Do I notice the irony of the subtitle on this blog post? Why yes, yes I do.
It’s taken me a long time to write about Will I Ever Be Good Enough? by Karyl McBride, Ph.D. I have mixed feelings about it. Let’s see if you agree.
It’s about mothers and daughters. To be clear, daughters and their narcissistic mothers.
They say it’s a book for daughters. It’s funny how I turned it on its head and made it a book about me as Mother, not me as Daughter.
Mother/ Daughter issues run through my family like … like… the Mojave River. It’s above ground and below… sometimes obvious… sometimes not. After a storm, it can turn into a torrent. Out of nowhere! I know, because we lived in a desert town, on a street that ended at the river.
An aside: The river bed was normally dry, the water ran below ground at this particular point of its journey. But after an especially bad summer storm (we used to get flash floods) the river came above ground and rushed past us like it was going downhill. Pretty dangerous if you don’t know what’s possible… kinda like a narcissistic mother. But I digress.
I got the book on the recommendation of a friend. The title was enough to reel me in. I didn’t know if my mother was a narcissist, but I certainly knew I’d never be good enough.
Where did that feeling come from? I could tell you it’s my mother — such a simplistic answer. Mothers are ALWAYS at fault. How well I know!
But yes, my mother and I tangled… a lot… when we both were young. We had a bumpy start in life… and I don’t talk about it much. It most-likely colored what came after. Whatever it was, it stopped more than twenty years ago. Our relationship is one of mutual admiration, respect and love.
Her mother was a complicated woman, though she seemed less-so by the time I knew her. She was, simply put, my angel. She was a spectacular grandmother.
Nobody talked much about my mother’s young life, but I remember realizing – at a fairly young age – that my mother was more like the parent to her mother than the other way around. My grandmother, with her actions, seemed to say, “I can’t do anything without you.” Was this love? She thought so. I think. I don’t know.
Reminds me of a quote, also found in this book:
She did not know how to love me and I don’t know how to love you. – Sidda Walker in The Devine Secrets of the YaYa-Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells.
Will I Ever Be Good Enough? is rich in information and a moving, hopeful, excellent work about repairing, moving-on-from or growing the mother/daughter relationship.
However, it’s too easy to label a distant mother, a grieving mother, a struggling mother, a bitchy mother… as a narcissist. That’s just the feeling I get.
I looked up “How prevalent is narcissism?” Here is the first answer I received:
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders between 0.5 and 1 percent of the general population (50 to 75% are men) is diagnosed with NPD.
Surely, that number does not account for all the narcissistic mothers this book implies are out there? Does it?
I worry that we’re getting heavy-handed with our labels.
What do you think?
In the meantime, I have to say that I saw myself in this book… in places, a daughter, in others as a mother. I’m sure my adult children have used the word “narcissist” to describe me on more that one occasion. Having health anxiety certainly sets the stage. Me and my pain, my fears, my body. Me, me, ME. Ugh.
I know they never wondered if they were good enough because – big surprise – I told them they were good enough all the time. I never wanted them to wonder.
However… in that… they tell me I didn’t push hard enough, let them get away with too much, didn’t give them enough rules.
Once, my youngest daughter was giving me a list of everything I’ve done wrong as a mother… and as she finished, she said, crying: “You didn’t teach me how to sew!”
The thing is: I don’t know how to sew!
Being a mom is tough enough without worrying you’re doing it wrong all the time.
Which brings us back to the title of the book: Will I ever be good enough? Apparently not. Not as a daughter, not as a mother. And it’s probably not because of narcissism. But I could be wrong.
Originally posted by me for this blog on May 2, 2018.