Ever wonder what makes Cinderella’s stepmother, Snow White’s stepmother, and Rapunzel’s adopted mother so evil? These classic fairytale characters are easily villainized precisely because their maternal instincts are contrary to those natural for a nurturing mother. Cinderella’s stepmother, for example, is a humiliating narcissistic parent who neglected and snubbed her daughter after Cinderella went through the trauma of losing her father. Snow White’s stepmother is also ruthless – a narcissistic cutthroat parent who is obsessed with comparing her beauty to that of her daughter, and then tries to kill Snow when she discovers it exceeds her own. Rapunzel’s adopted mother is a narcissistic helicopter parent who isolated her daughter from the world, lied about her daughter’s birth, demanded loyalty, and insisted she was always right.
Mother/Daughter Relationship. While these stories may be entertaining for the movies, it is not so amusing to experience in real life. The literal versions can sometimes even be a combination of all three types of mothers mentioned above. The impact of such a narcissistic mother on their child is significant and traumatic for both genders, but daughters of women like this always receive the worst of the impact. Narcissistic mothers view their daughters as competition with younger skin, better opportunities, and thinner bodies. Nurturing mothers, by contrast, are excited about the possibilities of their daughter’s future, and want to encourage and foster a healthy relationship with their child.
A Pregnant Narcissist. There is naturally a lot of attention already given by friends, family, and even strangers to a pregnant woman. Pregnancy itself brings feelings of hopefulness, anticipation, and positivity to those who get to witness and be a part of it. This instantly feeds the narcissistic ego – which could be in flux due to the physical changes in appearance. However, once the baby is born and the attention shifts to the child, the narcissistic mother becomes envious of the newborn. In an attempt to remain in control of the attention, a narcissist will either pull away from the child or hold them even closer. Now they can satisfy their need for noticeability, but their child is already suffering the consequences of the mother’s actions.
First Stage of Development. According to Erik Erikson’s Eight States of Psychosocial Development, within the first stage a child learns to either trust or mistrust their caretaker. Trust fosters hope and faith in an infant while mistrust cultivates suspicion and fear. At the hands of a narcissistic mother, this stage can promote more extreme versions of a negative form of growth. Trust is translated into a fixation only for the mother while mistrust is converted to paranoia and panic. Both encourage the development of anxiety in a child as they try unconsciously to maintain or earn the love of their mother.
Helicopter Mother. The mother who fosters exclusive trust in a child is a helicopter parent. In the eyes of others, this mother appears to be the perfect, caring parent who is invested in every aspect of their child’s life. However, what others don’t see is that this mother doesn’t allow a child to make even the slightest of decisions and completely hijacks the crucial development of autonomy and initiative. The child becomes a physical extension of the mother’s identity and now are unable to separate themselves as an individual. In exchange for her commitment and loyalty to her child, the mother expects the child to worship her, thereby feeding her narcissistic need for admiration. Others see the “perfect child” and revere the mother for her excellent skills as a parent, but completely overlook any contribution the child may or may not have made to this process or how it could be fatalistically influencing the child.
A narcissistic mother generally produces one of two types of children: one who becomes an adult far too well advanced for their years, or one who is constantly dependent on others to survive and feels entitled to outside attention. Sadly, both of these varieties will require some counseling to overcome having one of the scariest personalities for a mother, but recovery is possible and not as unapproachable as it may seem.