How to survive Mother’s Day when yours is a narcissist

‘Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who is the fairest of them all?’

Mother’s Day is a date fraught with issues for many women. For some it is a date carefully ignored. Card shops walked past, certain aisles in supermarkets avoided, social media shunned as those women countdown and pass a date which pricks their memories of mothers lost, mothers passed.

And deeply sad this is.

But there are others you’ll see, carefully sorting through the cards. Stopping, hesitating and hovering over several cards, unsure of which to pick. Sometimes they’ll pick three in a moment of anxious panic. ‘Choose later’ they mouth to themselves.

And then there is a gift. But which gift? Will it be good enough? Will it cost enough? And so this desperate dance of indecision goes on. Every year. 

Always unsure of which gifts will please and which will rain down criticism. 

Motherhood is not like the movies for everyone. For some daughters, neglect or abuse is a vivid memory which haunts their best efforts to grow emotionally strong in adulthood. Narcissistic mothers see their child as a mirror, a reflection of themselves, not an individual. They’ll want you to achieve so they can bask in your glory, use you as a boasting toy, but you can never win because if you achieve too much they’ll envy you too. There is no winning their unconditional love. There is none to be had.

Snow White’s narcissistic parent may have been portrayed as a step mother, but hell hath no fury like a raging narcissist let loose with power.

A daughter of a narcissistic mother may not risk death by hitman on Mothers Day, but it can feel like a tightrope walk, without a net, where the cold hard ground of disapproval and distain awaits if you stumble.

And it’s always a long way down.

Of course, not buying a card isn’t an option either. Unlike the daughter who mourns a lost parent you mourn the unknown. Instead you stand in front of a card display that reminds you only of what you never had and never will.

No one wants to confess that their own mother is a mean girl and so it becomes a secret. So how do you get out of the woods of secrecy?

Understand what you’re dealing with: it’s not you, it’s them

Read all you can find. Remember that narcissism is a spectrum, not a one power dress fits all set up. Small amounts of narcissism are perfectly healthy, but the more traits your mother has, the more your parent walks towards full NPD (narcissistic personality disorder).

Get help to work through what cannot be said to this parent 

A therapist; a support group, find people who understand you. Emotionally, it can be like learning to walk again after you’ve walked with a limp for a very long time. But it can be done. You can stand tall. You can be free.

Recommended further reading:

The Stone Child: Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Will I Ever be Good Enough? Dr Karyl McBride
Dangerous Personalities: Joe Navarro

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2 thoughts on “How to survive Mother’s Day when yours is a narcissist

  1. Charlotte Jeffery March 29, 2019 — 11:46 am

    My son’s ex partner, mother to his 12 year old son has NPD, this isn’t his only problem as he’s on the autistic spectrum. It was so sad to hear him say “why am I going to Sweden (on his own, to stay with maternal g’mother) when mum isn’t working – oh wellI suppose she’ll be working on her book”!
    She is the most/only important thing to her.
    My son tries to make up for her failings – an impossible and heart breaking task.


    1. He sounds very astute for a 12 year old. Grandparents can be such a blessing. Thank goodness you and your son are also there, Charlotte. Hopefully he’ll thrive with his grandmother in Sweden.


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