DONMs as mothers
One issue every daughter of a narcissistic mother has to concern herself with is being a mother herself.
We worry about replicating the dysfunction and harming our children just as we were harmed. As well, we simply don’t know how to be a high-functioning mother. All girls learn to parent by absorbing how her mothers parent, and unless we proactively choose to learn differently, that’s what we’ll know.
Well I have good news for you!
The first thing is that, almost by definition, if you’re reading this page, you’re NOT going to be the sort of mother that your own mother was. By caring enough to worry about being a good mother and make it your business to learn how to do differently, you’re already proving that you are so, so different from your own narcissistic mother.
So take a deep breath and absorb that good news.
Now you might have some narcissistic traits as explained here. But as I explain on that page, you’ll be able to recognise them and change them. But obviously you’re not narcissistic because a narcissstic mother would NEVER doubt that she was anything less than perfect.
But what about practical parenting skills? How do you become a good mother?
I share my own journey here, and the resources I have found, and the observations I’ve realised, and I hope you find them useful. I am not being so arrogant, I hope, as to say I’m a perfect mother (and indeed my son would let you know I’m not!), but I have put a lot of effort into learning and applying good parentinag skills, so I do get 10/10 for effort. And some of it has rubbed off.
Here’s what I have learned:
When a baby is born, one of her first jobs is to learn how the world works. She’s always looking for evidence and drawing conclusions. Those conclusions get literally wired (in the form of neural pathways) into her brain as part of her ‘map’ of the world, and will influence everything about her life. She’s asking questions like: Am I a worthwhile person? Am I loved? Is the world a safe place? Will my needs be met?
It’s our job as parents to answer those questions that Yes, she’s a worthwhile person, yes she’s loved, yes her world is safe, and yes her needs will be met.
We do that by proving it to her.
But how do we do that?
We do it by responding to her needs. Up to a year old, a baby’s wants and needs are the same. In other words, if she wants it, she needs it. If she wants to be picked up, she needs to be picked up.
So, you cannot spoil a baby by responding to her needs. You don’t have to second-guess yourself. Just respond to her – and babies are very good at telling us what they need, once we listen – and you’re doing it right.
As part of this you might consider attachment parenting. Attachment parenting involves: baby-wearing, co-sleeping, empathetic discipline. Learn more here. This way of parenting superb for proving to the baby that she’s worthwhile and loved. Now, attachment parenting can be challenging to our society, and you might find these suggestions challenging. But it’s truly the way humans have raised their babies for most of our history.
One thing about attachment parenting that I found was that it was both hugely triggering and at the same time hugely healing of my own sad babyhood and childhood. Giving my son such quality parenting really emphasised my own lack thereof. But that was good – it brought up the pain, brought it up to the light, where it could be healed. I didn’t have EFT at the time, but I recommend it to you, to heal the pain as it comes up. In this way, attachment parenting of your children becomes a huge healing tool for you.
And even directly, it was healing, because I knew I was creating love, and creating nurturing, and so I got to be part of both of those things. True, not as a child receiving them, but even so, there was huge value in being part of it.
La Leche League
The best thing I did, bar none, was to join the breastfeeding support group La Leche League when I was about seven months pregnant. I thought I was going to learn about breastfeeding – and I did. But I also learned how to be a mother.
This came about in two ways. The first was that La Leche League has what I believe is a wonderful philosophy of how children should be treated and they provide much practical resources to help you learn these, in the form of books (I share my favourites below) and conferences. It’s a full course in learning how to be a mother.
The second way in which La Leche League taught me to be a mother is through simple modelling of wonderful mothering. The Leaders (as the facilitators are called) and other long-term members are, by definition, very child-centred and are, in my experience, absolutely inspirational to observe and learn from.
Breastfeeding itself really helps in mother-child bonding. When you breastfeed your body produces the hormone oxytocin which helps you bond with your baby. The more you bond, the more love you feel, the easier it is to be responsive to her. For sure women bond without this help, but this makes it much much easier. And seeing as daughters of narcissistic mothers are perhaps starting from behind we need all the help we can get.
Breastfeeding also means that you’re spending more time with your baby, and that also helps you bond with her. It means you both get to know each other really well, and learn how to work together, and that encourages a good relationship between you. With my son I found that I was nearly psychic about him. If he cried I’d know exactly what was wrong. It may have been that he had different cries but a) if he did, they were subtle enough that I couldn’t conciously distinguish them, and b) even my husband, who was a very hands-on dad, couldn’t do this.
Once the child is older their needs change. My parenting bible, which is the single best resource I ever had (and which was also hugely recommended by so many of the members of my forum), was the strangely named book How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk. There is so much excellent advice, and really good techniques.
I genuinely think that every parent should have a copy this book. Especially daughters of narcissistic mothers who didn’t learn good parenting the natural way.
And the main thing is to relax and know that if you’re desperately worried about not being a good parent, it means you’re not a narcissistic parent for sure.
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