The legacy of narcissistic mothering – part I

I went to the preschool orientation for my youngest daughter last night at the community preschool. The teachers were standing outside the door, and immediately upon seeing me, asked me tonight how middle daughter was doing in kindergarten. I’d forgotten that they’d might be interested in knowing given the fact she spent a year and a quarter selectively mute in their school. I opened my mouth to tell them and a flood of emotion welled up. I really didn’t expect it to hit me hard, but yes, it was wonderful to know they cared and it was really overwhelming (in a good way) to report the wonderful news about my middle daughter.

That made me realize was that it felt good that people cared to ask how she was doing and my overwhelmed response made me realize (as I have many times before) how mothering has overwhelmed me, particularly mothering a child with severe anxieties and meltdowns and selective mutism because she is developing asynchronously (her cognitive development was almost 3 years ahead of her age, while her emotional development was about 2 years behind). I told the preschool director that if ever she runs into a child who might have SM to pass along my number to their parents if they ever wanted to know more about it or just wanted someone to talk to about it, because I never wanted anyone else to feel as lost and alone as I did working through it.

Then after the orientation, I went to the Borders bookstore.

I browsed there for a bit before stumbling across a book that caught my attention. I wasn’t actively seeking out self-help books (I actually went to look for a book on reviewing Spanish – something husband and I have been wanting to do for a while), but I was just browsing the new paperback section. The title jumped out at me.

It was Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcisstic Mothers. The author is a licensed marriage and family therapist. Until I can get to a real live flesh and blood one, I think this will be a good start.

I’ve long suspected my anxieties surrounding mothering my own daughters had a lot to do with my relationship to my mother who has narcissistic tendencies. This seemed to be the general consensus of 2 older sisters and I. She treated my younger half-brother and sister vastly differently.

The book says that it’s a “spectrum disorder” so that there can be different degrees of narcissism (from mild to severe). And of course, at various points in our lives, it’s likely that we all have exhibited some narcissistic qualities but that does not mean we are narcissists too.

The book also confirms for me that a narcissistic mother can ignore some of her children while almost smothering the “favored” ones (she would buy my brother’s groceries for him and take them down to the private university where he lived in the football frat house (this was the same Snooty U I turned down because although I got accepted, I would have been forced to live at home and commute by train). I often wonder if my two older sisters and I were emotionally abandoned because we reminded her of our father. She had bitter, bitter contempt for him for the longest time. We were never allowed to speak of him in her presence.

The thing is, I have dealt with it on some levels (most definitely intellectually rationalizing some of it away), but not deeply enough on an emotional level to get to true healing. A lot of my own breakdowns in dealing with my own children’s needs (either being too intrusive at times, or pushing them away at others) seems to be a direct result from not having that healthy middle ground and confidence to keep being there.

Even at 39 years old…I have still carry with me the deep wounds and trust issues (not so much in my love relationships, like with my husband, but of other women – though I’m slowly gaining trust in the wisdom of other women ).

I see a lot of my mother in the book, and a lot of myself in it. Fortunately, the author herself had been the daughter of a narcissistic mother, and made it her mission to study it and help others. To me, it doesn’t feel like it’s just another clinician who has really no idea what it feels like and is presuming to know because they studied other people.

I think that’s how I’m going to be spending some of the hours my youngest is in school – working through the book, setting up some time to meet with a therapist. Maybe with the book, I’ll only need a few sessions.

I did spend some time talking about some of this with my husband after I came home. I told him some things I hadn’t shared with him about how difficult mothering has come to me, but that I’m committed to understanding how I got here and where to find that middle ground of healthy parenting.

I know I’ve been half-way there to healthy parenting. Being aware of the problem is half the battle. The other have is re-conditioning myself to making better decisions and better responses to situations that occur.

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This entry was posted in abuse, loss of parental love, motherhood, personal growth, personal issues, perspective. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The legacy of narcissistic mothering – part I

  1. Pingback: Ending the Legacy « Raising Smart Girls

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