Has your mother ever boasted about her endless sacrifices, shifted the blame for her own choices, or downplayed your own pain or achievements? Has she ever guilted you with her selflessness, and accused you of not returning the same love and care? We always expect our parents to be examples of love, safety, and wisdom; but growing up with a narcissistic parent, specifically a narcissistic mother can leave irreparable damage on any child, and they can carry it with them well into their adult years.
A toxic mother will take on the guise of a martyr, someone who will do anything for her children and make sacrifices for her own good to better her own children. When in reality, it is the mother’s choice, and not the responsibility of the children she is raising.
Being a mother does not come with an easy price; it comes with sacrifice and selflessness that many are not prepared for. When a martyr mother makes these sacrifices known, however, their children can internalize guilt and responsibility from their mother’s suffering from a very early age. It seems as though the mother is searching for pity, admiration, or sympathy from others and from her children, rather than mutual love and respect. Hearing comments like “I have worked so hard for you, and you are so grateful,” can not only damage the relationship between a mother and child, but can make a child feel inadequate and responsible for the pain the mother feels.
A martyr mother may appear to be giving and loving at first glance, but in essence, these kinds of mothers do things in exchange for receiving some sort of reward or incentive. She may proclaim that she makes all of these sacrifices and goes out of her way to do things for you, and then expects you to do everything she says and obey her. Even trying to contradict her can result in her reminding you of all of the things she has done for you, and what you owe her in return.
In turn, these comments may turn into toxic and consistent self-criticism. A child may absolve these comments and blame as truth, and now the child views themselves as flawed and inadequate.
Meg Meeker, author of “Strong Mothers, Strong Sons” points out the complex that is built by martyr moms. “Children of mothers with a martyr complex carry a very unhealthy sense of responsibility; if they become independent, they will leave their mothers with nothing to live for. This is far too great a burden for kids to bear.”
Meeker adds that if a child gives in to this toxicity, the mother may make them feel like it is not enough. In the end, the child cannot satisfy the mother’s need for admiration and attention. Being a parent is far from easy. Of course, many challenges may come along the way, however, each challenge comes with a learning experience for both the parent and child.
If you are a victim to a martyr or narcissistic mother, setting clear boundaries between you and her can be the key to your own peace. It is important to recognize that these sacrifices are not your burden to carry, and a loving mother should never feel that loving her child is a burden.