Envy is a powerful tool in the narcissist’s repertoire, and you will see this in the mother’s interactions with other people as well. But, when directed at the daughter, it creates a feeling of helplessness and painful self-doubt.
Although there are many ways in which a mother’s jealousy creates hurdles for the daughter, let’s look at just a few.
1. Developmental Sabotage:
While the young girl is growing up she uses her mother as her primary example of how to be a girl, woman, friend, lover, and person in the world.
If this same mother is putting her down, and jealous of her accomplishments, the child not only becomes confused, but often gives up. Because it is the job of the parent to fill each developmental stage with nurturing, love, support and encouragement, the daughter finds an emptiness that she cannot explain.
Most children want to please their parents so if given this mixed message, it is easier and perhaps even safer to do nothing and therefore not expose oneself to criticism.
The message from mom is: “If at first you don’t succeed, give up!”
2. Distorted Relationship with Father:
Of course, children need to have healthy relationships with both parents.
If mother is jealous of the relationship the daughter has with the father, what does the daughter do? She wants both of her parents to love her.
Who does she please?
How does she handle this delicate balance?
More complicating is the question of what the father does?
Often men in relationship with female narcissists choose to cater to the mother so as to maintain the adult relationship. So that leaves a father unable to connect with his daughter and of course this leaves the daughter with a lack of emotional connection with both parents.
The most extreme cases of mother-daughter jealousy appear in families where there is incest.
If the father is the offender and the mother becomes jealous of the father-daughter relationship, then she too becomes an offender and she cannot put the daughter first. Instead, she sees her daughter like “the other woman, going after her husband.”
In most incest cases we have worked with, when the father is the offender, this is not the case. The mother takes the side of the child as it should be and leaves the offender.
However, sometimes we see the dynamic of jealousy in the mother and this is heartbreaking. In those situations, the daughter is not only a victim of sexual abuse but also a victim of her mother’s envy and hatred.
4. The Pain of Being Unloved:
In all cases of maternal jealousy towards the daughter, the daughter is left with little support for who she is as a whole person.
She feels unloved and as Mother Theresa so aptly writes, “The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.”
Envy is like an anger that destroys a young developing woman. It is terrifying for the child at any age.
In review of the literature and other writers on this subject, many say that mother-daughter jealousy is often misinterpreted or not really that common. Some say it is even normal at some level.
Mothers are often reaching menopause when their young daughters are developing into beautiful young women and some say that it may be normal for mothers to have some touchy feelings about aging.
It’s important to understand that the poisonous, corrosive envy felt by narcissistic mothers is not normal. The bar is raised. It is destructive. The challenge for daughters of narcissistic mothers is to learn how to recognize and cope with abnormal maternal envy.
A common pattern in narcissistic families is that of constant comparisons to others.
Envy rears its ugly head in many other contexts as well. “How does our family measure up to others and do we look good enough to the outside world?” Children learn to do this and become adults who are always worried about comparisons.