May 05, 2008

The Other Mother

After writing about My Beautiful Mother yesterday, it might be a good idea to write about The Other Mother. In a hat. The one she made herself without following the pattern.

I don't want anybody to get the fluffy notion CZ romanticizes all woman or believes all women should avoid plastic surgery. In rare cases, plastic surgery is a good idea. If the government is serious about protecting the public like they say they are, taxpayer monies ought be allocated for special cases of national insecurity. Like the Other Mother. The one who pretends she's beautiful when she's not. The one who eats children for breakfast and expects to be glorified for her martyrdom. After all, she had to stoke her own fire, wash the pan and peel the onions herself.

All kidding aside (and yes, it's been a rude awakening to find out women are just as aggressive, needy, manipulating and narcissistic as any maN could ever be), people are reluctant to talk about women who are narcissistic, nasty and vile enough that their children never feel good enough, pretty enough, or smart enough to earn the love only a mother can 'give'. But 'giving' she is not...only faking and taking and soul-breaking.

I knew a mother like this and it makes me shudder just remembering what it was like for my friend who was forced to give her mama flowers after church on Mother's Day. I felt for her and even though I couldn't fathom what she was experiencing, I knew what I was feeling. Like ripping the petals off the geranium and throwing it in her mother's lap. But what did my friend do?? She kindly gave her mama flowers and acted as if their relationship was perfectly normal. Which it was NOT.

I figure most of us can remember certain mothers if we think about our childhoods and all the friends we had growing up. Even if our mother was not narcissistic, there were at least one or two in every group who had the 'other mother' and lacked words to describe invalidation. So maybe writing about The Other Mother is still better late than never. It alleviates my sadness for not knowing how to tell my friend her mother was terrible. It's hard when we learn about pathological narcissism and connect-the-dots to friends who were isolated with crazy pareNts who could not get outside themselves long enough to see a child, not an object. I may have lacked adequate words and understanding when I was ten years old. But I don't lack for words now.

Anna Valerious's blog, Narcissists Suck, focuses on the Narcissistic Mother. It's not a comfortable read because saying bad things about mamas is a social no-no. Especially in a culture revering motherhood as a glorified status of irreproachable sanctity. The child ought not be earning mother's love. The mother ought be earning her status as mother; but parenting roles are reversed in narcissistic families and the child is expected to pareNt the mother.
"If you can allow yourself to admit when another person is dangerous or destructive...then accepting they are what they are is essential if you are going to ever be able to protect yourself from them." ~Anna Valerious
Important words that sound easy but they aren't. Breaking social taboos hindering our ability to see reality as it is, can be a gut-wrenching exercise conquering fears we don't even know are making us easy targets for the narcissist's refuse. Anna will always be able to say this better than myself since my mother is not a narcissist. But what sets The Other Mother apart to me, is her inability to see her children as human beings. Not objects, not competition, not puppets to be manipulated for a grand presentation with Mama bowing to public applause. We can thank her for sacrificing nine months of her life and going through that gawd-awful labor but being called Mother is a title she must earn. I know this because my kids made me earn every mother's day card they ever gave me. Labor pales in comparison to the work of mothering.

By the way, there's an insightful article on the web that's well-worth reading. The author lists 25 Characteristics of Narcissistic Mothers. "The Destructive Narcissistic Parent creates a child that only exists to be an extension of her self. It's about secret things. It's about body language. It's about disapproving glances. It's about vocal tone. It's very intimate. And it's very powerful. It's part of who the child is."

Hugs all,



  1. Hi CZ-- I enjoyed both your posts. As always, your writing is great.
    Wrinkles are okay and you know, the alternatives to thinking they are not, are not so great, like taking knives to nerves. Sometimes I wish I could make some of the lines b/t my eyes disappear, or at least lessen them b/c they make me look angry when I'm not. Sometimes I think I got wrinkles too early and just how darn unfair it is! But so be it. I got 'em.
    The narcissist I knew told me he had plastic surgery several times. I don't know what kind of upkeep that requires, but he spent lots of time in the bathroom each morning. He freaked out once when I came in and moved his bag so I couldn't see the contents. I think he was doing whatever you have to do after face lifts. I bet there are expensive products you have to buy continuously. I finally learned that he painted his mustache and any gray hairs every morning.
    Plus, He always wanted to photoshop any pictures of me. He liked them too. I hated them and told him so. It didn't even look like me. He said most people liked that he could take their wrinkles away. He called it art once. I wanted to laugh but I didn't. I don't think that is art. I thought it was plain weird that he wanted photos of me that didn't look like me.
    Art would be depicting the real life character in a way that is real and pleasing to the eye. I've seen pictures of very old people that I think are beautiful. I kept hoping he would get a photo where I looked happy. He took so many pictures and now I see in them where I always looked like a deer caught in front of headlights. The only way we could make a portrait for my mom was to use one with my profile.

    Thanks for writing and I hope you are doing well. I need to visit the forum again soon. I've been catching up on life after a period of being pretty sick.

  2. As someone who grew up with The Other Mother I just want to say "Thank you, thank you, thank you".

    You can't imagine how much healing I got from reading your blog and imagining that maybe - just maybe - some in my past saw and felt as you do. I'm not sure that happened, because my mother was a 'pro'(but a sadist behind closed doors) and to my friends was the world's B E S T mother; they all called her "Mom". But no-one is perfect all the time. I know that someone, somewhere must have noticed something. Of course no-one would have believed me if I ever said anything, so I never really did. I never got any validation anywhere from anyone and so, because my mother kept up ties with my former friends from high school, I had to cut off all ties with everyone from my past when I went NC.

    So I hope you don't mind if I 'borrow' what you said about your friends' situation, and use a little of that sympathy and understanding for myself.

    Thank you.

  3. My mother displayed all the characteristics of a malignant narcissist.

    At 21, before I had even heard the word narcissist and very confused over my family situation, I attempted to talk about it with the family. (I left home at 16 just to get away from her)

    The result: my mother stopped talking to me and refused to even acknowledge my existence. Years later, nothing has changed.

    While this was very hurtful, in retrospect, it is the best thing she has ever done for me.

  4. Dear Anonymous July 25th,

    I see the link in my post is no longer active, BUT you can find the article on The WoN Connection:

    Characteristics of Narcissistic Mothers@

    It breaks my heart knowing that mothers and daughters are unable to bond healthily to one another. This relationship can be mutually validating and supportive---so what a sad thing it is when a daughter is unable to have this relationship with her mother!

    I am sorry for what you've gone through. It is, as many women are now writing about, a terrible, terrible loss and very difficult to 'get over'.

    You seem to be accepting of your mother's inability to change but I'm guessing this has not been easy for you. Most daughters keep holding on in the hopes that ONE DAY, they'll get the love they want and need.


  5. Dear CZ,

    I was not expecting a response, especially such a warm and encouraging one, thank you. Your link is a very good article on n-mothers.

    This is a very sad and incomprehensible situation and I can understand why people, especially mothers don't get it, unless they have experience with narcs. When I was in confusion limbo, a lot of people reassured me that my mother did love me, but I knew down to my bones that the woman who tried to destroy me did not love me at all. As I grew more mature, her past behaviour became even more bizarre to me, for even though I am not a mother, I began to understand how perverted her behaviour was.

    When I discovered the late Kathy Krajco's website, everything fell into place and I cried tears of joy. I finally could stop going around in circles, trying to make sense of a senseless situation and could move on.

    I also heard many stories of acons (adult children of narcs) and a lot of them were very similar to mine. I felt both relief and sadness that I wasn't the only one. Anna Valerious of the Narcissists Suck blog appears to have the same family dynamics as mine: dominant n-mum, weak father and favoured n-sister. In fact, reading some of her stories, I could substitute a few minor details and I would be reading my own story.

    Even though my sister, despite being a non achiever, was the favoured one, I would not change places with her for a minute! At the time, it seemed so unfair but maturity and understanding narcs has led me to see the situation differently. My sister had everything done for her and could do no wrong (= spoilt) while I was devalued and neglected. Despite having to leave home at 16, finish my schooling while working and with unresolved emotional baggage, I am now enjoying much success. I hope that comforts all the scapegoats out there.

    As far as my baggage goes, I am growing. I did not get any counselling, as like almost everything else, I have had to do it on my own(before I became financially secure)and it has been a bumpy ride, with a lot of mistakes made along the way. I am extremely grateful that writers such as yourself gave me the information that I needed, as it was the key to unlock my emotional healing for me. I am hoping with more information available others will not have it so hard, nor have to waste as much time as I did. I still have emotional issues to deal with, but I am recovering well.

    Grieving over not being mothered is hard and I still feel the lack of mothering; it is one thing to understand intellectually what happened but quite another to process it emotionally, so I can understand why daughters get stuck (like I used to and sometimes still do, but not to the same extent.)

  6. Hi again, Anonymous,

    Being an 'older' woman now (when did that happen? YIKES!), I'd say most women go through a phase of individuation which requires separating from her mother. It's never very fun and I've had lots and lots of gab sessions with friends about their mother's inadequacies, failings and extreme-eye-rolling psychological limitations as in her 'codependent undeveloped self.' We'd commiserate over afternoon lunches and validate one another's grief because our mother was NOT the mother we deserved/wanted.

    A while later, we each achieved the separation we sorely needed in order to continue growing as individuals. AND, miracle-of-miracle, our relationship with our mother was better than it ever was and we realize that the 'codependent undeveloped self' was US.

    This was my view of mother-daughter relationships for the most part, although there were always a select few who didn't fit within my assumptions. So I've had my own comeuppance about Toxic and Relentlessly Harmful mother-daughter relationships!

    Once i began learning about pathological narcissism and psychopathy, all the pieces fell together. I am grateful for this education as resistant as I was to accepting the fact that narcissists weren't just male. It's a horrifying thought to realize Ns and Ps also give birth to the most vulnerable amongst us! That makes it rather hard to sleep at night, doesn't it?

    I think the benefit of public education is that we, the ones who did not have N-mothers, can offer our support to other women who may need to walk away completely. My naive advice to friends who were reluctant to do that, only made them feel more guilty---or defective in some way. Ignorance might be bliss for the ignorant but not for those they invalidate because of their naivete.

    I've only known a handful of people who could not forge a Distanced-but-Civilized relationship with their mother and of course, there are those destructive relationships that should end but daughters don't know how to do that...always more worried about mom's negative reactions than their own.

    I have a very loving and intimate relationship with my daughter who is always ready to forgive my many mistakes as I am hers. The reciprocal validation is so healing---I am deeply deeply sorrowful for women who cannot experience such trust. If the mother is not willing to give up her narcissism, the relationship will stagnate or at worst, destroy her daughter's sense of self.

    I am touched that my writings have helped you heal. Writing has been beneficial too since I tend to be more contemplative and not so verbose in real life! Every now and then I look at all these posts and wonder, "Where did all THAT come from?" haha!! So thank you for being here and validating me.



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