Basically, I've been dealing with a "situation" with my bf's mom for the last couple years that has made me painfully familiar with the dynamics of manipulative and narcissistic mothers/parents. On top of that, I have a lot of painful memories of interactions with my own mom-- being told I wasn't good enough even when I was excelling, being laughed at when I wanted to try new things, losing my mom (emotionally) to an abusive remarriage when I hit puberty, &c. I've been reading excerpts from several books
that I've seen recommended on AskMeFi and elsewhere, and they've illuminated things for me that I always thought were very private, individual wounds, things I couldn't really put into words.
The thing is, the more I read books like these (as well as those of earlier psychoanalysts, which are very relevant to my academic work), the more I feel twin feelings of skepticism and misogyny creeping up on me. I find it very difficult to imagine a healthy relationship between mother and daughter, or mother and son. I do have a few friends who seemed to have caring, nurturing parents-- of course, you never know, but their relationships were markedly different from the ones my boyfriend and I have with our mothers. Reading countless examples of the ways mothers fail their children (especially if their own mothers have failed them) is painful for me as a woman, because I feel that I'll always be an unfit mother, and that the burden of not fucking up a kid's psyche is primarily the mother's problem. The more I read, the more I have trouble trusting women (including myself).
So, I guess my question is-- how does a mom be a good mom? What are examples of good moms who, while they might occasionally fail, largely don't exhibit narcissistic behaviors? What does it feel like to have a mom who's not a controlling/smothering/critical narcissist? I'm open to personal stories as well as more clinical and academic discussion. I don't want to feel that to be a mother is to fail, or that to be a (female) human being with needs is to be a narcissist.
My only frame of reference for a healthy parental relationship is my dad, who has human flaws, but has supported me emotionally and materially for half my life and has never to my memory tried to control or manipulate me in a way that cut me the way my mother did. We have a great relationship to this day, and we talk once a week and I visit often. I feel an aura of warmth about my relationship with him that is buried under layers of resentment, self-hatred, and mind games when it comes to my relationship with my mom.
I have a hard time calling my mom a conventional narcissist because she has also been the victim of repeated domestic abuse (from her own father and her new husband), and I know some of her manipulative/passive-aggressive behavior comes from a place of deep self-loathing. It's not important to me to put a psychological label on her, but it is important to me to reckon with the feeling that I've been the "parent" in our relationship from an inappropriately young age.
I typed out a lot of info about the details of my relationship to my mom and dad, but I realized that it would probably be best to bring that to therapy some day. I've been hoping to try therapy for a year or so, but can't afford the co-pays (and also just lost my insurance), and I'll be moving to a very small backwater soon where I'm not sure I'll be able to easily find a good fit. Hopefully this will be an element of my life soon, as I would really love to have someone to talk these things over with as I contemplate them.
Long story short, what is it like to feel unconditionally loved and supported by your mother? If you are a mother, how do you try to provide that support? How can a woman break this kind of cycle if she wants to become a mother herself?
(I saw a similar AskMe during my initial search that got my hopes up, but it turned out to be negative examples of bad mothering, rather than positive examples of nurturing and/or kick-ass moms. The latter would be most helpful, though I can see how discussing the former would aid in making one's point.)