[There are two basic types of narcissistic mothers, the ignoring type and the engulfing type. These may—and often do—overlap but most NMs have a basic style and will be primarily one or the other. Some of the following points may not apply to your NM simply because they describe an engulfing characteristic when your NM is an ignoring type—or vice versa. But our mothers are not the only narcissists we will encounter in our lives. In fact, being raised by a narcissistic parent actually sets us up to be prey for more of the self-centred emotional vampires as we go out into the world, from girlfriends who are anything but friends to lovers who love themselves best to husbands who are the mirror image of dear old mom. So, whether something looks like it applies to your NM or not, read and consider it carefully—it may give you the awareness necessary to avoid the predator lurking around the next bend. As ever, my comments are shown in violet. -V]
It's about secret things. The Destructive Narcissistic Parent creates a child that only exists to be an extension of her self. 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. ~ Chris
12. She's self-absorbed.
self-absorbed, the narcissistic parent gives little emotional return…” That’s the narcissistic mother, all right…selfish, self-absorbed, and giving little emotional return. “…the narcissist does not really understand the concept of others, much less love for them.”
When I was around eight years old, my NM did something that made me angry enough to want to punish her. I cannot recall exactly what it was, but I remember thinking that withholding my customary goodnight kiss on her cheek would hurt her feelings like she had hurt mine—a taste of her own medicine, so to speak.
So, when she announced it was bedtime, I got up and began my regular night-time ritual: put on pajamas, brush teeth and wash face, but instead of stopping on the way back to my bedroom to give her that good night peck, I went straight to my bed. I waited and waited for her to come to my room to claim the missing kiss. I heard the TV go off, I heard her lock up the house, I heard her go to her room and close her bedroom door and I realized, she never even noticed I had not kissed her goodnight. So self absorbed was she that my childish act of punishing a disappointing parent by withholding a token of love went completely unnoticed.
But children tend to be forgiving souls. Maybe she did notice but she figured out what I was up to, I thought…and deliberately didn’t rise to my bait. I would give her a few nights… It had no effect. I never kissed her goodnight again and if she ever stepped out of herself long enough to notice, it wasn’t important enough to her to mention.
Her feelings, needs and wants are very important; yours are insignificant to the point that her least whim takes precedence over your most basic needs.
This is how I got to be fourteen before I saw a dentist for the first time and why it took my eighth grade science teacher to notice and my school nurse to threaten NM with calling the County for child neglect to get my first pair of glasses. But while I went without essential medical and dental care, there was money for whatever she wanted to do from building custom cabinetry in the kitchen to buying the latest trends to going out barhopping while my father was at work.
We were stretched so thin financially, according to my mother whenever I wanted something, that my father had two jobs plus NM worked—yet there was always enough money for her flashy cocktail dresses, gaudy accessories like earrings made of rhinestone-studded feathers, and several nights out at the local nightspot every week. There just wasn’t enough for me to have more than one pair of shoes, and no money for the dentist or for glasses.
Well, I don’t know if malignant NMs are different from other types of NMs in this regard, but in our house, nobody was allowed to have problems except NM. Any problem I might bring up would create instant suspicion that I was doing something I shouldn’t—or not doing something I should—and invited examination. With a normal parent, that’s unnerving—with a narcissistic parent, it is a terrifying prospect simply because truth means nothing to them, they will interpret their findings any way they choose, and usually they choose an interpretation that disadvantages you.
NM’s smallest problem, however, could be magnified into gargantuan proportions. I had a patch of eczema on the inside of my left calf that extended from my ankle to my knee and covered all of the full, fleshy part of the inner calf muscle. The miserable, ugly thing had been with me since earliest childhood. For me, NM bought a smelly, greasy, tar-based OTC salve called Resinol that succeeded only in making me stink and smearing my sheets with it. But when she got a rash on her wrist from a sudden allergy to nickel, a rash no bigger than a dime, no time or expense was spared to get her to the doctor and to buy some hydrocortisone cream, (relatively new and very costly) for her wrist. Later, when the nickel allergy persisted, she parlayed this into a justification for buying a gold watch since gold wouldn’t aggravate the allergy (neither would painting the back of the watch with clear nail polish, as NM’s friend Bea suggested, but that wouldn’t justify buying a Piaget watch, would it?).
Her wishes always take precedence; if she does something for you, she reminds you constantly of her munificence in doing so and will often try to extract some sort of payment.
I am a parent and I always considered such things as food, clothing, medical care and the like to be entitlements that I was obligated to provide my children…birthrights, if you will. My NM, however, did not concur. Every bite I ate, every rag I hung on my bony frame, every toy I had, medicines and doctors when I was sick—everything handed to me as a child I was expected to “appreciate.” And my gratitude should be expressed by willingly enslaving myself in her service, never asking for and never, ever expecting anything. I was a burden on her, an affliction, a money-drain which gave back nothing of value save household labour and she made absolutely sure I knew it.
“A parent is entitled to the fruits of her child’s labour.” How many times I heard that from my NM I could not begin to guess. And she collected at every opportunity—during her stage mother phase, she dragged me to talent shows, auditions, even to sing in nightclubs. Occasionally I would get a trophy, but looking back I am pretty sure that there were cash prizes along with the trophies and ribbons…but I never say a penny of it. When I was in high school, I had a job but NM took my pay checks (absolutely forbade me to cash them myself!) and doled out to me a pittance every two weeks to pay for my bus fare to and from school, to and from work, and my school lunches. When I picked beans and berries in the summers at my grandparents, she would take the money—just like she did with money I got from family members for my birthday or Christmas—saying she would “hold” the money for me. We both knew I would never see it again and that she felt entitled to it. It was payback for all the sacrifices she made for me.
She will complain constantly, even though your situation may be much worse than hers. If you point that out, she will effortlessly, thoughtlessly brush it aside as of no importance (It's easy for you/It's different for you).
Or “You created that yourself, why should I help you?” Political conservatives frighten me because they remind me of my NM. Nobody is allowed to be anything but perfect and they get to define perfect for everybody. No mistakes allowed, no quarter given, sink or swim—they have a peculiarly, selfishly Dickensian view of the world.
Before foodstamps the government distributed surplus foods to the poor. Once a month I had to make my way on the bus, with two small children, to a distribution centre where I would be given whatever foods were currently in the government surplus. Certain things you could count on every month like powdered eggs and powered milk, and most months there would be oatmeal and flour. If there was rice, you had to empty the plastic bags as soon as you got home and rinse the rice to get rid of the weevils or they would get into your cupboards and infest the flour and oats…the rice always had weevils.
Most months I also got a few cans of vegetables and meat—like a whole canned chicken—and often there was a loaf of cheese and a pound or two of butter. The government kept the prices of these various farm items up—so the farmers could make a profit—by buying a portion of the farming output so it didn’t create a glut on the market. The “surplus” food, rather than being allowed to rot, was handed out to the poor…people like me.
One day I had just gotten home with my bounty and was putting it away in the kitchen when NM unexpectedly dropped in. NM had eventually remarried after her divorce and between them, she and Frank owned 3 businesses, 4 houses and 21 apartments. She was cheap and tight with money, but she wasn’t poor. She could have offered me a job in one of the businesses, offered me an apartment in a neighbourhood where I wasn’t afraid to venture out at night, but I had “made my bed” so I…and two little kids…had to lie in it, no matter what kind of assets Grammi had or help she could offer.
And so she strolled up to my door and when admitted, she followed me to the kitchen. There on the kitchen table were two blocks of butter waiting to go into the fridge along with a block of cheese. “Since when can you afford butter?” she sneered.
Well, when I explained, she raised the roof. “I work my ass off every goddamned day of the week and I can only afford margarine,” she yelled at me. “And you, lazy welfare slut, get free butter?” The fact that I was on welfare, that my situation was so dire that I had to get assistance from the state in order to feed the kids, couldn’t possibly be more important than the fact that she was eating margarine and I was eating butter, could it? No matter how bad things got with me, she always had a trump card to play...
Gee, Mom, how about a job in one of your three companies? Then maybe I can afford margarine like you and wouldn’t have to take cast-off food from the government rather than watch my children go hungry…
Next: Part 13. She is insanely defensive