Dealing with a mother who is jealous of her daughter can be challenging.
Note: We have moved the topic of "Narcissistic Mothers" to its own page. Narcissism
Jealousy in Women
Since the topic of jealousy is such a highly visited section of Motherrr.com, we thought we would include this very interesting excerpt from the book, Tripping the Prom Queen: The Truth About Women and Rivalry by Susan Shapiro Barash. While its focus is primarily on how women (friends, co-workers, siblings, etc.) relate to one another, it also touches on the mother-daughter relationship and shows that jealousy between women (no matter who they are) isn't as out of the ordinary as one might think. Be sure to also check out other articles on this page that address jealousy between mothers and daughters more specifically. Click here to read excerpt.
Help, my mother is jealous of me!
One woman's mom resents her success. Dr. Gail Saltz advises.
By Dr. Gail Saltz
Q. I believe my mother is jealous of me. My life is better than hers (relationships, material goods, job, friends, etc.) and I really think she resents me for it. She gets nasty when I reach a goal, make a significant purchase, am honored by friends, etc. She harbors this resentment to throw back in my face at a later date. I simply cannot imagine not wanting the best for my children. Is it possible for a parent to be jealous of a child?
A. Yes, it is. All human beings are prone to feelings of jealousy, envy and resentment. It isn’t uncommon for parents to have twinges of negative feelings toward their children, though these are usually overshadowed by positive and loving feelings.
Feeling envy, however, and acting upon it are two different things. It sounds as though your mother is making her resentment all too clear.
Unfortunately, as life goes on, people can feel great regret for opportunities forgone, goals unreached and paths untaken. Parents, feeling bad about how their own lives are turning out, can target their grown or growing children. The children, a generation younger, still have choices and possibilities up ahead, or may have had success of their own. Of course, many parents do want the best for their children. Their children are partly products of their love and nurturing, so they take pride in having helped create such successful lives.
At the same time, however, parents can feel pangs of regret. They wish they were still young, with the world ahead of them. This is especially true if they themselves don’t feel effective, or if they lack satisfaction in their own lives.
It is painful to have your mother acting with nastiness and spite toward you. This might make you question your loveability from someone who should love you unconditionally, your mother. But this isn’t about you. It is about your mother and her own feelings of inadequacy and unhappiness.
She might well be too self-absorbed and too mired in her own misery to understand the impact her negativity is having on you. Rather than engaging in arguments with her, I suggest you defuse things by pointing out that her reactions make you feel she wants you to fail.Maybe there are ways you can help her feel more successful or active on her own -- encourage her to get a job, do volunteer work, take craft lessons, meet more regularly with friends.
You should also be more cautious when sharing your successes with her. Its possible you come off as crowing or gloating, or are setting up subtle comparisons with your mother. Try to avoid saying things like, “I can afford this nice coat because my job pays more than yours ever did,” or “My husband treats me better than dad treats you.”
If your mother is truly unable to be happy for you, you will be better served if you don’t share too many positive details of your life with her. Downplay your success. Rather than continuing this cycle, you should find others who can be supportive. Stick to neutral topics when you interact with your mother. While it’s unfortunate to relate to your mother in a limited way, it is less damaging than the way you are currently relating to her.
Dr. Gail’s Bottom Line: Parents can have mixed feelings toward their childrens’ success, with pride and envy co-existing. If there is too much negativity, look for support elsewhere.
Dr. Gail Saltz is a psychiatrist with New York Presbyterian Hospital and a regular contributor to “Today.” Her latest book is “Anatomy of a Secret Life: The Psychology of Living a Lie,” by Dr. Gail Saltz. She is also the author of "Amazing You! Getting Smart About Your Private Parts," which helps parents deal with preschoolers' questions about sex and reproduction. Her first book, “Becoming Real: Overcoming the Stories We Tell Ourselves That Hold Us Back,” was published in 2004 by Riverhead Books. It is now available in a paperback version. For more information, you can visit her Web site, www.drgailsaltz.com
Jealous of Your Child By Lisa Belkin, The New York Times, Motherload - Adventures in Parenting
Over on Slate yesterday, a reader wrote to the Dear Prudence column, looking for advice. She asked, in part:
I am the mother of a tall, shapely, stunning, 17-year-old daughter … I have worked to helpher be strong, secure, and happy with herself, and she definitely is (more than I was at her age and even now). So what’s the problem? Me. Every time I look at my daughter, it hurts my self-esteem. I know that’s stupid and irrational. I’m happy that she is such an amazing creature, and I absolutely adore her and am proud of her. I look pretty good for my age, but I’m almost 50.
Signed Supergirl’s Mom
Prudence (aka writer Emily Joffe) answered, in part:
In the initial telling of the Brothers Grimm story Snow White — about the young girl whose stepmother ordered her killed because she had replaced the older woman as the fairest in the land — the stepmother was actually her mother. I mention this not because your feelings are despicable but because they are archetypal.
I have two sons, and the thought has occurred more than once over the years that this means I will not come face to face with a younger version of myself. That, in turn, means I will not grapple with much of the baggage — regret, envy, pride, loss — that living with a dewy doppelganger can bring. But earlier this week, while tagging along to “accepted student days” with my almost-college-freshman, I had a small taste of the complex dynamic I thought I’d dodged.
As I watched administrators parade choices before him — Study abroad! Research the genome! Use your dining points to order pizza! — and stayed out of his way while he met those who might become his lifelong friends, it took me awhile to identify my unexpected emotion. Excitement for him? Yes. Sadness at his pending departure? Yes.
But what was that other ingredient, flitting around the edges, coloring everything?
My daughter’s looks were a hot topic of conversation from the moment of her birth. Who did she look like? The family debated this endlessly. They never reached consensus. My mother-in-law insisted that, as a newborn, my daughter looked just like my husband did. On the other hand, my mother claimed that my daughter was practically a carbon copy of herself at that age.
My daughter didn’t look like me. Yet I was told not to worry as babies change so much from day to day that she would eventually grow to be, if not my spitting image, a stunning amalgam of my husband’s and my best features. So I waited while breastfeeding and changing diapers hoping for my daughter to morph into a gorgeous version of me.
After the first few months of life my daughter lost the newborn look. Her eyes stayed blue, though and I hoped that this would be her link to me. My eyes have always been my best feature, the one that I emphasize with makeup. I longed to strut down the street with a beautiful daughter peeking out of the top of the carrier and for people to comment on how we made a stunning mother-daughter pair. Instead people insisted that she didn’t look like me.
It irked me that nobody remarked a similarity between my daughter and myself however everyone told me to wait and that her face would change with each passing day. Meanwhile my mother and mother-in-law became engaged in a catty competition about which grandmother my daughter most closely resembled.
It’s worth mentioning that I gave birth to my daughter in May 2006, right after Katie Holmes had Suri and just before Angelina Jolie had Shiloh. Pregnancy and newborns were the new fashion. As an expecting mother I had basked in attention from friends, family and complete strangers in New York City. Everyone told me that I was destined to have a beautiful daughter — beautiful like her mother.
I should admit that I have always loved being the focus of attention and getting complimented on my appearance and that I have a tendency to become jealous when others steal my spotlight. After a few months of constantly being told how beautiful my daughter was without hearing any kind words directly pertaining to me, I became somewhat peeved.
Then, one day, when my daughter was a little over one year old something maddening happened. It was a lovely May morning and I had decided to take my daughter out for a stroll in Prospect Park.
A mum is supposed to want the very best for her daughter, but what happens if the daughter's youth, vitality and success make her feel jealous? Judith Woods looks into the devastating effects of maternal envy.
When Andrea was growing up she was aware that her mother treated her very differently from her two brothers. Whereas they were showered with attention for every achievement no matter how minor, she was constantly put down.
"My mother was very critical of my appearance and seemed quite sour when I did well at school or when anyone complimented me. She would withhold praise as a way of punishing me," says Andrea, 42.
"Looking back, I realize she regarded me as a cuckoo in the nest who was trying to push her out. After university, I remember calling home and telling my father that I had just got my first job. He was delighted, but it took my mother over a week to call me, and even then she didn't congratulate me.