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Coming to terms with being raised by a narcissist!(18 Posts)
So 7 1/2 years into parenting and three children later tonight I googled for the first time "I have a bad mother". Despite my almost daily habit of seeking advice from the internet for my own parenting of my three little ones (7,5,2) I have never scrutinised my own parenting that I received online (although often in my head). This seemed like a harsh truth to face, a bit like the "I'm an alcoholic" phrase that people are asked to confront.
Instantly google suggested I have a narcissistic mother and that's literally a revelation to me. It explains so much of my nervous, apologetic character. Anyone else out there? Any survival tips? Ways of practically moving on?
My frustrated google search was driven by my 6000th conversation with my mum this evening that goes like this - I call my mother all week. She is invariably doing one of the following - yoga, Pilates, tennis, coffee with friends, lying in the Summer house reading with a glass of wine (at 2pm) thus unavailable to catch up. That's not because her children have grown up and flown the nest - that's what she did when my younger half brother and I were little too. No reply, she answers on my 6th attempt 6 days later and proceeds to spend the next 20 mins talking at me about her life.
My husband has been suggesting I get professional help for a while. So far I haven't because of time and money. Our little one is still at home full time and an additional complication is that we currently live overseas. I won't bore you with all the details but my mother was truly dire as an actual mother. I've found her personality particularly frustrating as many of my friends think she is cool and fun. Sure as a friend to drink wine with and have a laugh with she is - but as a mother? No.
Can I give you an example that I find truly hard to get over or even think about? My husband asked my step dad if he could ask my hand in marriage. We were 24. For me a romantic fairytale that I really wanted coming from a shit childhood. I guess my stepdad told my mum, and first thing the next morning my mum rushes into my bedroom and tells me all about it straight away, before I had been proposed to. I was so embarrassed about the whole episode I didn't tell anyone about that for 8 years.
My childhood was full of me sitting in Miss Selfridge changing rooms whilst she squeezed herself into yet another leopard print/backless leather number. I went to school in awful clothes that I was supposed to grow into and had to ask for dinner tokens from the teachers, which makes me cringe, as I realise in hindsight my parents would have had to fill in forms or do something properly to register for a dinner token but instead my stepdad would tell me to just go to the staff room and ask each day. The teachers used to feel sorry for me and give me things from there own lunch - like an apple or a packet of crisps. When I think back on this it makes me feel so ashamed.
Meanwhile, even as a single mum on benefits my mum would never be short of the latest fashion, Clinique make up or Chanel perfume. She used to take me on holiday to Spain twice a year and go out clubbing and leave me in my hotel room by myself at night. We would go to a resort and she would tell me to join in with another holiday companies kids club. She would say if anyone asked me if I was registered to just lie. I remember her standing on the beach on more than one occasion just arguing with the kids club leader and them feeling embarrassed and unsure of what to do so they would just look after me for the day on the beach and I would just tag along. She would be sunning herself ready for another night on the town.
She always looked great and to this day I'm a bit horrified by how far that gets you in life!
I literally spent my childhood feeling alone, apologetic and ashamed. The only way I could think of dealing with this was just to quietly ignore her and forge my own way ahead. I worked really hard and got a place at the local grammar school. I escaped into a fantasy world and tried to cushion myself from the real world around me. This served me well of the whole as I do feel on most levels I've achieved the life I always wanted.
However I now feel doubly alone as I know I'm the kind of mother my mum used to complain about and hate. More of an earth mother, housewife type! I try so hard to be a good mum and I think I do well but I find it hard to relate to my lovely mummy friends, who all had very middle class upbringings and have wonderful supportive mothers who have stood by their side throughout pregnancy and childbirth, both physically and emotionally. I have three beautiful wonderful children and a loving, hard working husband but I'm increasingly feeling that my own fraught relationship with my parents is holding me back - both as a parent and as an individual.
The proposal story is literally nothing compared to some of the others. I was raped as a 17 year old virgin and she brushed it off and told me that's what men are like, I was wearing a dress and had had some alcohol (which she had brought me!!). She told me to just forget about it, that it was very common and that nothing could be done.
When I was 18 I heard that I had an older half brother (my dads son) - when I asked her about this she just said she had forgot to tell me!
She had so many boyfriends we used to have to turn off all the lights and hide in the house as she would have arranged two dates on one night! Ridiculous I now know! She would literally leave me to be babysat by anyone who would have me.
I had a difficult birth with my second child, who is our lovely little girl. I was trying to articulate some of my feelings to my mum when she interrupted with "don't worry darling I didn't love you until you were about 6 months old" even though I probably could have guessed that was the case, it was still a renewed stab of heartache. She often says things like "you weren't planned, I didn't want you, I was horrified that I was pregnant and denied it until I was about 7 months", "well I didn't breast feed you" or "I just plonked you in front if the TV all day and it didn't do you any harm". I beg to differ
Recently I had some rare money to spend on myself and wanted to treat myself to some nice Chanel make up. It was the first time I was buying my own mascara (I'm 34 but have previously lived off my mums cast offs - she literally has bags full of make up!) I went with her to the beauty counter whilst my husband was looking after the kids and I had some very rare child-free time. I had partly waited until then to do that with her because I felt it was speaking her language if you know what I mean, she certainly doesn't want to come along to mother and baby groups or do mummy stuff. Anyway when we got to the department store my mum literally swooped in front of me and sat down and chit chatted with the beauty assistant! She had a product demonstration and was given samples whilst I just stood there! I'm always so taken aback by her audacity that I'm still never prepared for it.
What would you do? This is my first post on MN and I wanted to write and ask for honest feedback on here as I would feel far too embarrassed to ask my mum friends. It's such a far cry from how their own mums are I think they honestly wouldn't know what to say.
If I ever confronted my mum about any of this she would instantly cry, cut me off and tell me that she's a good person. I don't want to upset her and as with many of these issues her own childhood was probably worse than mine. I continually go back to her because I don't have any sisters, other female relatives or good female friends (although many, many friends and acquaintances). Thank you for your time and I'm sorry it's such a long ranting post!
I am not an expert, but didn't want to leave your post unanswered.
Why do you ring her? It sounds like you're trying to get something from her - affection, interest - that she will never provide.
What would happen if you didn't ring for a week/month/year? Why would that make your life worse? (Hint: it wouldn't).
Concentrate on your new family, who love you. Concentrate on your loving, child-centred parenting.
Your post made me sad. Your mum doesn't sound like a bad person, just deeply shallow and I think you need to step back from her. Perhaps some posters might suggest no contact. Is she a good Grandma? Does she bring anything to your life?
Your own family sounds lovely and I think you need to try and forget your mum or be less needy with regard to your relationship with her.
I am afraid there are thousands of us out there with narc mothers. Problem is, society doesn't like to admit that a mother could be so cruel and you will find it hard to talk to people who have good relationships with their parents.
Go have a look at the stately homes thread. The first post has great links to help you on your journey. ESP the daughters of narc mothers one.
The rest of the thread will give you insight into other people's experiences.
You will be surprised at how similar a lot of the stories are. That really helped me understand it wasn't my problem.
Sweetheart. What a painful childhood. I second the Stately Homes thread. x
My mum is the same as yours in so many ways. I started counselling about a month ago because I feel so stuck in my life in general. I have a lot of different issues but it is really helping. It has taken me years to take that step though, and years for me to look at the situation objectively.
I do think you are still trying to get her to be the mother you should have had, and you are continually shocked and hurt when she doesn't live up to that role. She will never change, and in order for you to be happier and feel better about yourself, you are going to have to work towards accepting that.
It is understandable though, and please don't blame yourself. It is incredibly difficult to acknowledge and accept that you will never have a mother in the truest sense, a mother that puts her children first, and is there emotionally. But that is the reality, and once you are able to come to terms with that, you will be able to stop needing her support and approval.
You are needy in the relationship, but I suspect that that is because that is the role she gave you as a child, and you revert back to it when it comes to her. I suspect that she gets some kind of kick out of the attention that you pay her.
You need to step back from her. Stop calling her. Stop reaching out to her (the make up counter is one example of reaching out). She probably won't take kindly to that, she won't be comfortable with the dynamics of the relationship changing, so I really do think you should get some support through dealing with this.
The only one who suffers in all of this is you, but the cycle needs broken and you need to break it. All this is easier said than done, and it wont happen over night, but it does need to happen.
My mother is a narc. I spent a long time seeing her approval until I realised she offers nothing and takes takes takes. We have very limited contact on my terms and my life is better for it.
She won't change. She is incapable of seeing anything wrong with her behaviour.
My advice to you would be to limit contact with her any certainly avoid letting your children be influenced by her.
I feel so much for you. You sound like a lovely mum.
I had a similar mother to yours. It's effected my whole life- everything, from how I feel about myself to how I've brought up my dc(sahm and quite anxious about everything as I wanted so much to be a loving mum to my dds)
It took me until my 40s to realise my mum would never ever change. It came to me like a lightening strike and it suddenly meant I didn't care anymore. It was very very liberating.
The things you have written about the way your mum behaved are so awful, please get some counselling. I wish I had done when my dds were still little, it would have meant I had more confidence in myself as a parent.
You deserve to be a happy and confident person.
Ps I felt the same as you about my middle class friends with lovely childhoods. I ended up admitting to them that my mum wasn't a very good mum and that I struggle a bit with it all. They were all very understanding and it felt so good to be honest about this.
As the daughter of a narc mother I can identify with a lot of the feelings in your post and even some of the situations. I'm so sorry you are going through this.
My mother was always pleading poverty but always seemed to have plenty for fags and booze and nights out down the pub with her latest boyfriend. She was also emotionally and physically abusive. I also have a similar experience re the sexual abuse.
I've mourned for the mother I should have had, I've envied friends with normal loving mothers but now realise she'll never change.
I used to call her, desperate for her to show some interest in my life and share worries but she'd always talk about herself or her friends. I feel much better now I've taken a step back and stopped calling so much, could you try this? There seems little to be gained by you calling her.
I think you need to try and step back in general, I know it's hard. Don't let her rule your life now. You don't have to totally cut contact if you don't feel ready, just remove yourself a bit emotionally and physically.
I've found Mumsnet to be a great support when I'm struggling with this, check out the 'Stately Homes' thread
Dear Lydia I too can identify with a lot of what you said in your post. Like you I stumbled across the answer on google. I then spent a lot of time researching and reading up and it was like a lightbulb moment for me and things just fell into place.
I had counselling and it helped me enormously. It doesn't change what has happened but it has helped me to deal with a very difficult situation. The counsellor advised me to go NC and I would have liked to do that but I didn't feel I could as my mother is old and now has mobility problems. I also knew what the fallout would be. Instead I went to low contact and I am able to manage the situation. The counselling helped me to understand that she is never going to change and it is pointless me ever thinking she will, there is no point in trying to talk to her about my feelings. My younger brother was the "golden child" and now his children are the "golden grandchildren". She is never going to be that loving, supporting mother I yearn for.
The counselling has helped me to step right back. What I am able to do now is manage the situation. She can't upset me anymore. I have no expectations. When we meet I just listen and keep everything lighthearted. I don't ask for any support and I don't discuss my life with her.
It is a long journey but I do think you would find the counselling beneficial. Sending you hugs XXX
Hello. I started to write a response to you last night but I fell asleep with my laptop on my lap and it powered down. Here I am trying again! I have had several diet sodas so I think the caffeine will keep me alert while typing!
Honey, I really felt sad for you reading your post. Your mom's treatment of you was and is really lousy. It is interesting to me how many of us with cruel or inadequate or just plain crummy mothers fear that we will be the same to our children. Equally surprising, to me, at least, is how the concern over being a poor mother seems like some sort of inoculation against the same thing! We do all right, we under and poorly-mothered daughters, in general, as long as we take a hard look at what our mothers did wrong and get our heads straight with it.
A very important part of my own recovery from having been raised by a bipolar, narcisisstic mother, was accepting that I did not have a good mother and I never would, no matter how many opportunities I gave her to improve. It was never going to happen, and once I realized that I felt very sad, transiently, and then more permanently, much more free to be for my kids, at least, the mother I would have loved to have. What a wonderful opportunity we have to right some of the wrongs done to us by not perpetuating them! I swear that before my mother died she was irritated and confused by how well I got along with my kids!!
At any rate, please, if you must continue to see your mother on occasion, when she does or says something awful, perhaps start by thinking "Shut your trap, you old bat.". Then next time, mutter it under your breath. Then, one day, say it out loud to her. And then tell her exactly how you feel.
Oh, and also, I have many friends with nice mothers and sometimes when I talk to them about my mom they kind of get this head-tilted/sad-for-me look to them. I know that look very well, but you know what, it's okay! My BF Jen always tells me not to fetishize other women's mothers too much because every woman has some issues with her mom. She says I don't get to corner the market on that. She's a good pal and tells it like it is.
Good luck, Sweetheart. Maybe some day we can have a MN convention and all hang out and swap terrible mom war stories.
Just seen this after posting on the other threads. Similar situation, realised this last year that a crap childhood can still affect adulthood - especially with my own DC I question so much of what happened in my childhood. Its not that I want to rake it up but I cant believe it.
Similar to you I keep going back to my mother wanting her to be somethgin I realise she cant be (If she manages to miss my wedding, refuse to have contact when I'm in intensive care, not see my baby for the first few months etc etc...) she really isnt interested is she? Even though she appears it sometimes.
What hurts is she CAN do it for the golden child/grandchildren who are more recent. I used to think it was just that she couldnt do it. But if I rang her to talk abotu my children shed change the topic to "well golden grandchild this/that or the other."
I havent worked out how to challenge/handle it. I'm going to go less contact (when shes finally in contact with me again) and I'm really finding this thread helpful. I wish I had other close relationships to replace it with though - when I'm lonely/struggling/see the kdis achievements I still have the urge to call my mother.....
Oh Zillie you are so right - My mother is alcoholic/bipolar and I'm sure narcicistic. So far I've always thought that "she cant help it" and "i need to support her shes unwell" but she's not actually asked for that support.
I ened to see that its never going to change... but as a result of that I need to change how I act and its hard working out how to do that.
Thank you all so much for taking the time to read my post and send thoughtful, kind and constructive replies. I genuinely have found your responses helpful and reassuring although am saddened to hear of so many similar experiences.
Philip Larkin once wrote that the thing about bad parents is that the worse they are the more you keep going back. Because they never produced what you needed as a child, as an adult you boomerang back to them in the hope it will finally turn up.
It won't. Realising that is one of the most painful and most anger-inducing experiences you will ever go through - and one of the most valuable.
I would get some therapy, because it really will help you to hold hands with someone on this painful but hugely worthwhile journey.
Cory - gosh that's exactly it. I have friends with "normal" family set ups that don't see parents all the time but don't crave it in the way I seem to. Or don't get upset if parent spends lots of time with a sibling. I guess the underlying relationships are there and established, without the extreme damage from childhood.
It really does seem I crave their affection/love/closeness while simultaneously knowing its not going to happen. I kind of feel I need to "give up" but that's so hard. Everything wants me to be able to invite them for family dinners, chat on the phone, have a closeness....
Its a lonely old world.
Smart cookie, that Philip LArkin.
Absolutely true - the less you get from your parents, the more you go back to them, hoping for another crumb to add to the other crumbs you have had, so that one day you might be able to feel like you had a whole slice of cake.
Your mother will never change, she has no incentive to do so. Even if you cut her out, she will still not change, because she will still have no incentive to do so, as she will not ever understand that she has done anything wrong. You cutting her off will be entirely about you and your issues, and she will not identify herself as being one of them.
I second counselling as being a good idea - because it will help you to change your reactions to your mother. Nothing can change her - but you can change how you feel about her, and how you react to her. And this will help you to move forward and out of the "child craving love" mode that you keep going back to.
There is a counselling technique called "reparenting your inner child" - it's a useful one because it helps you to reassure the child within you that still responds to your mother, and to love that child the way she should have been in the first place. It's a twist on "loving yourself" - but the technique does help.
The Stately homes thread will offer up more advice, and will also make you realise how sadly unalone you are in this situation. But there is some comfort in finding out that you are not the only one - and they will be able to offer more in the way of coping and healing mechanisms.
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