What Should I Do About Mother Dearest?

I have been pondering how to proceed with my relationship with my mother for many months (years?), so thought I’d put it out to you fabulous peeps to see if you have any advice. First, a little context.

My dad is definitely a narcissist, my mother I’m on the fence about. She’s very self-absorbed, and when I was growing up her abuse was primarily in the area of emotional incest and parental alienation. I was made to feel responsible for her feelings at all times, and constantly expected to show that I was on her side and against my father. I don’t remember a time when it wasn’t so. I also don’t remember ever feeling really loved. (However, I do remember constantly going to my mother as a young child asking, “Do you love me?”)

In my twenties, I went through a period of trying to be an awesome daughter, loving, understanding, supportive, whatever i thought it would take to build that Hollywood family I craved. In my mid-thirties, I started to become aware that I had grown up in an abusive home, and in the last year I’ve really come to learn about narcissism which has changed the way I see my parents.

My relationship with my father is ok now. I understand who/what he is and expect very little from him emotionally but, because he has been able to acknowledge the difficult childhood my sister and I were given, I feel able to move forward with him in some capacity, albeit with quite limited contact. (Easy to do since he lives on the other side of the world.)

My mother, on the other hand, isn’t open to the conversation of my childhood and instantly became defensive when I tried to bring it up a few years ago, and continues to be very self-centred in all her behaviours. She expresses an interest in what I’m doing only to gather enough information so she can brag to others. She always speaks at me or over me, and I’ve noticed that every time I’ve had an emotional fallout, she has immediately made it about herself and provided no emotional support whatsoever.

I understand that being married to my father would have been brutal, and that probably the emotional incest etc was her way of surviving in a very unhappy marriage. Part of me feels like after everything she’s been through in her life, I should be able to suck it up and spend a little time with her once in a while; after all, I don’t think she’s a bad person, I just think she’s a bit ignorant and incredibly self-absorbed. The other part of me thinks spending time with her now has no bearing on the past, so her past shouldn’t be part of my decision making process today.

For the last 8 months, I haven’t really spoken to her other than when I had to drive her to my niece’s birthday party in May, and even then I barely spoke to her in the car. I haven’t missed her in my life, and I have no desire to see her or want to be around her. She asked if she could stop by last week because she was going to be in the area, and I said no. 

As we’re heading into family gathering season (Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.), I feel I need to start planning ahead for how I’m going to handle this. I’ve already started thinking I’m going to bail on Thanksgiving which means she will spend it alone. (My sister bailed on most family gatherings years ago, leaving me last woman standing.) I can handle the guilt of that.

My quandary is this: should I try to look at this relationship as a further opportunity for personal growth and work at keeping her in my life because she’s my mother, or should I gradually this relationship erode as I’ve already been doing, recognizing that I don’t feel she actually adds anything positive to my life anyway? 

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and maybe how you’ve handled adult relationships with your selfish parent(s). If you’ve previously written a post about a similar kind of quandary, please include a link in your reply so I can pop over to read it.





7 responses to “What Should I Do About Mother Dearest?

  1. WOW! That is a lot to absorb. I think your mother clearly has come unresolved issues that have prevented her from being a mother to you and your sister. While I wouldn’t say completely bail on the relationship with your mother you have to come to a place of acceptance of the relationship. She may never be what you think she should have been as a mother, but what I will say is that you have to respect her for simply being your mother. She gave you life. But you don’t have to pretend. At this point…don’t waste your time or your breath on trying to get her to see what she hasn’t been to you, but rather you work on whatever it is you need to in order to come to a place of acceptance. Don’t allow her issues to become your own by harboring ill feelings or resentment towards her. Her incapabilities are not your own and you don’t want to carry that into your own life and personal relationships. Oftentimes we do. One day she will leave this earth and when she does you need to have peace with that. Love her from a distance….it is okay, but don’t totally disregard her. She does have a position in your life…you determine the position.

    • Thanks amichelleturpin. I like how you said “love her from a distance”… that feels very safe and doable to me. And thinking of this as ‘determining the position’ feels more comfortable than deciding whether she’s in or out, which is so absolute. I can work with that for sure. I appreciate your thoughtful feedback.

  2. What I read in this is, you made ‘excuses’ for your mom’s behaviour and emotional disconnection. Maybe put some boundaries in place for you….We can’t pick and choose our parent’s, but like amichelleturpin said, you can love her from a distance! Thanks for sharing this with us! ❤

    • Thanks Tela. I used to be very angry at her, so have been working on trying to understand her behaviour (not so much making excuses) as a way of being able to let the anger go. You’re right about the boundaries, I guess that must be what I’m still struggling with. Seems everything keeps coming down to better boundaries, lol. I appreciate your perspective, as always. ❤

  3. Big topic…I did not personally experience narcissistic parents, but I think we all hold personal beliefs about what those relationships should look like…relationship boundaries. Parent-child relationships grow and change over time…my opinion is that God gives us children for only a short time-the children are suppose to grow and carry on. Narcissistic parents attempt to continue to control their adult children through guilt…boundaries…love and respect without handing over our self-worth…good thoughts coming your way💛

  4. Sounds like you had a similar family background to me (except I had a narc birth father, narc stepfather, and my mother’s either narc, borderline or both). Currently, I’m doing NC with the entire toxic family.

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