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

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

  • March 29, 2019 at 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.

    • March 29, 2019 at 12:51 pm

      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.

  • May 1, 2019 at 4:20 am

    I’m dreading Mother’s Day this year, I’ve had to go no contact with my crazy mom as of the last month. It’s killing me.

    • May 1, 2019 at 8:43 am

      Creating boundaries when those that we want too love us most hurt us is extraordinarily uncomfortable. But this is an act of self love. It’s uncomfortable, but it seems to me it’s giving you life. Quite the opposite of the words you used. You’re taking control, you’re rescuing yourself and you’re demonstrating how much you value yourself. Well done, you, for creating that boundary. I know how hard it is to put your wellbeing first. Well done.

      • May 1, 2019 at 1:56 pm

        Yea you are so right, every bit. I’ve been learning to set boundaries with people in my life for the last 15 years but I’ve gotten so much better the last 2-3 years. My I don’t give a crap-o-meter has expired LOL.
        Like you I’m rescuing myself.
        Thank you for your post, it was so helpful. I looked forward to more, cus this is all new to me. God bless you ?

      • May 1, 2019 at 2:08 pm

        I recommend Joe Navarro’s book Dangerous Personalities to clients who have dealt with narcissistic parents. He’s an FBI profiler with a very easy to read style who helps us understand what drives these people and their character traits. I find people with difficult childhoods can be very vulnerable to predators as your alarm bells may not ring so loudly.

        Take good care. I’ll be writing more on this topic soon.

      • May 1, 2019 at 2:54 pm

        Funny you said that I actually came across that one some how last night I saved it in my Amazon cart. I was gonna get Will I ever be good enough first, have you heard of that one? Which would you get first?

      • May 1, 2019 at 3:42 pm

        It’s very good. I listened to the audiobook. Joe Navarro’s book is very practical and you can go through questions which help you identify just how dangerous someone is. Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Has lots of case studies and is very helpful, but less of a practical manual for spotting rogue colleagues etc.

      • May 1, 2019 at 5:51 pm

        Gotcha, I shall get that one then. Thanks for the advice ?

      • May 1, 2019 at 5:58 pm

        You’re very welcome. Let me know what you think. I’d love to know your thoughts and feelings ?

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