Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Mother's Day for Those Raised by Narcissistic Parents

Cherish your own capacity to love and provide empathy!

iStockPhoto, Kenishirotie
Source: iStockPhoto, Kenishirotie

Mother’s Day is approaching. Is it time to run and hide or stumble into a Hallmark store to desperately search for that empty card that says nothing upon which you simply sign your name? How sad, awful, taboo, and misunderstood this is for adult children raised by narcissistic parents. Who woulda thunk it? It is common to fantasize about the mother you always wanted, the one you still want, the one you wish you could celebrate on this unassailable most widely observed holiday where others are feeling all warm and fuzzy about their mothers.

But…this is the time of year I get the most emails from those raised by difficult narcissistic parents. It is like Mother’s Day strikes a lightning rod of fear and terror. What do I do? How should I handle this? How should I feel? I don’t dare really talk about this topic or I look like a crazy person. It’s a moment of post-traumatic stress disorder collapse. Like I was just fine until this holiday starts to invade my personal brain real estate and reignites my guilt and wondering once again.

Maybe I’m wrong, maybe this time, this year, will be different. Maybe she went to mental boot camp, got help, had a lightbulb moment and decided she was going to wake up and work on motherhood. Maybe she does really love me. Maybe, maybe…wishing and hoping.

This is why the first step in the 5-step recovery model for healing adult children of narcissistic parents is acceptance. Acceptance that the parent has a disorder, and that this parent cannot provide empathy and unconditional love and even worse, likely won’t change. Until this step is mastered and internal recovery work is done, Mother’s Day can continue to be a trigger each year. So what else can you do? Of course, work recovery, but it takes time and a lot of work and meanwhile Mother’s Day is right around the corner. But, right now, you can celebrate yourself! You can celebrate your own ability to love, provide empathy, and your capacity for unconditional love. If you were given this gift, it is certainly something to celebrate on this holiday.

I have now met thousands of people who were raised by narcissistic parents and who are stopping the generational legacy of distorted love. They are parenting with empathy, and making a difference in the world each day by how they are treating children. This is something to celebrate! In my book, there is nothing more important than how we treat kids. If you are a parent yourself, celebrate your own loving self on Mother’s Day! If you are not a parent, celebrate others who are parenting in strong, wise and loving ways and model empathy for others. Make a point of choosing empathic responses to all your loved ones and join the community fighting the devastating effects of narcissistic parenting. We need you on our team. Children need you. You need you! Go team empathy!

Additional Resources:


Published Books + Audio Versions:



Social Media:

Take A Survey:

More from Karyl McBride Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today