Are You My Mother?

Remember that childhood story? A baby bird hatches while its mother is away finding food in anticipation of the baby’s arrival. The baby bird falls out of the nest and, lost and lonely, starts looking for its mother. It approaches a kitten and asks, “Are you my mother?” It comes across a dog and asks the same question, “Are you my mother?” This goes on, with different animals and even some construction equipment. When unusual events reunite the mother and baby bird, it’s a happy ending.

The story of the narcissist is much like the story of that baby bird. Like the bird’s continuous question (“Are you my mother?”), the narcissist’s question rings similar--“Are you the one who’ll take care of me and all my needs?” The narcissist goes from person to person, forever seeking over and over to find the one who will meet all their needs, fit all their requirements and take care of them forever. They’re looking for the one who can best anticipate their thoughts and desires as well as mother might—if that mother were the perfect idealized always-available-no-matter-what mother.

It is the nurturing soul who is most vulnerable to the baby-bird query. If you answer the question with “No, I’m not your mother, but I know how to mother and I will take care of you,” you might be putting yourself at risk for one of these unpleasant outcomes:

  • Exhaustion—Playing the perfect mother role is just too much for me.
  • Irritation—You’re a grown-up. So why won’t you do anything for yourself?
  • Anger—If I’m the mother, why don’t you listen to me?
  • Futility—I can’t do anything right; pleasing you is impossible.
  • Confusion—But I did what you said you wanted. When did you change your mind?
  • Despair—Can you not see me? Hear me? Recognize me? I’m more than your mother.

Frustration rules the day. You’re in the middle of the narcissist’s “yes-but” game. They come pleading to you for help to solve a problem, but every solution is met with the refrain, yes—but… What they’re really saying is: Please take this problem for me and solve it to my satisfaction without me having to expend energy. You try to do it, but there’s no getting it right.

And there’s no getting it right because the only one who can get it right is the one who has access to the raw data of their own experience. You don’t—and can’t—have access to the narcissist’s raw data. You only have access to your own data—what excites your taste buds, when you need to relieve yourself, what the cues are that tell you what you need or want. Those are not things you can know about the narcissist—they’re not even things you can know for the narcissist. You can only know those things about yourself.

So, when somebody asks, “Are you my mother?” just say no. Unless they are your own offspring, or you’ve legally adopted them as your child, just say no.

You can pick up stray puppies or lost baby birds or kittens that need a home…just don’t pick up stray people who want you to be their mother. It never works out, and eventually you’ll end up miserable.


We all like to help. It’s a human thing. As Shel Silverstein says in Where the Sidewalk Ends,

Some kind of help is the kind of help that helping’s all about;

Some kind of help is the kind of help we all can do without.

Check your need to be needed. Picking up strays may satisfy your sense of value and importance as a compassionate person. But that only works with stray puppies—not stray people.

Check out the unnerving version of the story from The Toast.

Posted in acceptance, family relationships, inspiration, narcissism, self-help on 08/02/2017 10:09 am

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