“You can have many spouses, but only ONE mother!” Maureen’s narcissistic mother screamed at her as she left her mother’s house. The intention was good. It was Mother’s Day and Maureen wanted to see her mom. She called her mom the week before, letting her know that she would be stopping by. Her mom seemed excited at first but just before ending the call her mother added, “I don’t know why every day isn’t ‘Mother’s Day’.” Maureen ignored the comment and visited her mother anyway.
Picking out a card before the visit was difficult. Most of the cards had flowers or hearts on the cover and her mother hated flowers and thought hearts were ridiculous. Inside were comments about mom always being there (her mom missed her graduation for a work function), mom listening (her mom didn’t know what she did for a living), mom supporting and encouraging (her mom routinely told her she was too fat to attract a good guy), and mom loving unconditionally (her mom would stop talking to her for years if Maureen did anything that her mom disapproved of). So, three stores later and an hour’s worth of time invested, Maureen settled for a blank card that she could write, ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ inside.
Her plan was simple. Go to her mom’s house, give her the card, talk for a bit, perhaps eat something if things were going well, and leave in under two hours. She was determined not to get drawn into a conflict, so she decided to ignore any and all comments that were attacking. With her best game face on and a solid resolve to make this a good visit, Maureen rang the doorbell of her mom’s house.
At first, her mom was charming, welcoming, and pleasant. The conversation flowed and Maureen began to wonder if she had overreacted in her preparation of the visit. “This is the mother I have wanted. Maybe she has changed, I should give her chance,” Maureen thought in her head as she began to let her guard down. But as they began to eat lunch, her mother’s tone switched. The interest her mom showed in Maureen’s work quickly turned into condemning remarks about Maureen not working hard enough. When Maureen changed the subject to talk about her new boyfriend, her mother said that the relationship was likely to end in divorce. After all, her mom reasoned, if Maureen didn’t lose some weight, this relationship would end up in divorce like her last one.
That was it for Maureen. Without saying a word, she got up, left the table and headed for the door. As she was leaving her mother said, “You can have many spouses, but only ONE mother!” Happy or not-so-happy Mother’s Day.
If this story sounds familiar, you are not alone. For many people, Mother’s Day is the most dreaded day of the year and filled with anxiety, stress, anger, tension, frustration, and panic. No matter how hard you try to make this day good, the narcissistic mother stomps on it and destroys your good intentions. Here are some tips to survive the day.
- Change the celebration date. This may sound simple but sometimes just asking to celebrate Mother’s Day the week before makes it more enjoyable. This gives the narcissistic mother something to brag about to her few friends because they were the first ones to celebrate. Usually, the only acceptable excuse for such a shift is work or child related issue.
- Meet in a public place. Going out to lunch or dinner at a nice restaurant allows the narcissistic mother to be seen. This feeds the ego especially if the restaurant gives out a flower or special meal for the mother. Meeting there is better so you can exit early if needed.
- Pick your card or gift wisely. There is no need to lie or be fake on Mother’s Day. If no card fits, do a hand-written note of appreciation. Remember, narcissists need attention and appreciation so do both and the likelihood that there will be an explosion will lessen.
- Talk about them. Keep the conversation about you or other people to a minimum. Rather, discuss all things related to the narcissistic mother. Engage in talking about her friends, activities, and accomplishments. Going down memory lane is a great way to keep tensions at bay.
- Have an exit plan. From the beginning, let your narcissistic mother know that you are so busy and might have to leave early but she is so important to you that you have carved out this time for her. This plays on her ego while setting you up for an exit if things get dicey.
- Compliment, compliment, compliment. There is no such thing as too many compliments for a narcissist. On Mother’s Day, laying it on thick might seem a bit much but it will allow you both to enjoy the day. If the conversation turns adversarial, compliment her as a distraction. It works.
- Bring distractions. Don’t see a narcissistic mother alone, this invites a skirmish. Rather, bring other people, a spouse, children, friend, or even a pet to celebrate the day. The more people the merrier for the narcissist as they get to be on center stage.
Finally, the most important thing to remember is that Mother’s Day is one day out of 365 days in the year. If you only plan on seeing her for two hours, that is .02% of hours in a year. Don’t give the time spent with the narcissist any more weight then it deserves.