Narcissistic Mothers & How To Write About Them

9 Narcissistic Mothers & How To Write About Them

In this post, we discuss narcissistic mothers and we give you tips on how to write about them.

To celebrate Mother’s Day, I wrote about the 15 most memorable mothers from the books I’ve read. Some of the them were caring, some were psychotic, and others were tragic.

For this Mother’s Day, I wanted to look at one of the most interesting characters to write about – a mother with a narcissistic personality disorder. The fact that she exists is enough to create a character with a story to tell.

What is a narcissistic mother?

Mark Banschick wrote a superb article in Psychology Today, where he says, ‘She’s a winner, at least in public. She’s the woman everyone admires—she’s a judge, lawyer, doctor, or teacher. She’s on the PTA or is the power behind your church or synagogue. She smoothly balances being socially nimble, while contributing to the community in a way that leaves others in awe. In their eyes, she’s superwoman.
Most people don’t know that this superwoman has a secret. Like everyone in this world, she has a flaw. No one is the epitome of perfection, and in mom’s case, the issue is narcissism.
The outside world may embrace her, but you know mom as self-centred, brittle, easily angered and ‘always right’. She may be loved by her friends and colleagues, but they don’t know the mom you know. You get maternal love now and then, but it’s unpredictable and punctuated by control, anger and a need to walk on eggshells.’

12 Ways To Tell If You Have A Narcissistic Mother (& Tips For Writing About One)

  1. An apology is not enough for her and you never know how to please her.
  2. She accuses you of taking her for granted, always telling you how much she does for you and how you do not appreciate her as a mother.  As Mignon McLaughlin says, ‘The only mothers it is safe to forget on Mother’s Day are the good ones.’
  3. She finds fault with you. You feel inadequate and lack self-confidence. She instils self-doubt in everything that you do.
  4. She is controlling at home. She demeans and criticises you.
  5. She takes offence easily.
  6. She is brilliant at manipulating you. The term passive-aggressive was invented for her.
  7. She is opinionated, and condemns others in private, while pretending to be more forgiving of them in public. She is friendly and even talks to those people she secretly despises. She saves her criticism and opinions of them for home.
  8. She makes you anxious.
  9. She makes you feel like a failure if you do not do what she wants.
  10. She needs to look good in public. Do not even consider embarrassing her or contradicting her.
  11. She will compare you, unfavourably, to somebody who is a good child in her eyes.
  12. The world revolves around her. She has to be the centre of attention always. She needs to be adored and her needs taken care of and you are responsible for making sure this happens.

Writing Tip: Use as many of these 12 points as you can to show how a narcissistic mother behaves.

Follow this link to find out more about the characteristics of a narcissistic mother and the effects they have on their children.

9 Famous Narcissistic Mothers

  1. Ingrid Magnussen from White Oleander by Janet Fitch
  2. Olive Kitteridge from Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
  3. Joan Crawford from Mommie Dearest by Christina Crawford (Please note this is a memoir rather than fiction.)
  4. Aurora Greenway from Terms of Endearment by Larry McMurtry
  5. Charlotte Phelan from The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  6. Gertrude Morel from Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence
  7. Violet Weston from August: Osage County, a play by Tracy Letts
  8. Emma Funnell from The House of Women by Catherine Cookson
  9. Miranda Priestley from The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

Do you have any that you can add to this list?

If you enjoyed this, read The 15 Most Memorable Mothers in Literature

[TOP TIP: Use our Character Creation Kit to help you create great characters for your stories.]

by Amanda Patterson

If you enjoyed this post, you may want to read:

  1. Personality Disorders – DSM-5 Resource for Writers
  2. The Top 15 Quotes About Mothers
  3. Flip Your Characters To Twist A Plot
  4. 27 Blogging Tips To Grow Your Business
  5. Past Tense Or Present Tense? Which One Tells A Better Story?
Posted on: 8th May 2016

9 thoughts on “9 Narcissistic Mothers & How To Write About Them”

  1. Fiona Sweet Formiatti

    Except that sadly, the narcissistic and damaging Joan Crawford of ‘Mommie Dearest’ was real, and the work was biography not fiction. A salient reminder on Mother’s Day. It’s not just those beloved mothers who have passed away who are feeling rotten or ambiguous on this day when we are meant to celebrate the ideal ‘Ma Walton’ in every mother. It’s those who struggle with the consequences of having had a toxic mother.

  2. Fiona Sweet Formiatti

    Sorry, we’ll have to disagree. History is also ‘subjective’ because anything written is subject to the individual writer’s focalization and evaluation. Fictionalised memoir is different from biography and autobiography.

  3. Fiona Sweet Formiatti

    To clarify my view.

    Memoir that is ‘fiction’ is either the memoir of an imaginary character or a memoir that is loosely or partly based on the writer’s own experience. Writers of the latter generally make this distinction quite clear.

    Non-fiction memoir is either biographical (about another real person) or autobiographical (about the writer), or a combination of the two (the interaction between the writer and another).

    Joan Crawford’s daughter certainly did not intend her book to be fiction.

    It’s an interesting topic.

  4. Writers Write

    We included the mother from ‘Mommie Dearest’ because it was a memoir and therefore subjective.

  5. Writers Write

    We agree that everything that has ever been written is subjective, including religious texts and history books.
    This article is saying that Joan Crawford was fictionalised in this memoir by one of her daughters. We are sure that Christine’s version is her absolute truth, but it is still subjective. You may want to read this article about the book

  6. Linda R Andrews

    Three more portraits of narcissistic mothers which are CLEARLY fiction are: Mona Simpson’s “Anywhere But Here,” Jeanette Winterson’s “Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit,” and Kerry Kletter’s “The First Time She Drowned.”

  7. GeekGirlsRule

    Yeah, reading that article didn’t convince me that Christina Crawford was wrong. The opposite, actually. If you can’t see the behaviors you outlined above in her words, you’re not actually reading them. Also, it is not unusual for abusive parents to pick favorites among their children, who often serve as plausible deniability should the abused speak out. Nor is it unusual for abusive people to show one face to their victims and a completely different face to the world. And the fact that it wasn’t just Christina, but also Christopher is another warning sign.

  8. The beautiful, manipulative, and social climbing Mrs Booker, from ‘Harcourt’s Mountain’, is another fictional mother whose passive aggressive abuse is so strong that her daughter, Hope, fears she may actually have been responsible for the situation Hope finds herself in at the beginning of the book, on a ship docked at Silver Birch Landing in British Columbia, facing either being sold as ‘bride’ or being put to work as a prostitute.

  9. What would you label a mother whose husband beat her, lied about her behind her back to make himself look good, yet she sacrificed what she able (for her children) so they could feel loved and wanted–only to find decades later they only remember the lies fed to them in private over years of instilling false memories (from an alcoholic father) and can’t remember the good things now because of what doctors diagnose as PTSD?

    I was hospital RN, past of it working the psychiatric units (some for children), and I just write this so that writers will ask: What made the mothers this way?

Comments are closed.