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Navigating Mother’s Day With a Narcissistic Mom

Dear You,

Observing Mother’s Day with a narcissistic mother can bring up a wild mix of emotions. On a day meant to celebrate the beauty of maternal love and nurturing, you might feel anything but celebratory. Instead of joy and appreciation, you might feel anger, sadness, and dread. Trying to find a Mother’s Day card might feel more cringey than heartwarming. The thought of calling to wish your mom a happy Mother’s Day may feel like a chore. You might resent the ads and reminders of the approaching day or wish you could hide under a rock until the weekend passes.

I am here to tell you that every one of those feelings and reactions is completely normal when you have a narcissistic parent.

Narcissistic relationships are built different

Everyone family has its problems, and every mother-child relationship will have its strains and challenges. Growing up in such a narcissistic family environment, though, is on another level of difficulty. Narcissistic parenting leaves scars that can take a long time to heal. Narcissistic parents frequently prioritize their own needs and desires over their children’s needs. Their children are casualties, having been emotionally neglected, manipulated, and emotionally abused. Being expected to celebrate the traditional ideals of motherhood is painful – even cruel – when you haven’t experienced those ideals in real life.

Your feelings and your experiences are valid. It is okay to feel whatever emotions may arise as Mother’s Day approaches. On days like this, it is crucial that you turn your own nurturing energy inward and take care of yourself. To begin, let’s first acknowledge your strength and resilience! You needed both to navigate the tricky and complex dynamics of growing up with a narcissistic parent. These relationships are never simple or easy, and there’s a good chance you don’t give yourself enough credit for your own hard work in coping. Don’t forget to give yourself credit for the hard work you’ve already put in.

Difficult relationships may become even more challenging during holidays, milestone life experiences, and events that cast a special light on the relationship – events like Mother’s Day. At times like these, it becomes more important than ever to prioritize your own emotional health and well-being. Next, let’s talk about some practical steps you can take to make this day more manageable.

Set yourself up for success by planning ahead

Caring for yourself may look different for different people. You get to decide what you need most during this time. To give you a starting point, here are four ways you might take care of yourself this Mother’s Day weekend:

  1. Consider setting some boundaries ahead of time. You might manage your level of contact with your mom, like making a phone call instead of visiting in person. You could limit how long you see/talk to her, or choose to ignore or disengage from risky topics of conversation. Planning your boundaries ahead of time takes the pressure off making decisions in the moment.

  2. Connect with supportive allies who understand your situation. Reach out to friends, other family members, or even a therapist to engage your support system. There is power in knowing you’re not alone. And spending time with people who “get you” can be validating and relieving.

  3. Do something you enjoy – just for you. Get involved in activities that bring you comfort and joy. Sit down with a good book, take your dog on a hike, or devote some time to a crossword puzzle. Spend some time filling your cup and treating your needs as valid and important.
  4. Practice self-compassion and giving yourself grace. Self-kindness can be hard when you feel anger, resentment, or grief on a day that’s supposed to be a celebration. You might even feel shame that you can’t see your narcissistic mother the way you’d like to. Your feelings are not a moral judgment on you or anyone else – they’re just an expression of your honest experience.

Be gentle with yourself

Healing from the effects of growing up with narcissistic parents takes time and intentional self-compassion. Treat yourself with gentleness and kindness, and know that you deserve understanding and love from yourself and from others. It is okay to grieve the mother-daughter relationship you may have longed for but never experienced. It is okay to feel sadness, anger, or even ambivalence towards your narcissistic mother on Mother’s Day. Your feelings are valid, and you deserve to honor them in whatever way feels right for you.

Take this Mother’s Day as an opportunity to practice self-compassion and self-care. Remember that you are strong, resilient, and capable of healing from your past wounds. You are not alone in this journey. There are people who care about you and want to support you every step of the way.

With warmth and compassion,


Felicity Fong - Licensed Professional Counselor

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Amy Marlow MaCoy - Sitting in Office with a Book

Hi. I'm Amy of the Courageous Heart Institute.

I help survivors of narcissistic abuse to heal, and support clinicians in developing the skills to treat narcissistic abuse survivors.

Follow @thecourageousheartinstitute