When you spend time with your mother, do you ever get the feeling she doesn’t really like you very much?
Maybe she likes the IDEA of you—the perfect daughter she can show off to her friends, or the emotional confidante she can tell all her problems to…
But the real you is too messy.
The real you doesn’t fit into the box she’s created. She’s the center of the universe, and her children are meant to orbit around her.
Your existence as an independent person, with thoughts and ideas of her own, doesn’t even register in your mother’s world.
Unless it’s to criticize. To take the wind out of your sails. To remind you of your place.
If you think about it too closely, it hurts.
So maybe you try not to think about it at all.
Relationship Rockstar and Narcissist Whisperer Rebecca Chapman would like to invite you to think about it just a little bit.
Just for the duration of this interview.
Just until you find out whether narcissism was an issue in your family of origin or not.
Rebecca is an expert in childhood emotional neglect and attachment theory.
She helps women attract relationships that nurture them and set boundaries for the relationships that don’t.
In this week’s YBTV interview, she discusses the 5 types of narcissistic mothers.
You’ll learn why love felt different in your family of origin to how it should have. You’ll find out why it’s so hard to criticize your mom, even when you’re right to do so.
And you’ll learn the next steps you need to take to start healing.
What You’ll Learn
There is so much pain when we don’t get along with Mom.
Rebecca finds that her clients with a difficult relationship with their mother often feel a sense of emptiness.
They struggle in their romantic relationships. They struggle to make close female friends. They are terrified they’ll be like their mom with their own kids.
“It’s really heartbreaking, the number of people that are just carrying it around,” Rebecca says.
We carry it around because we don’t feel we can talk about it.
Why We Don’t Talk about Mom
Criticizing Mom is taboo.
If you try, you’ll hear things like:
All moms love their kids. No mom is perfect. You must have misunderstood her. Are you sure it wasn’t something you did?”
The fear of criticizing Mom goes even deeper than how people might respond.
If your mom isn’t capable of love, what does that mean about you? You come from her, after all.
You also may feel an irrational terror that “if you think something bad about your mother, it’s going to blow your world apart.”
That terror dates back to childhood, when you were completely dependent on your parents for survival. If you spoke up, you could lose their protection, their affection, food, shelter, even your siblings.
“As a child, you can’t even let yourself entertain the thought,” Rebecca says. “So as an adult, you don’t let yourself entertain the thought” either.
You might also believe that something horrible will happen if you say something. Your parents will leave, or get sick, or die.
It’s just too much.
So you say nothing, and you live with the pain.
Family Love with a Narcissistic Mother
Family love looks different when you have a narcissistic mother.
Mother love is meant to be innate.
All mothers love their children. Not because they choose to, but because it’s built into their DNA.
“It’s really hard to get your head around how somebody’s missing this incredible element,” Rebecca says, “but I’ve seen it so often that I 100% believe it.”
Rebecca found in her own family “that love was defined differently … than perhaps it should have been.”
“Love was behaving,” she explains. “Love was doing what your mother wanted. Love was publicly showing affection. That was love, but of course it’s not. That’s control.”
Whereas most mothers “mother to the child,” taking into account their children’s unique personalities, the narcissistic mother has a different understanding of her job.
She sees her job as providing food and shelter. Her job is to raise her kids, not cater to their emotional needs.
“Sometimes, it’s not even that,” Rebecca adds. “It’s just, ‘I haven’t kicked you out.'”
5 Types of Narcissistic Mothers
So what is a narcissistic mother?
There are degrees of narcissism. Your mother may display just a few traits or all of them.
In general, the goal of the narcissistic mother is to remain the center of the universe.
Her spouse enables her. He may be compliant, or scared of her, or maybe even feminine himself.
Narcissistic mothers come in 5 types:
- The Addict
- The Loud, Extroverted Mother
- The Emotional Parasite
- The Mother Who Needs You to Succeed
- The Mean Mother
Rebecca explains each of them in turn.
This is the most obvious kind of narcissistic mother.
“The child grows up knowing that whatever the addiction is is more important than them, and the mother does nothing to correct this,” Rebecca explains.
The Loud Extroverted Mother
This is the mother who always has to be the center of attention.
“They need to be seen by everyone. They need to be loved by everyone,” Rebecca says.
These mothers expect their children to reflect their glory, not take attention away from them. They can feel threatened if their daughters are attractive, intelligent, or outspoken.
The Emotional Parasite
This is the mother who expects you to fulfill her emotional needs.
“You are there to be her confidante. You are there to tell her how wonderful she is,” Rebecca explains.
Daughters are often asked to enable their mother’s inappropriate behaviors. The daughter feels important when she’s taken into her mother’s confidence about relationships or other adult topics, never realizing it’s emotional incest.
The Mother Who Needs You to Succeed
This is the mother who believes you are what you do.
She doesn’t know your favorite color or the names of your friends, but she knows your test scores and can recite your accomplishments to friends.
She parades you at dinner parties, because you make her look good.
Until you don’t, and then you’re no use to her.
The Mean Mother
This mother isn’t mean in front of other people, not when it would make her look bad.
She’s mean behind closed doors. She belittles you in a sarcastic way.
She says things like, “Any other mother would have kicked you out by now. You’re really lucky that I look after you. I didn’t even want children.”
But My Mother Wasn’t Always Like That
Maybe you recognize a few of these traits, but you can remember good times with your mother, too.
“What confuses a lot of women is that they can say, ‘My mum was really nice up to a certain age; she was fine. And something suddenly happened. So I’m not sure if she’s a narcissist, because she wasn’t always like this.”
Often, that change happens around puberty.
It happens around the time you start spending more time with your friends and making your own choices.
“While your mother has control, she will be happy as a pig in mud,” Rebecca says.
The more she loses control over you, the more she acts out. That’s when the narcissism kicks in.
What Do I Do Now?
Does any of this resonate with you?
If so, don’t talk to your family about it just yet.
Your siblings have their own experience with your mother. Your mother may play you off each other, so you end up isolated and feeling like you’re going crazy.
The first step is to get professional support.
“Chances are, you’ve never felt that you’ve had a safe place to fall, and you’ve never felt that someone had your back,” Rebecca says, “because you’ve come from that sort of a family, and you feel like you should be able to do this by yourself.”
Find a female therapist who believes you and has experience in dealing with narcissism, who can help you heal the mother wound and see a different version of femininity that’s not about aggression or control.
Even without a therapist, you can learn to practice the art of small talk with your parents.
Restrict your conversations with your parents to surface things, things that you don’t care about.
“They want information that they can take back to their friends,” Rebecca explains. “Give them information, but give them information you’re happy to have shared.”
You can try techniques like going no contact, setting clear boundaries and enforcing them, practicing simple phrases to cut off the conversation when it veers into abusive territory.
Rebecca helps her clients come up with responses to their narcissistic parent, so they know exactly what to say.
“It’s really important that, before you confront them, you get strong and that you find a safe place to fall,” she adds.
So get help, please. This is not something you need to do by yourself. This is absolutely huge; this is not small… This is fixable. You do not have to carry this around; this is not yours, this is hers.”
She urges you to contact her, if just to share your story about your mother.
“Let’s finally start talking about this,” she says, “because it’s time for you to speak.”
For a limited time, Rebecca is opening up her client list to one-on-one clients. Find out more.
Rebecca is the principal consultant at A Life in Perfect Balance. She’s not just a coach or therapist but also an expert at being human. She uses humor and honesty to create safe spaces for people to explore their relationship dynamics without judgement or fear of embarrassment. Her superpower is helping people become the best version of themselves while living the kind of life they actually want, one with so much freedom, joy, and peace. Find out how you can work with Rebecca.