Life Advice


Health & Spirit

I have a Ph.D., but my narcissistic mom shames me for being a housewife

Carolyn Hax on

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn:

I have a narcissistic mother whom I escaped by immigrating to the U.S. to pursue a Ph.D. in economics at Stanford University. After working for a number of years, I quit my job to take care of my son.

When I visit my country of birth and am asked what I do for a living, my mother visibly cringes when I say I am a housewife and insists I talk about my education, projecting that she is ashamed to have me as a daughter. What is a good comeback line to shut her up?


So tempting. But I'm not sure a comeback is your best friend here. You'll sound defensive, plus, no matter how well you know your mother, you're still projecting her projection of shame.


Instead, I suggest you stay with the truth, delivered as calmly as you can:

"I'm more interested in" -- or "invested in" or "proud of" or whatever -- "what I'm doing now. You're welcome to talk about whatever you'd like."

This is most effective if you can then excuse yourself from the conversation.

As the child of a narcissist, you do know as well as anyone that you can't make your mom stop drawing attention to herself; you can only be true to yourself and adjust your exposure to her to protect your own health. That rule applies here as well. State your emotional position, then, as you're able, change your physical one.


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