Following on from my piece yesterday, today I’m looking at the levels of contact the respondents to my survey reported. Of the 1,772 women who took part, 257 revealed that their mothers were dead. Obviously, for them, the issue of current levels of contact did not arise.
Just 228 of the remaining 1,465 participants, were in regular contact with their mothers. The reason for this was generally because the women felt responsible for their mothers’ well-being (their mothers had no one else to tend to them). At the same time, however, these DONMs were actively working on creating and / or maintaining healthy boundaries with their mothers.
Six-hundred-and-twenty-three of these woman keep low contact, and the remaining 614 have no contact with their mothers at all. Of these women, 66% percent went low-contact, or no-contact shortly after they became mothers themselves. As one woman put it, ‘I refuse to allow my past become my children’s present and future. I cut contact when my eldest was born, six years ago. She won many battles, but I won the war by simply walking away.’
Some women tried to repair their relationships with their mothers in order to provide a ‘traditional family structure’ for their own children. For these women, the decision to go no-contact was not made immediately after the birth of their infants. Their pain was further compounded by the fact that their mothers did not slough off their narcissism when they became grandmothers. More than 70% of respondents who had children, said that they hoped having a child would help them understand their mothers better; and that the birth of an infant would bring the respondent and her narcissistic mother closer.
Sadly, none of the participants found that this scenario materialised. In most cases, the mother-daughter relationship actually dis-improved. As one woman revealed:
‘She was never motherly, but she would still criticise my parenting. She told my children to call her “Mommy”, and she actually tried to take my kids from me by calling CPS (Child Protection Services) on me. Her plot to steal my kids didn’t work. I went no-contact after that.’
Another woman disclosed that she ‘totally regretted’ letting her mother have anything to do with her children.
‘Going no-contact was my only option – for my sake, for my kids’ sake, and for the sake of my marriage. Although it hurts that my boys only have one proper grandmother.’
Another DONM said that her main goal in life is ‘to make sure that my children know how much they are loved, and to never question it. One of the main reasons I chose to go no-contact was to protect my children.’
Unfortunately for many women, going no-contact with their mothers means that they become estranged from the rest of their families. This is true for 38% of the women in this survey. Not only did they lose any suggestion of a relationship with their mothers, they lost their entire families – both parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
‘I feel like I’m an only child, and an orphan, but I don’t get the comfort of being able to say that out loud to people,’ one woman wrote.
Having a narcissistic mother has a devastating effect on women, and – from the responses this research generated – the damage inflicted appears to be life-long.
An overwhelming majority of the women who responded to this study divulged that they considered never having children themselves because of how their own mothers treated them.
The hurt and pain associated with not being loved by their mothers creates a deficit in women who reveal that they find difficulty in creating loving romantic relationships in their adult lives. This contributes to some of them not becoming mothers themselves.
While the dominant cultural narrative is that all mothers are loving beings, daughters of narcissistic mothers know this is not true. Speaking our truth, however, is difficult because of the shame we carry – with the majority (more than 82%) of women whose mothers are narcissists believing that the lack of maternal love is their (the daughters’) own fault. As one woman wrote:
‘When I was a child, I used to pray every night that I would turn good, so my mother would love me.’
In her comments, one of the participants summed up the situation of many other respondents when she wrote:
‘The world feels unsafe when you realize your mom never loved you and has been actually competitive, mean and actively worked against you. But with my own children, I have worked so hard to be mindful of what a good mother is: Loving, offering support and guidance when appropriate, non-judgmental, allowing children to grow/change and have their own lives. I will never ever abandon, speak poorly of, sabotage or engulf my children (who are now adults). I now know what a healthy mom and child relationship is. I will always be sad for what I have lost but proud of what I built with my own children.’
Finally, daughters of narcissistic mothers, can take heart from Streep’s observation that scapegoated daughters are more likely than their siblings to recognise and come to terms with the toxicity of their mothers’ treatment of them. As a result of this awareness, they are more likely to seek help, in the form of therapy. This, in turn, means they are often the only child in the family who manages to have healthy and sustaining relationships – and that includes with herself.