The Taboo Of The Jealous And Envious Mother

(Image courtesy of the artist Angela Holland-Yousaf) A mother's jealousy and envy is a taboo subject in our society - a mother's milk can be lacking 'human kindness' and even toxic.

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A mother's jealousy and envy is a taboo subject in our society - which has a commercial interest in painting a rosy picture of the loving mother, who is to be treated like a queen on Mother's Day.

However - a mother's milk can be lacking 'human kindness' and even toxic.

Each mother and daughter relationship is unique and changeable over time. Jealousy and competition within what should be a nurturing relationship, can seem an alien concept to some mothers and daughters – yet a sad and painful reality to others.

A mother's early pride in her new 'bundle of joy' can turn into jealousy, resentment and hostility years down the line, or even straight away.

It's hard for the child either way - to have had her mother's pride in her and then inexplicably lost it, or never to have had it. They say you don't miss what you've never had – but it's an innate human need to be loved and valued unconditionally by your life-giving mother.

If a child feels that her mother's acceptance of her is conditional, she then has to figure out what she has to keep doing to win it.

This is particularly hard for girls who see their peers having a healthier relationship with their own mothers. They witness that pride in the mother's eyes, and the glow of self-pride this brings in response - and they crave this for themselves.

This can create self-doubt and self-blame about what the unknown underlying reasons are for their own unhappy 'bonding' with their mother.

'What am I still doing wrong for her to treat me like this?'

This profound disappointment, hopelessness and betrayal of trust, challenges the value of the relationship, and the child withdraws to protect themselves.

'What's the point of trying any more, nothing changes between us?'

The child becomes a young adult with growing awareness of the unhealthy dynamic between herself and her mum. It feels as though she has been conscripted into a contest she doesn't know the rules or boundaries of.

Should she dim her own light so that her mother might appear brighter?

Why are some mothers jealous and envious of their daughters?

Some mothers have told me that they feel that they've sacrificed their career, time and bodies for a child who then pulls away from their nurturing, and rejects their guidance. The child (rightly) wants and needs to become independent of their mother and her expectations. The mother is both hurt and angry at this move towards independence, and yet she also envies the daughter's free will and emerging identity.

She sees her daughter as having fresh opportunities ahead - which she no longer has herself. The mother wallows in regrets about her own missed opportunities, and knows that she can never regain that sense of youthful excitement and freedom.

If a mother had a bad relationship with her own mother she may be expecting her daughter to somehow heal her emotional wounds for her. 

Her own inner emptiness and trauma memories might now be soothed by having the role of mother herself... a chance for her to replay or rewrite her earlier mother-daughter drama. She needs her child to need her and to remain dependant and compliant.

Some mothers feel out of control in other areas of their life and focus upon suppressing their daughter's emerging identity. The mother fears having less control and reacts punitively, or with emotional blackmail towards her daughter, to keep her 'in her place'.

A mother might feel jealousy and envy at her daughter having a friendship circle and the ease with which she makes friends. The mother's own wounded inner child feels emotional pain at not being popular herself – which may have a long history going back to her school years and peer relationships.

A mother becomes painfully aware of her own fading beauty and sex appeal, and like the 'mirror mirror on the wall' scene from the children's story Snow White, she becomes enraged to realise that her daughter's beauty, sex appeal and fertility surpass her own.

A mother might become jealous of the father's admiration of their daughter – something which borders upon sexual appraisal. She knows that he looks at girls his daughter's age not as a father but as fantasy lovers. Her daughter feels like a rival for his attention, and the jealous mother fears, and may be ashamed of, her own mixed feelings towards her 'rival'.

How does the mother show her jealousy and envy?

In those seemingly little throw away barbed comments and back-handed compliments - which chip away at the daughter's belief in, and liking of, herself.

Perhaps more obviously with a sneer of disdain, contempt and scorn. She may not be telling the huntsman to take the child into the forest and bring back her heart (as in the fairy tale of Snow White), but she would like to see the child 'gone'.

Maybe in a mixed message disguised as humour ...'so you're not so good after all are you? Looks like you're no better than me or the rest of us.'

The underlying command is 'Do me proud but don't overshadow me or make me look less than you.'

A narcissistic mother is stuck in a paradox. She needs her daughter to do well because this can be used to bolster her own image of having been a good mother; yet she hates the comparisons between her own success and that of her daughter.

What to do about your jealous and envious mother

  • Realise that it's not your fault, and it's not your responsibility to make her feel better about herself.

  • You can't make her value and be proud of you – you have to do this for yourself and your inner child. It's never too late to make up for what you didn't get. You can become like the mum you wished you'd had, and feel her unconditional and unwavering support for you.

  • Make yourself a promise not to let your jealous or envious mother make you feel less than you could be. Shine bright in spite of her desire to diminish or extinguish your flame.

  • Ensure that you heal your emotional wounds and meet your own emotional needs before having any children of your own – and commit to showing them how proud you are of them at every stage of their development no matter what mistakes they make.

  • Love includes respect and compassion. Give these to yourself and your inner child, and you'll dissolve those old and ugly stains of your mother's jealousy and envy towards you.

  • Consider developing  compassion and empathy for the wounded inner child of your mother. Her pain and unmet needs caused her to become blind to yours.

For more information about how to help your inner child to heal from a difficult or toxic mother please see my other articles HERE and HERE

Maxine Harley (MSc Integrative Psychotherapy) MIND HEALER & MENTOR – where you will find lots of FREE resources to help you to understand and heal from a difficult relationship with your mother. There is also an inexpensive self-help online guide/course called '3 Steps To Sort Yourself Out – without therapy!' - and a childhood recovery coaching programme called 'Recover From Your Mother' (click on the links) – helping women to stop the past from interfering with the present and future – to understand and manage their emotions, boundaries and behaviours, and to FEEL better, so they can BE, DO and HAVE better! – a series of 10 individual online self-help workshops to help you to help yourself to better understand and manage your emotions and relationships - especially the relationship you have with yourself – a new therapeutic method which works to change the deep seated sub-conscious belief system – or S.C.R.I.P.T. (c) Sub-Conscious-Rules-Influencing-Present-Time

Maxine Harley

MIND HEALER & MENTOR - Psychotherapist (MSc), Author, Columnist & Blogger. Please see and, S.E.L.E.C.T. Your Life Company Ltd.

I help women to FEEL better - so they can BE, DO and HAVE better! As a MIND HEALER I specialise in helping women to recover from a troubled childhood and toxic parents, to heal and transcend their emotional wounds, re-parent their inner child, and make peace with their past. This enables and empowers them to become better parents, partners, professionals - and all round happier calmer people :-) As a MENTOR I offer different levels of therapeutic self development - including MINDING YOUR BUSINESS, MINDING THE GAP, and MIND MASTERY...please discover more at