Jealous mothers: The hidden damage maternal jealousy does to daughters

Maternal jealousy?! Yes, it exists, no matter how hard it is to comprehend. 

How can a mother be jealous of her daughter? Well, if the daughter appears to make better choices, leads a better life, lives in a bigger house, has a more lavish lifestyle, is more beautiful, or has something that her mom has always wanted but never had, it is not so difficult to imagine.

In fact, as Psychology Today notes, maternal jealousy is NOT rare. It may be a taboo topic, but it exists in hundreds of thousands of families, destroying the balance in far too many households. Horrifyingly, it can even end in a vicious rivalry accompanied by intense feelings of resentment between the mother and her daughter.

But where does this jealousy come from? 

Mothers are the most loving and lovable creatures on Earth. They provide us with care, warmth, and kindness while demanding nothing in return. They have our best interest at heart and support us unconditionally, holding our hands on every step of our journey. At least, that is the common perception of a mother.

Some moms can appear caring and loving but still be jealous of their much younger daughters. According to a study conducted by psychologist Carol Ryff, instead of being proud of their daughters’ achievements, some mothers actually feel worse about themselves when their girls do better.

Furthermore, in his book on the relationship between mothers and adolescent daughters, Laurence Stenberg, a professor of psychology at Temple University, claims that some mothers enter a phase of middle-life crisis exactly because of their daughters’ blossoming. As her young, skinny, glowing, talented daughter is thriving, the mother begins questioning her past choices and dwelling over dreams she never dared to turn into reality.

As author Peg Streep reminds, the original version of Snow White written by the Brothers Grimm tells the story of a mother so jealous of her daughter’s beauty, that she becomes her biggest nemesis. Perhaps the mother was swapped with an evil stepmom in the fairy tale we tell our children today because we are too fragile to admit that mothers can be cruel too.

What does maternal jealousy have to do with female rivalry?

Although today’s society is strongly encourages women to support one another, female jealousy is still out there and might be more severe than ever. And even if we refuse to admit it, maternal jealousy is a massive part of it.

In her groundbreaking book “Tripping the Prom Queen,” which investigates the dark secret of female rivalry, author Susan Shapiro Barash shares a thought-provoking discovery. She found out that “the competition between women is more vicious precisely because it is covert.” It is even more veiled when it comes to the rivalry between a mother and her daughter.

However, there has been an unwritten rule that discussing maternal jealousy is forbidden. In our minds, we cannot accept the idea that a mom could be envious or even hate her own daughter. Therefore, we condemn anyone trying to address the issue.

As for the jealous mother herself, she is unwilling to expose her actual feelings and emotions, perhaps because she fears the consequences of her resentment. That is why she expresses her envy indirectly, making the situation much more toxic than it already is.

Maternal jealousy is highly personal. 

There are many reasons why a mother envies her daughter, but all of them are deeply personal. The negative emotions involved are extremely intense, especially when the mother’s personality is high on narcissism.

Peter Salovey and Alexander Rothman explain:

“We are not envious of just anyone’s random attributes that we have not attained ourselves… Rather, envy and jealousy are more likely to be felt in domains that are especially important to how we define ourselves—that ‘hit us where we live.'”

Healing from the scars of maternal jealousy. 

Self-doubt, belittlement, loneliness, guilt, and anxiety are only a few of the many mental health issues a daughter of a jealous mother deals with. Being deprived of a mother’s unconditional love, and dealing with her soul-crushing hatred instead, inevitably leaves scars you can never truly recover from. And the worst thing is that, in most cases, you must handle the trauma on your own, as no one believes you that the person who gave birth to you and raised you is emotionally abusing you.

Unfortunately, there is not an exact recipe you can follow to heal from the mentally damaging influence of your jealous mother. However, the simple thought that she is suffering as much as you, if not even more, from her toxicity, is a good start. Knowing that she is a victim of her own noxious mind gives you a different perspective. It allows you to address the issue without being afraid of her reaction anymore. Having an open, sincere conversation about each other’s feelings, needs, and emotions is crucial for resolving any problem, including maternal jealousy. It helps both the daughter and the mother to begin healing together, not as rivals, but as a family.

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