't want her support because I would then have to be grateful for the little crumbs she throws my way. So the expectations have been well and truly lowered.
I'm just absolutely determined that I will not repeat the cycle with my own children. It's hard sometimes though when I hear myself saying the things my mum would have said! Thank goodness I am getting better at stopping actually saying them and biting my tongue.
Oh finola they'd say that almost word for word! And then there's the odd day we all spend time together and its lovely.
I think I need to withdraw but its hard. I'm on my own a lot with the kids and when dad actually will grace us with his presence or allow a visit he's good with the kids. I think my mum is even lonely yet this week I've texted a few times and its beginning to feel like I'm begging for attention or to spend time together. Yet they can spend time with each other or my brother.
Handling it is hard isn't it too. If we go reduced contact does that mean just not initiating and being around when they initiate or just making no effort whatsoever? I hate that its such hard work, and something that should be so simple isn't. And then it goes back in a circle that I wonder what's wrong with me that they don't want to see me or ever ask how I am or visit grandkids etc.
I so hope I'm building a better relationship with my girls. I hope to be able to support them when they have kids too. I guess they might be so self assured that they don't need me and think I'm interfering instead!
yellow My mum really isn't too bad (more of an enabler who has actually left my dad) but I've just had to give up hope that my dad will ever, ever change. My therapist got me to write down my hopes for my relationship with my parents and then ... burn them. I fed them into the fire one by one and cried buckets but it was necessary for me to move on. But I would just stress that I had professional help (on the NHS) to help me with this. I do recommend seeing your GP.
And I'm not no contact. I just have to set boundaries and manage my expectations very tightly...if I feel myself looking forward to a visit I have to take myself in hand and have a word! There are sometimes nice times, like you said, but I just can't expect much.
Read the 'regale me' thread if you haven't already (and sorry if you are already on there). It is eye-opening and bloody funny in places.
Because of my psychological history, I had a problem in my relationship with my son which meant I felt like we weren't really bonded. When he was about 6, I read an Oliver James's article on love bombing and tried it and it helped sooooooo much. It was really hard, because the idea is you just let the child take control and bombard them with affection for a weekend. It was very difficult because obviously all my resentment came up..."No one is love bombing me!" But I was sufficiently better to deal with it.
It was amazing and helped a lot. Google it if you are interested. Actually, I haven't googled it lately so who knows what you'll find....
Checking in for this thread, I've watched and read most of the regale me one but still coming to terms with full nc with my mother and sister.
I try incredibly hard to be a better mum to my daughter (and soon to be two children, due #2 in June) but there are days I simply do not have the parenting resources to work out how I should be handling my toddler.
My mother was extremely angry with me as a child and used violence on many many occasions. I was terrified of her. My father however was just incredible but now I wonder why he didn't protect me more. I should add my mother never laid a finger on my younger sister and gas lighting is a way of . So my default reaction to being kicked or hit would have been to instantly retaliate
yellow - yes, as far as the reduced contact is concerned, don't initiate, just be there for them when they need you. Or, if you don't feel comfortable with that, there is a different way.
How many times do you initiate contact, say on a weekly basis?
If you contacted them on a daily basis, for example, you could cut down to every other day , then after a while cut down to twice a week, once during the week and once during the weekend, whatever is manageable to you.
I think I text each of them about twice a week with a suggestion that is usually replied with, 'I think I'll pass'. Or occasionally call if we're passing. They're only 5 mins away. Its usually rejected hence the second attempt. Some weeks its less.I stayed in Friday pm as he'd said he was coming over and texted him at 1 to say we were in. At 5 he replied that he didn't need to come over after all as he'd already dropped x off. So we'd waited in.
He is really good with girls when he does see them though. he almost has no sense of any one else's needs at all. He'll purelyonly does something if he feels like it or wants to.
I need something to fill that hole in our life!
yellow I think distracting yourself with other activities is a good idea, and also empowering! How nice to be able to sat, "Can't pop by, sorry, we'll be at swimming.'
It is very hard with small children. I bet there are other people near you who'd love to come for a play date one afternoon.
Have been thinking that one of the best parenting resources for people raised by narcs is ... Mumsnet! It helps me answer that question "What do normal people do?" over and over.
I also rely heavily on RL friends who 'get it'. And largely drift away from those who don't.
Yes same here. People on MN saying no that wasn't ok & also recognising patterns with their narcs & mine.
MN is a life saver, soul saver, and sanity saver. Everything rolled into one
Hi there, I have been lurking on this thread, thanks for the resources! I have now read 'will I ever be good enough' and have just ordered 'the emotionally absent mother'. I am also reading 'they f*ck you up' for the second time.
It is only since having a child (now 3) that I have realised the extent of my issues with my mother. I am basically loved by my parents, and think they were probably quite good with us when we were very young, though my mum has admitted she was depressed after I (her last DC) was born, and I have always been oversenstive to her moods. But from the age of about eight I think I started experiencing the benign neglect someone mentioned above. I grew up to be so clueless about how to look after myself and have really struggled with quite basic things. I have never felt able to confide in her about anything, and have severely lacked a mentor figure all my life.
I get so stressed out by visits from my mum, or visits to their house, that it makes me physically ill sometimes. I lie awake for hours the night after they have left going over all the things she has said to me. Every little thing comes across as a covert criticism. She seems to be getting worse as I get older - or maybe I am just more aware of it. I end up feeling deflated and exhausted, and angry (and ranting to DH).
I am not sure where I am going with this post except that I have never written it down and feel I need to! I am enquriring into therapy, as I am expecting DC2, and this all blew up hugely after my first child was born (then subsided) and I am worried the same thing is going to happen again, as I am pretty sure it was a sort of depression.
Thanks for reading, and I am sorry you are all in a similar boat, needing these books like me.
Forgot to say that it is so important to me that my DD feels loved and able to confide in me in the way that I never could with my mum. The scariest thing about reading 'will I ever be good enough' was realising that as the daughter of someone with narcissistic tendencies, I probably have them too. That's what I really need to ensure isn't the case long term, more than anything I think.
Great thread, Have not had a chance to read all of it, but after reading sample and reviews on amazon, have ordered: Parenting Ourselves book.
I'm in my 40's and struggle even now with my relationship with my parents (won't bore you with the details,) but am so desperate to break the patterns so that I don't F* up my 2 year-old. I just so often don't know what to do (usually too permissive) as I end up doing the opposite of what my strict, angry mother did.
Trying to find the middle path!! (Must dig out my copy of Buddhism for mothers after all the recommendations!!)
I was also too permissive. Have a look at 123 Magic, really...a parent liaison health visitor type person lent the DVD to me. Fantastic.
I know this thread is a wee bit lapsed but hoping anyone still around...
Just wanted to say reading this was so so insightful for me, lots of really valuable stuff, thank you all.
I have learnt that:
There is a name for two of my secret shames...
Foreshortened future - it makes me feel alot better that this is a 'thing' not just me being crap. Just voicing this, naming this, gives me hope.
Self neglect - I cover it up well(ish) but yea yes and yes... Worried I am passing this down to Ds too.
Boundaries I know I'm going to have a problem with as Ds gets older, also being too permissive, I totally adopt all of playful parenting and as yet haven't had to 'tell him off' more than maybe 2-3 times ever.
Anyway, thanks so much for this thread.
The "lovely stuff parents did for you thread" (discussions of the day) has been playing on my mind for a few days, and made me think of this thread.
I want to be that parent, who does the small kind things and who creates loving rituals for their children. But I find it so hard without a role model. Not only because I have to invent them all myself, but also because of the resentment about being the one who has to organise it, to always be the one in charge and giving.
Building, I remember you felt rejected when you didn't get much of a response when you raised that issue. I'm further in therapy now and think I'm closer to dealing with that feeling. But how?! Does anybody want to discuss again?
Thanks for this thread. Just ordered 1,2,3.
To the last poster, it IS hard not to feel anger/resentment sometimes.
Feels good to share these feelings too!
Oooh! Hello again all!I had been wondering about this thread lately and it had fallen off my TIO list.
Welcome one and all. More later.
Been lurking and it's all very interesting. I was wondering if anyone has any views/experience of an engulfing narcissitic mother. I've recently (in the last 6 months or so) stopped living with mine and gone much lower contact (you can't get much more contact than living together now see her twice a week for an hour or so, on my terms, in my place of choice...almost never in my house).
Mine wasn't abusive physically or neglectful but has spent her entire life gatecrashing mine, following me when I moved abroad, ending up guilting me into living with her then trying to break up my marriage. Totally somthering/controlling/needy/entitled/making me feel responsible for her (impossible to achieve) happiness, all in the guise of us being "close" IYSWIM. Took me a long time to work out what was happening.
Is there anything I can read that is specifically about engulfing narcissists? Anyone who meets my mum usually thinks she's great and that we get on really well.
Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers is a website which has information on engulfing narcissistic mothers.
Thanks Attila, there is some on that (excellent) website. I just wondered if there were other resources specifically dealing with the engulfing aspect as I've found that hard to deal with, weirdly. It's like I have to keep reminding myself of the AWFUL things she has done (I had a couple of long threads on here when it was all going on), because she can be really kind sometimes and it's hard to extricate yourself when you've been trained all your life to think of them first. I find myself thinking "oh well she didn't beat me or neglect me". I have to go back and read my threads to remind myself of the awful treatment of DH, the bullying, trying to force DH out, the suicide threats, etc.
buildingmycorestrength, SnoopyLovesYou, at the moment I am struggling with resentment about day-to-day positive attention for my DC. I let them spend wayyyy too much time behind the computer, because I don't have it in me to be with them emotionally all the time. The last two months have been heavy with soul searching (therapy, WA course, assessment of children's emotional problems, court statements) and if it were up to me, I would spend most of my time alone to take a break from all that stuff
I don't resent my children directly - it is more aimed at some unspecified power that put me in this position - but recently I've noticed that when I push myself to be with them emotionally, it almost becomes a game to withdraw from them when they start to get really into it, because resentment comes up and I want to be on my own again. And that scares me, because it's the kind of bewildering game-playing that feels very unsafe for children. My therapist is telling me to relax (everybody is, to be honest ) and just focus on one hour of really being with them per day, but I feel very ashamed by how little I interact with them on some days.
When we were talking on this thread around Easter, I felt more resentful about housework and basic child care. After talking it through here, I changed my tack to what I've privately dubbed 'housekeeping from the true self', and that has helped a lot. I focus on what I want now, so do chores that make me feel better about the house instead of the ones which are most necessary in a How Clean Is Your House kind of way. Maybe I can find a similar approach to this day-to-day positive stuff malarkey.
GoodtoBetter, one thing I've learned is to focus on how spending time with people makes me feel, instead of looking at what they're doing. Their actions can be confusing, but your feelings are usually quite clear on whether they are genuinely well-intended or not. One strong mechanism of control my mum set up, was to always contradict me on my feelings and (with that semi-concerned smile that makes me want to stab) tell me that what I thought I was feeling was not what I was really feeling. And that is, I think, designed to stop you from figuring them out. IMHE, anyway .
Great thread, will be checking out the book recommendations... really interesting thread
"designed to stop you figuring them out". yy to that. I'd have said before that I got on v well with my mum, that we were close. She was a bit clingy and difficult sometimes but that we were v close. Since it all happened I feel like I don't know her at all anymore. Feel like I can't trust her. Probably trusted her too much before....had no boundaries with her before, you see. That, I suppose is the headfuck of the engulfing narcissist. I was infantilised and parentified all at once. Am terrified of fucking up my own DCs.
Having a bad time at the moment (illness and work, not parents for a change) but thinking of you all and will post more soon as I can.
Small positive interactions w the kids are exhausting at first so don't worry. Baby steps.
I'm basically afraid mine don't/won't like me so don't want to get too close. But I understand rationally that they DO love me, they adore me, my smile is like sunshine to them. So I force a smile, even a really fake one, as often as I can and it helps everyone.
123 magic is a personal fave of mine. It can be fiddled with a bit to help when teenagers too.
Meiisme the way you wrote about your interactions with your children and the game of withdrawal really related to me, I do this with my children and I worry about it.
I've spent most of this morning reading this thread and realising that there may be a small reason why I parent the way I do.
My father seems to have narc tendencies, I always desperately craved his love and attention (my parents split when I was 5) and I never felt good enough for him. I vividly remember him watching the clock, waiting for my mum to come home from work and having a go at her for being two minutes late. I felt crushed that he was only there because he had to be not because he wanted to.
I want to change my ways, I can see the narc tendencies in myself and I need to sort myself out. I've probably damaged the DC enough but I need to change now. For the sake of my family.
Thank you for all the links and books, I hope they will be insightful for me.
Hi, I had the tremendous good fortune to be raised by a PAIR of narcs.
face your childhood. Go into that pain, and be there for the unheard mistreated neglected child you were.
it hurts like a bitch
Once you remember and have access to your childhood, you will NEVER, EVER want to pass that on. Ever.
Alternatively: read every single Alice Miller book there is to read. 'The Drama of the Gifted Child' is the first.
When you have empathy for yourself, when you remember what it felt like, you will have empathy for your children.
I tell my children what my parents were like (calmly and sparingly I hope) and the biggest GIFT I hear is when they sometimes say: 'well Mummy if they were like that to you, why aren't you like that to us?'
I didn't pass the pain on thank you God. Make lots of mistakes, but I not revenging myself now I am in power.
"I can see the narc tendencies in myself" I've seen it called FLEAS on MN. Not having narc traits really, but having learned narc behaviour because for you as a child that was normal.
My withdrawing of attention is definitely something I learned from my parents, and yes, there is probably an element of revenge, however horrible it is to admit that. I have the same experience of my parents resenting spending time with me and it breaks my heart when I see myself acting the same around my children when I need time for myself. So maybe it is about finding a more direct and open way to express that that is what it is to the children, because I'm not sick of them, just of being responsible all the time and not having anyone to take care of me <whine whine>.
I've read The Gifted Child and have been in therapy for almost two years now, but accessing my childhood feelings still seems so far off. I think I was so disconnected most of the time that I didn't feel anything or make any memories. How did you access that, wellwobbly?
Message withdrawn at poster's request.
Thanks so much for posting this thread - it's a great resource for me.
I found out recently that monther hadn't seen me in over a month or responded to texts as something I'd said had upset her. (never mind the fact it was during a rare day I'd taken her out and she'd turned up drunk).
Dad (they're not together, odd relationship) said in passing, 'oh yes and mother isn't speaking to you since you upset her'. It really set something off in me. Its the fact he just accepts that it must be my fault, that he accepts its ok for her to treat me as she does. That he could see I was upset and never then follows up.
That this obviously mirrors my childhood I guess. Neither of them ever ever being available to meet my needs or validate any self worth. I'mnow dealing with husbands redundancy, my ill health and lack of energy, struggling still at home with the children, and daughter finishing pre school. Neither have been any support whatsoever and hardly even in touch at all. And even then just to update about his life, no real interest in mine.h.
Its crap isn't it.Mum now wants to see me (apparently it was all a misunderstanding- so that justifies how she's been then), I'm going to see her later in the week. We're going to a park with the girls. Its hard. When I'm with her I'll probably want to let my guard down and chat to her about thoughts and feelings but I really can't ban I??
Any idea how to handle them?
Any idea how to increase self esteem? I'm binge eating and huge and scared silly of isolating myself from children as I just seem to want space. And I resent doing housework and can't quite get into a routine.
Melisme, maybe I was incredibly lucky with the analyst I had (Jungian) - she showed me for the first time in my life compassion and what loving discipline was - not the harsh overbearing judgemental punishment I knew.
Remember that honesty is more important than appearances. I would have no hesitation at the end of the day saying to my children that I was tired and was having a quiet time. Even my 3 year old knew to leave me alone then. Half hour battery charge then on to bedtime etc.
Please work really hard on not withdrawing. Shouting is more honest. You blow up, then tell them it is because you are tired and not really anything they have done (which is the truth, our patience gets shorter when we are tired).
If we don't show authenticity and honesty, how are they going to learn about real stuff like anger - but making up again?
Er just realised I'd namechanged. Earlier posts I was yellow door.
Going to reread. Can't believe how much peoples experience resonates with mine (and how bloody fuckd up I still must be. As if they didn't do enough damage ruining my childhood)
Hi all - a little time but might be brief.
On withdrawing - I tried Oliver James's Love Bombing (just google it) with my son as I think we didn't bond well - it helped but was very hard as it used up all my resources emotionally! I had to really really be careful while we did it.
Now, I don't really try to do 'special time' very often, but try to do little 'treats' sometimes (instead of feeling like we shouldn't, or like it isn't good for children). Things like going to the park unexpectedly, or going to Pizza Hut after swimming (once every three months or so) or bringing them home a Lego minifigure for no reason. Those things were really hard for me a couple of years ago. Lots of parents don't do those things, for whatever reason, but for me, I needed to overcome my idelogical objections to things like that and my own fears of 'spoiling' my kids because ...well, you know why. I have to let us be happy.
Also, for play sometimes now I just dump a box of Lego out and start building, without expecting anything of myself or them. They gravitate towards it, we all have something to focus on, the emotional pressure is low, but we are bonding and interacting. I use a couple of 'Playful parenting' still.
Another trick I use is resting. I have to rest a lot because of illness, and actually the kids (8 and 6) are fine watching a movie while I rest now. So I plan a day where we have a morning or afternoon at home, and a big rest after lunch usually, and the other half of the day doing something. When we are out there is less emotional pressure but I can be 'present' for them and be pleased with their discoveries, push them on the swing, and so on.
Finally, I have got a couple of CBT for kids type books, which takes the pressure off of me to solve their emotional problems. They are really helpful. But mine are now 8 and 6 - when they were 3 and 1, life was very hard because I jsut felt like I was failing them all the time. I really had to work through some stuff about that - just because they throw a tantrum or cry, doesn't mean I am failing. They are older and more patient now, we can discuss things, and that is easier for me.
Oh and hello GettingStrong - kind of glad to see you here, if that isn't too weird a sentiment.
I have been to CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) for my illness recently, to help me cope and manage, and one of the things he prescribed was relaxation (not just rest) and enjoying myself! So I listen to self-hypnosis on YouTube for free - there are some amazing resources there to help you relax, stop procrastinating, be more organised, etc. I wonder if there is one for being more fun...
Also, to enjoying myself, he said to take something that I would love to spend lots of time doing but don't feel I'm allowed, and just spend 5 minutes a day doing it. So I am playing through my kids' piano books - 5 minutes. Feels brilliantly naughty and selfish but I'VE BEEN TOLD TO DO IT! Hurrah!
So if someone said you have to find 5 minutes to do something you enjoy with your child, or 1 minute, what would that be? Lego? Tickling? Painting nails? Playdough? Colouring? Things like baking sound like they will be fun but are actually really hard and stressful, so I try to be realistic now. I'll do them under certain circumstances. But 5 minutes for any of those things seems...possible. Not too much. Baby steps, everyone.
Thanks building , that is very encouraging. My resources for the day are out-introspected and am still trying to get a child to stay in bed, so will come back tomorrow.
Building that is such a helpful post. Thankyou for posting it. Especially the rest bit resonates with me, and knowing that's ok and not beating myself up about it.
Gettingstrong, I recognised a lot of myself in your threads too, even though I couldn't really express it.
One thing that struck me in those threads was the idea of 'being in the panopticon': feeling as if you are always observed and judged on your behaviour by this all-seeing power, also when you're alone, and becoming your own jailer so to speak. A big step for me is to make my house a panopticon-free zone, because it makes me a much more responsive and less resentful mother when parenting is between just me and DC, instead of me and this power (i.e. my parents, social worker, abusive ex, Supernanny, attachment parenting fundamentalists, my own morals grinding to a rigid halt - so many voices to ignore!). To let go of the perfectionism and psychological constructs people were talking about in the beginning of this thread, and parent/housekeep based on my strengths, weaknesses, needs, likes and wants. It scared me a lot in the beginning, as if I was doing something very naughty, but writing this I realise I've actually come quite far by doing simple things like putting my personal trinkets all over the house, allowing the house to be as messy as I think is okay, do the chores that make me feel better instead of those that are urgent, being very strict on only letting people I like in, use the house to do things I liked as a child and spend as much time as I feel comfortable with staying in and doing nothing. It is becoming a place where I can let my defenses down, which is not only good to relax from all the guilt and anxiety about what I let my ex do to my children, but also puts focus on what my parenting issues are. Hence the being closer to dealing with the resentment.
Wellwobbly, I do work really hard at not withdrawing, but also have a big problem with being connected and being authentic, since I'm still in the early stages of 'being', if that kind of therapy talk makes sense. And there is the additional problem that my DC, especially one of them, are working through attachment and anxiety issues of their own now their angry and controlling dad is out of the picture, and I need to be safe for them to do so. So I do deliberately show my anger instead of withdrawing, but I feel there is a limit to how far I can take it, because anger, understandably, scares the hell out of them. One of my parenting issues is not talking enough, so at the moment I'm working on telling them what I'm feeling before the emotion gets the better of me - which for the moment feels like a comfortable and effective middle ground.
Buildingmycorestrenght, I love your ideas. Very practical and doable. I'm so often frustrated with courses or books that tell me what to aspire to, but don't give these kind of everyday actions. I am at the end of the draining first few years: DC are starting full-time nursery in September and I will finally have some time to recharge and be proactive. I'm seeing this last month (!!) as the last leg before the finish, and am limiting my plans to a couple of weeks away and simple stuff around the house. But I think I can manage the 5 minute thing, and will set myself that task. It's sad to think that 5 minutes of undivided attention a day feels like a really long time, considering I spent 5 days out of 7 with them full-time, but yes... baby steps.
me thank you so much for thoughts about housework. I really have to watch my attitude to cleanliness and mess and appreciate your insights.
Message withdrawn at poster's request.
This thread has been so helpful to me so I wanted to de-lurk to say thank you to everyone who has posted.
Reading this has been a light bulb moment for me.
Sorry to hi-jack op, thanks for starting this great idea for a thread.
GettingStrong, I use money my M sends every year to pay for therapy and it feels good to use her last bargaining tool (in her eyes) to undo the damage of her upbringing.
I agree with Wellwobbly that ultimately dealing with your childhood pain is key to being a better parent and I've found Homecoming a great book to get an understanding of what reparenting my inner child means. It's to-the-point, often funny and not woo at all.
I haven't done many of the exercises yet, though. Until now I've used therapy to stabilise my life and myself, and to learn how to be in control of the day-to-day. I need that solid base before I dare to deal directly with old pain. So I recommend reading it and discussing with your therapist how to use it, but not feel pressured to do more than you can confidently handle at the moment. There is no need to rush (as people tell me again and again). Mindfulness has my interest as well, and my children's psychologist wants to use it as part of our work together.
Building , just because I like you.
Always, do you want to share some of that light bulb?
Always no hijacking has occurred! It is fine to come here and share.
I had a difficult weekend, talking with a friend about children's normal
annoying kiddy behaviour not being welcome in various situations. It really hit me hard that I don't feel like our family is welcome places for various reasons....and at least part of it stems from my own childhood, feeling like nothing I did was good enough, like I don't matter, and feeling like things are my fault all the time. Crying was involved.
I know behaviour, discipline and so on is a strongly emotive issue and of course kids need to be taught manners and behaviour etc. But I also need to chill the fuck out about it (without letting the kids run totally wild and wreck stuff). A fine balance.
Sorry, I just suddenly thought how rude of me to just jump in and interrupt!
I have seen myself in so many of these posts it has opened my eyes. I have a difficult relationship with my DM and could never put my finger on why. Now I am starting to think maybe she has some narc traits.
When my DD was born I struggled to bond with her as I became suddenly terrified that she wouldn't like me and that I didn't know how to be a good parent to her (despite already having an older DS and never feeling that way about him). I dread her feeling about me the way I feel about my DM. I am constantly second guessing myself and analysing everything I say or do to DC as I have no confidence in my learned parenting skills.
My DM wasn't all bad and in some ways she was caring towards us, and wanted the best for us.
But she can also be nasty, criticising mine and my DH and DC physical appearance, taking no interest in our day to day lives, manipulating situations, telling little lies to benefit herself, telling people things I tell her in confidence.
She has no friends as she won't trust anyone.
Very nasty about her inlaws, holding grudges over innocent things they said decades ago, yet she was still always sending my DF cap in hand to ask them for money if we were a bit short when I was younger (then feels very unfairly treated and bad mouths them for years if they dare say no!).
She can be short and snappy with my DC, recently telling my 1 yo DD nastily to 'go away' if she can't be bothered interacting with her.
Makes constant digs and criticisms about the clothes I wear, the cleanliness of my house (ten times cleaner than hers!!), what I spend my money on. I have actually caught myself deciding to not put make up when I was about to see her incase she said a derogatory remark about it, then thought 'what am I doing? I'm 30 yrs old, I can wear make up if I choose!'
And I'm realising that my lovely DF is an enabler who although does stand up to her at times, will frequently say 'don't tell your DM I told you that' or 'I'm unhappy about something your DM has said/done but I won't mention it to her, it's not worth the agro'.
When we were children we would frequently attend social events (family parties etc) and be told by our DF to lie to people and tell them DM is poorly, when actually she had just refused to come as she was in some mood with my DF and was generally antisocial (and gave him HELL every time he wanted to socialise).
Sorry, this turned into a mammoth post
Does it sound to any of you like these are narc traits?
Always, I'm not an expert on narcs, but to me she sounds like she fits the bill. How it is all about her, how she expects people to be like her and how she uses people around her to get her needs met.
Building, yes, finding that balance is really hard. I waver between trying to control their behaviour by the minute and letting them do what they want (as long as there's no life threatening risks involved). But I'm working towards a middle ground where we're in it together and my job is to be there for them and support them through difficult situations.
Somebody gave me a picture this week of me and one of my sons with angry faces and a kind of cloud above us, and suggested that I see behavioural problems as outside of us/in that cloud, rather than seeing the problem as him or me. It's meant to take the pressure off.
Not feeling welcome as a family sounds familiar as well but am too tired to write something coherent about it now.
"But I also need to chill the fuck out about it", is how I often talk to myself as well, but the pressure and self blame in that sentence is so obvious.
Another late night, after an evening of throwing money at the camping trip we're going on Friday. It's a test of all sorts of parenting skills, and I am going to "chill the fuck out about it" now.
Always, I'm no expert either, but she sounds tricky at the very least. The stately homes thread gives support for all kinds of dysfunctional families...worth a look? And it is not surprising if you have a different reaction to an daughter than a son. My dad was the narc, so it has coloured my view of all men, including my son. . I have to work hard to overcome it, not just in lightbulb moments in therapy but in daily life when he does something that reminds me of my dad, or when I'm tired, or stressed by work.
I was doing my son's occupational therapy exercises with him this morning, the whole point of which is to give his sensory system the input it craves. I found myself thinking at one point, 'Oh, he's enjoying that too much, better stop.' But I caught myself. I know that trick my brain plays. I pushed through my brain's discomfort at seeing him happy, and made him laugh some more.
It is horrible, having these automatic patterns that come back over and over. All I can do is be aware, recognize them, distance myself from these patterns and get past them, do my best to not be a dysfunctional parent, over and over again.
I also find that although I love my career, I end up using it as an escape from the kids and have to be very careful to re-engage with them properly. Changing gears from work to mum is hard for me (and probably lots of people). I try not to work too much or let it take over my life. Sensitive issues here.
Sorry if I don't respond quickly. These are very hard issues to talk about and I'm not well...and it is the summer hold which as we all know are quite taxing!
Oh, and the 'chill the fuck out' comment came from a funny parenting blog I read. The author was discussing different schools of parenting and that she felt quote drawn to the CTFO method. . I definitely do need to chill out, like I have been prescribed MEDICALLY to CHILL OUT, so I just adopted her strong turn of phrase to make myself laugh and feel like I'm not the only one.
BUT, and this is a big but, I do not just 'trust myself' or 'go with my instincts'. I hate that advice. People from abusive backgrounds have very unhelpful, unhealthy instincts, like withdrawing, or lashing out, or being overly critical and demanding, or being overly lax and indulgent, or all those and more. Plus, I think parenting is to some extent technical, not just about love. But, I am learning to trust myself as I get better mental health and more experience as a parent, and now I can legitimately chill out more. But it is not good advice for all new parents, I think.
So glad this is here. I am struggling with the realisation that I was raised by a narcissistic mum and enabling father .
I recognise those instincts and they scare me. I lash out verbally at my husband sometimes, or withdraw from everyone. Its very all or nothing thinking and end of world type stuff.
Still resent what an impact an abusive childhood has on adult interactions and life. I think the instincts point is good -there's no normal to calibrate emotions, situations or reactions against.
Alwaysonemissing your df sounds very similar to my dad. Unfortunately he has written an untrue email to my dh and has said he 'doesn't see any point in contacting me again '.
Reading through these posts I see some of my feelings are similar to other children of narcissists . What a relief.
Hi spanky. You are not alone. Have you read the 'regale me' thread in Relationships? Full of the wild and wacky things that narcissists do and say, most of which people wouldn't believe if you said it in real life.
And have you had a look at the 'stately homes' thread? That is a very safe place to deal with some feelings about dysfunctional families. They are very tricky!
meiisme I think I will buy that book. I know what you mean about not rushing things though, I am always wanting to rush things and be 'fixed' but I think a big part for me is properly realising that feelings cannot be 'fixed' in the quick way that I would like them to be
I have been trying to make sure I am giving each of my dc 5 minutes of individual attention each day. I think part of my problem is that having 3 dc I easily feel overwhelmed and withdraw when I have them all together. But with individual one on one time, which is getting more possible all the time as they get older, it's easier to engage properly with each of them and I try to let myself just go with the flow and enjoy being with them as individuals.
building I have similar issues not trusting my instincts. Sometimes I am not quite sure what my instincts even are. I think it's especially hard when dc are disagreeing over something I find it difficult to stick with the situation and understand and follow who is right or wrong in the situation. I guess this is partly to do with me struggling with how I deal with conflict generally. But at the same time, I don't think I should give myself too hard a time, as I imagine any parent would feel similarly confused sometimes about their children's disagreements.
A bit of a ramble, but chill the fuck out for me too I guess.
Hi all, am just back from holiday and it was much needed. Time to remember that we all quite like each other, actually! I was careful to try to catch myself feeling like we 'should' do certain things as that is always a sign that I'm going weird and controlling.
Hope your summers are all going okay. I know the next couple of weeks are going to be hard but I'm going to rest after lunch every day and not try to do anything emotionally taxing for me. Just focus on kids and necessary housework for now. They go back to school in a couple of weeks so there'll be more space then.
Marking place - just starting to wonder whether DH's mother is toxic...
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