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The Good Daughter Syndrome
with Katherine Fabrizio, M.A., L.P.C.

  Why The Daughter of a Narcissistic/Difficult Mother Is At Risk For Postpartum Depression

The tears that won’t end, and the seemingly bottomless feelings of emptiness, haunt a new mother suffering from postpartum depression. Particularly vulnerable is the daughter of a narcissistic/difficult mother. Here’s why-

Dearest new mother,

Are you swamped with feeling ” not good enough” and overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy? Do you look at your beautiful baby only to feel despair, not joy?

 Do you feel confused, disappointed or ashamed? 

The wished-for baby, planned for, celebrated, much-anticipated baby, is now causing you to plumb the depths of depression.

How can this be?

It might be merely hormonal but, then again, it might be something more…

As a daughter of a narcissistic/difficult mother, new motherhood can be terrifying. Just when everyone expects you to be blissing out, you can feel like a failure, and nobody wants to talk about why.

The cultural pressure to put a happy face on motherhood at this time is intense. Yet, reluctance to discuss mental health issues for the daughter of a troubled mother does her no favors.

 See if this applies to you- 

 If you are the daughter of the Narcissistic or Difficult mother, you may not have the resilience in your emotional tank. New motherhood has a way of reaching back into your emotional history and exposing the rawest deficits in how you were mothered.

You may be quite accomplished in many areas, yet be taken completely by surprise that you have these feelings of inadequacy. Feelings that seemingly arise out of the blue when facing the demands of a baby completely dependent on you. The pressure can feel suffocating.

As a psychotherapist counseling women for over 30 years I know, first hand, how new motherhood can unearth the long-buried feelings a daughter has about her mother, and of motherhood itself.  Many of these feelings can be buried in the basement of her unconscious, just waiting for a daughter to become the mother.

If you are a daughter of a Narcissistic or difficult mother, chances are you have very little in your emotional tank. Because of this, your baby’s needs can feel draining and endless.

If you didn’t receive enough calm, loving presence in your own babyhood and childhood, you might find your reservoir is tapped out just when you need it the most.

Pregnancy, childbirth, nursing, infancy, are all challenges fraught with the possibility of feeling “not good enough.”

You may feel your baby’s newborn cry is telling the world you don’t know what you are doing.

Or, equally torturous, perhaps you feel your baby is a monster sucking the life out of you. His or her needs, feel like too much.

What’s more, you might be filled with shame for having those feelings. You know how crazy this all sounds; it is hard to talk about with anyone.

 It doesn’t help that everyone around you is expecting you to be joyful, but you can’t stop feeling hopeless.

With the physical ordeal of childbirth and the accompanying hormonal upheaval, it can all come crashing down on you in the form of postpartum depression.

And when the baby-blues hang on for weeks, even months without lifting, you and your baby will suffer.

This can be so hard.

This isn’t trivial whining about mom. This is real emotional pain.

I have hope for you.

  • First let me say, the feelings that are coming up for you are not your fault. They are not telling you the truth of your current reality or your worth.   If you could understand what is happening and be gentle with yourself… this can take some of the sting of shame and despair away.


  • These uncomfortable feelings are from the basement of your unconscious. You didn’t choose to feel this way. In fact, every cell in your being is saying, “Stop. Stop. Stop.”
  • These feelings have nothing to do with how much you love your baby or how much you will love your baby. You may be (unconsciously) responding to what your baby symbolizes.

Perhaps your own mother suffered. You looked into her eyes and, for one reason or another, all you got was, lights out, nobody home.

No delight. No joy. Just emptiness.

You don’t choose to have these negative nightmarish feelings- they are just there.

Even if you love your baby beyond belief, you might still have these feelings. That is so hard to understand yourself, much less describe to anyone else.

I get you.  This is completely understandable.

Here is another reason you may be feeling overwhelmed-  

If you are the daughter of the narcissistic or difficult mother, you’ve put your mother’s happiness ahead of your own without even knowing it.

You had to.

You may have been in the role of the “good” daughter, and suffer from the good daughter syndrome- taking emotional care of mom at your expense.

Then, when the baby arrives on the scene, even a much wished for baby; it hits you on a primal level -your time will never come.

It hits you in the gut – you never got to live for yourself. And now it is too late. 

This, of course, is not true- but emotionally it hits you as true.

But life goes on and..

You and your baby will find your way to each other.  You will come to learn her ways and how you can soothe and bond with her. It might not happen overnight, but chances are good it will happen.

It is just hard to bear this in-between time when you are flooded with unconscious material and no history of success with your baby to offset the feelings of helplessness.

You need a listening ear, some good support, and tolerance for how you are feeling.

Don’t hesitate to reach out for support.

When you are depressed, and feeling vulnerable, the last thing you might feel like doing is reaching out. Yet this is exactly the time to do so.

An important note- this is the time to be selfish. You and you alone should choose what kind of help you want, and from whom you want to receive that help.

*If you don’t feel supported by your mother or mother-in-law, this is your time to start calling the shots. Do what feels best to you.

They will survive, and you are laying down healthy boundaries you and your baby will need in the days, months, and years to come.

It is your turn now.

You can use these revelations, albeit upsetting, to start a chapter in your life. can,  As the mother, you get to call the shots, protect yourself, and your baby

If you are the Good daughter, you might be suffering from the Good daughter syndrome. To find out go here.




  Why The Daughter of a Narcissistic/Difficult Mother Is At Risk For Postpartum Depression

Katherine Fabrizio

Katherine Fabrizio, M.A., L.P.C. has treated adult daughters of narcissistic mothers, trapped in the role of the Good Daughter for over 30 years. Dedicated to empowering these women, she offers online help for clients and training (CE’s) for therapists at Her book, Daughters Rising: Rising Above the Shame, Guilt and Self-Doubt Mothers Pass Down to Daughters, is available on Amazon. Katherine lives in Raleigh N.C. where she raised two daughters and still speaks regularly with her mother. Do you suffer from the Good Daughter Syndrome? Find out here!

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APA Reference
Fabrizio, K. (2018).   Why The Daughter of a Narcissistic/Difficult Mother Is At Risk For Postpartum Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 18 Nov 2018
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