5 Reasons Why Moms Get Jealous of Their Daughters: What's Normal & What's Not
Is Your Mother Jealous of You?
Do you have a strained relationship with your mother but don't know why?
Is she competitive with you, treating you more like a rival than a daughter?
Is she uninterested in your life, rarely inquiring about your career, your activities, and your kids?
- Is she possessive of your dad, making it almost impossible for you and him to spend time alone together?
- Do you get a strong sense that she wants you to do well in life but not too well?
If this dynamic sounds all too familiar, your mom may be jealous of you. Because you didn't understand why the relationship was tense, you were left in the dark: bewildered, unsupported, and emotionally abandoned. Today, though, you can finally acknowledge your mom's envy and accept her limitations. You can stop blaming yourself for the tenseness between the two of you and find peace.
Talking about maternal jealousy is perhaps the ultimate taboo, inimical to all we hold dear about motherhood and want to believe about mother love, especially that of a mother for her daughter. While maternal jealousy is a freighted topic, it’s not a rarity.— Peg Streep, author of "Daughter Detox: Recovering From an Unloving Mother and Reclaiming Your Life"
Debunking the Maternal Archetype
The maternal archetype is a woman who's always sacrificing, supporting, loving, and doing for her children. In reality, though, our moms are humans with all the faults, frailties, and confused feelings that come with that mortal state. While rarely discussed in polite company, the subject of moms being jealous of their daughters is one that's intrigued me for a long time due to the rocky relationship with my own mother. For as long as I can remember, she has waged a one-sided rivalry against my sister and me, fueled by her deep-seated insecurity and undeniable envy.
Blaming Yourself for Mom's Envy
While growing up, a girl may sense that the relationship with her mom is strained. The possibility that it's caused by maternal jealousy, though, is the furthest thing from her mind. Instead, she blames herself as kids are prone to do. She convinces herself that she's unworthy of her mom's love, attention, and support.
She may stop striving because her achievements are met with her mom's anger, ridicule, or silence. As a teen, she may suffer from depression and anxiety. However, It's not until she grows older, gets wiser and, perhaps, seeks therapy that she realizes her mom has been envious of her all along. With that aha moment, everything finally begins to make sense and she can begin to heal.
Like other women, I didn't appreciate the depths of my mother's jealousy until I became a parent myself. I only had feelings of love for my sons, not competitiveness. I relished, not resented, their time in the spotlight. I didn't experience any of the rivalry with them that my mom had with my sister and me.
By interviewing women with envious moms and in reading what experts on the subject had to say, I found five key reasons why mothers get jealous of their daughters. Some proved to be quite normal and understandable such as going through menopause and being regretful of their life choices. Others, such as being narcissistic, possessive of theirs husbands, and emotionally absent, proved to be quite disturbed.
5 Reasons Why Moms Get Jealous of Their Daughters
1. She's a narcissist.
2. She's in menopause.
3. She's possessive of her husband.
4. She regrets her unfulfilled dreams.
5. She's emotionally immature.
1. She's a Narcissist
While there are normal, natural reasons why moms get jealous of their daughters, narcissism is not one of them. Dr. Karyl McBride writes about self-centered women and the damage they inflict in Her book helped me understand how my childhood with such a mom led me to become a grownup with a flimsy self-concept and erratic self-care. Will I Ever Be Good Enough?: Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers.
Dr. McBride says that daughters of jealous, narcissistic mothers may battle crippling self-doubt in adulthood. When they were kids, their moms treated them like accessories and not full-fledged individuals. As a result, their feelings, worries, and struggles went unnoticed and unattended. They grew up in a environment where they were to reflect well on their mom but to never outshine her.
In the process of doing this, they suppressed their own needs and desires in favor of hers. Therefore, it’s vital that they focus on themselves today by embracing their inner world: their thoughts, emotions, and dreams. Writing in a journal daily is a valuable way to accomplish this. It gives these women an opportunity to get in touch with themselves and, finally, figure out who they are and what they want from life.
Normal or healthier mothers are proud of their children and want them to shine. But a narcissistic mother may perceive her daughter as a threat. If attention is drawn away from the mother, the child suffers retaliation, put-downs, and punishments. The mother can be jealous of her daughter for many reasons: her looks, her youth, material possessions, accomplishments, education and even the young girl’s relationship with the father.— Karyl McBride, author of "Will I Ever Be Good Enough?"
2. She's in Menopause
While jealousy from a narcissistic mother is extreme and destructive, envy from a menopausal mom is quite normal. It’s trying for some middle-aged women to undergo the change of life just as their daughters bloom into adulthood. It’s understandable that they may covet a daughter’s youth, vigor, and infinite prospects during this time.
During menopause, a mom may feel less womanly, less desirable, and less relevant in our youth-obsessed society. She may endure physical changes such as weight gain, drier skin, thinner scalp hair, and coarser facial hair. She may witness her daughter attracting the attention of men when she no longer does. As a result, she can feel more anxious and less confident.
The daughter of a jealous menopausal mom should be patient and compassionate. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, hormonal changes during this stage can make a woman irritable and depressed. A daughter, therefore, may need to turn to an aunt, a grandmother, or friends for support during this time when her mother is struggling and emotionally unavailable to her.
Envy comes from people's ignorance of, or lack of belief in, their own gifts.— Philosopher Jean Vanier
3. She's Possessive of Her Husband
One of the most destructive things that jealous moms do is come between their daughters and their dads. According to psychologist, Dr. Nikki Martinez, this is caused by a mom’s low self-esteem. Her insecurity leads her to become territorial about her husband. She doesn’t want to share him with anyone, even his own flesh and blood.
When her mom is envious and her father is weak, a daughter can potentially lose both her parents. To avoid conflict, a feeble husband may surrender to his wife’s insecurities. He might do anything to keep the peace, even forsaking his own child. Consciously or unconsciously, he neglects his fatherly duties and pushes his daughter to the side. Tragically, she’s left without a healthy, loving connection to either parent and grows up feeling like an interloper in her own family.
Not appreciating that her mom’s jealousy is the reason for the distant relationship with her dad, the daughter blames herself. She becomes convinced that she’s unlovable. As an adult, she may still feel sad and confused about her childhood and the relationship with her parents. Working with a good therapist can help her understand her mother’s envy and the role it played in keeping her and her father apart.
4. She Regrets Her Unfulfilled Dreams
Another common source of a mom’s envy are her daughter’s seemingly unlimited prospects. At a time when her own possibilities may be narrowing, she sees her child’s world open up. She may wish that she had enjoyed the freedoms that young women have today: exploring their sexuality, postponing motherhood, entering once male-dominated professions, buying their own homes, and being financially independent. As such, she may be resentful of her daughter and regretful of her own life choices.
Dr. Charles Sophy, a family and child psychiatrist, says that some moms even perceive their daughters as thieves who steal their sexuality. He has dubbed this phenomenon, Perceived Transfer of Sexuality (PTS). A mother feels threatened as her daughter’s sexuality peaks and hers declines. To her, it seems like she’s now in a fierce competition with her own offspring. Her daughter, meanwhile, is left flummoxed by the escalating conflicts with her mom, wondering what they’re about and hoping to de-escalate them.
I coined the phrase Perceived Transfer of Sexuality (PTS) to describe a phenomenon that is prevalent among my patients, regardless of background or socioeconomic status. PTS is a feeling that many moms have in regards to their daughters somehow taking away their own sexuality. In PTS, perception can lead to the feeling of competition between a mother and her daughter and thus be responsible for some of the most volatile interactions ever seen.— Dr. Charles Sophy, psychiatrist and author
5. She's Emotionally Absent
In rare cases, daughters experience maternal jealousy because their moms are numb and detached. According to Jasmin Lee Cori, author of The Emotionally Absent Mother, many of these women were severely under-mothered themselves when they were children. As a result, they grew up to be desensitized adults who can’t connect with their kids in the affective realm. When their daughters are in the spotlight, these moms don’t feel pride and joy like most parents do. Instead, they feel sad and resentful because they didn’t have the same opportunities to shine when they were kids.
When a daughter figures out that her mom is emotionally absent, it’s both a revelation and a relief. She now knows the cause of her mother’s envy and no longer blames herself. If she starts practicing acceptance, realizing her mom won’t change, she can look elsewhere to build emotionally satisfying relationships and a strong support system.
In this video, Dr. Jonice Webb explains what it means to have an emotionally absent mother.
Were You Reared by a Jealous Mom?
If so, what was the cause of her envy?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Why do these mothers hate their daughters and not their sons?
It's not a matter of mothers hating their daughters but having a jealousy and rivalry with them. Moms don't feel the same competitiveness with their sons because they don't identify with them as strongly. It's perfectly normal that mothers feel twinges of envy from time to time as it's a basic human emotion. This is especially true when their daughters enjoy experiences in life they didn't: career opportunities, financial successes, travel to exotic places, etc.
Emotionally unhealthy moms, however, feel more than twinges of jealousy. My mother, for instance, felt intense rivalry with my sister and me because she was incredibly insecure. She needed us to make decisions similar to hers in order to validate her life. Not surprisingly, we went to extremes to copy our mother's path so we'd win her love and approval. Sadly, we both became teachers like her even though neither one of us was suited to that profession. My sister got married at the same age as our mom (22), had the same number of children (3), and sent them to the same Catholic schools where our mom sent us. Even though my sister went above and beyond to get my mom's stamp of approval, she never did as my mother alternated between being envious of her and highly critical of her.
When moms get jealous of their daughters, it's best for their daughters to distance themselves. I moved away from my mom (both physically and emotionally) after having my own kids. She had been jealous of the attention I showed them and I felt caught in the middle. When I thought about it, though, I knew it was time for me to grow up, choose my husband and sons, and start a healthy life away from mom. It was the best decision I ever made and contributed greatly to a strong marriage and happy family life.Helpful 119
What do you think about a mother who is envious of one daughter but not the other?
A mother who's jealous of one daughter but not the other isn't unusual. In fact, I spoke with a woman recently who had just that situation. She had married an anesthesiologist and had traveled the world with him. They built a home together on several acres, and she was able to afford designer clothes and well-crafted furniture. Her sister, on the other hand, was married to a blue-collar man like her dad and lived modestly.
Their mother was extremely envious of the wealthy daughter and always referred to her as “the doctor's wife” in a haughty tone. She preferred spending time with her less affluent daughter because they had more in common. She rarely spent time with her other daughter, the doctor, and their two kids because she felt inferior to them. Even though the family did everything in their power to make her feel at ease, they couldn't stop her from running the same negative tapes in her head that said: “I'm less than. I'm lacking. I'm not as smart. I don't fit in here.”
When the couple divorced after 22 years of marriage, the mom wanted to renew the relationship with her daughter, but it was too late. The daughter had wanted her mom to be there during the good times and the bad...not just the bad. She accepted that some people had been jealous of her when she was married to a successful doctor. However, she could never accept her own mother's envy and, thus, no longer wanted anything to do with her.
Some people, like this mother, have flimsy egos that prevent them from having relationships with anyone who they believe is better off than they are. Being around a person who's smarter, more attractive, more accomplished, or more affluent is too hurtful to their fragile self-concept. This ugly part of human nature is why jealousy is aptly called the green-eyed monster.
People who are consumed with such envy aren't happy because they focus on what others have and what they lack. Being grateful is not a part of their daily spiritual practice like it should be. That's why “comparison is the thief of joy” is a powerful mantra that some individuals recite in their minds whenever feelings of jealousy creep into their consciousness.
Part of maturing is seeing our parents as human beings with frailties and limitations just like everyone else. Hopefully, you can stand back now, realize your mother struggles with jealousy and insecurity, and not take it personally. It has everything to do with her and nothing to do with you. Accepting her “as is” will bring you peace and relieve you of stress.Helpful 39
I have separated myself from my mother, both physically and emotionally. But she went a step further by convincing two of my children to live with her. Now I have no family or my own children. Because I won’t have anything to do with my mother, I barely get to even talk to my kids. Much less get to see them. Do you have any tips?
Your situation has decades of complexities that I can't address. I hope, though, that you've discussed them with a therapist. Even when it's necessary to separate from a parent for one's mental well-being, it's still a traumatizing experience. We all long to have a warm and loving mommy and daddy and, when realizing that's not going to be a reality for us, it's devastating, no matter what your age.
While it's hurtful that your kids have chosen to live with your mother, you should do everything in your power to stay connected with them. Fortunately, we have texts, cell phones, and e-mails today so you can contact them without talking to your mom. Set up get-togethers for coffee, lunch, walks, or movies in neutral locations. Make it clear that you want a relationship with them even though you've disconnected from their grandma. Don't put them in the position of taking sides.
I'm sorry this is happening in your life and the heartache it's causing. Keep the lines of communication open with your kids. If they experienced you as a loving, supportive mom, they'd want to stay connected. If that wasn't the case, you could offer a sincere apology for where you failed and promise to do better. Best to you and your family.Helpful 22
My mom is an insecure narcissistic and jealous. I am also a child of rape. I have always thought that the latter was the reason she hated me, but now I understand there are other reasons to explain her contempt. My biggest issue right now as an adult is her jealousy of me spending time with my stepdad to take him to doctors appointments. I'm 61 she's 80. There's no reason for her to be jealous at this point is there?
With you being 61 and her being 80, it's time to practice acceptance from this point forward. Your mother will be jealous, petty, and insecure until the day she dies. She may be jealous that her husband enjoys spending time with you. She may be jealous that you're able to do things she can no longer do. She may be jealous because you're younger and in better health. It doesn't matter why she's envious; it just matters that you accept she is and not let it bother you. It has everything to do with her, not you.
I'm answering your question after a week-long visit with my 82-year-old mother. She's a deeply insecure woman who's always gotten easily jealous of others, especially my sister and me. She sees other people's happiness, achievements, wealth, and acquisitions as a personal affront. During her visit, she expressed envy that I have two teenage sons who are thriving academically and socially. Instead of complimenting me on my good parenting and their hard work, she constantly labeled us as being “so lucky.”
In the past, it would have bothered me but now I just let it go. In fact, it even makes me chuckle to myself. When I'm with her, I use the words of the spiritual writer, Eckhart Tolle, as a mantra: “Accept this moment as if you had chosen it.” Instead of fighting the situation, I learn from it and become a better person.
It's said that whoever causes us the most emotional pain is our greatest teacher. I imagine that you've learned many lessons from your mom's insecurity and jealousy. The fact that you put up with it in order to take your stepdad to his medical appointments says a lot about your honorable character.
I know that you wish your mom was different and you had a loving relationship with her. Yet, when you accept her with all her limitations, you'll let go of a lot of stress.Helpful 7
I have a mother who acts almost childish. She's a God-fearing woman, but I notice she's been getting jealous because I spend time with my son and husband on weekends or I barely come out of my room (I currently reside with her). I just don't know what to do with her behavior. She's always undermining me when it comes down to certain things I do. She's in therapy, takes meds, and has hobbies. How can I better understand my mother's behavior?
The problems with your mother most likely aren't related to the subject of this article: mothers who get jealous of their daughters. As an adult child who lives with your mom, you've put yourself in a situation ripe for conflict. It's one where old patterns from your childhood come into play, and your mother once again sees you as a dependent youngster and not a mature, autonomous grownup.
As long as you're under her roof, expect your mom to undermine your decisions and see you as incompetent. Instead of focusing on why she behaves the way she does, you would be much wiser to look in the mirror and ask yourself: Why did I put myself, my husband, and my son in this situation? While you may have practical reasons (you lost a job, you need to save up money for a down payment, etc.), you must appreciate that you had other options but chose this one.
You may be wanting to re-visit your childhood in the hopes of fixing the past. You may be unconsciously hoping that this time your mother will be the loving and nurturing parent you longed for as a kid. There may also be something in your life that you're trying to avoid and your mother's house is serving as your hiding spot.
Dr. Robin Smith says, “Adulthood is to finish the unfinished business of childhood.” You can't go back to fix the past, but you can use what you've learned from it as a guide to move forward. Since your mother is in therapy and on medication, she's in good hands and is getting the professional help that she needs. Leave her up to the therapist and concentrate on yourself, your marriage, and your son. If your struggles with her persist, call the therapist and ask her if you can join in on one of the sessions with your mother to discuss some issues.Helpful 14
© 2017 McKenna Meyers