The Parental Hoover



Whilst many people experience our kind in the context of the romantic relationship, there are also many people whose experience of the narcissistic dynamic arises from their relationship with a parent. Naturally, nobody recognises at first blush that they have a narcissistic parent. When somebody is a child, they have nothing to benchmark it against and invariably it is usually the case that enlightenment only arises once the child has become an adult.

Sometimes it takes that person to become entangled with a narcissist in a romantic relationship before they are awakened to the fact that they have so been entangled. As part of their enlightenment as to the fact that one of our kind ensnared them through the auspices of a romantic relationship, the individual then also realises that one (or possibly both) of their parents is a narcissist. It takes the coupling with a narcissist in a romantic sense to bring about that realisation. For others, it is the comparison between their relationship with that parent and how they see the relationship of their friends with their parents, or the relationship between their significant other (who is not a narcissist) and his or her parents, to cause them to question the behaviour of their parent which eventually takes them along the path to discovery.

For my own part, it was not until I was shown by an ex-girlfriend what I was, that I realised that MatriNarc was also of our brethren. It was an unusual moment. On the one hand I now had a label to apply to myself, courtesy of the non-judgemental observations of that informed girlfriend. I was pleased with this label as it enabled me to understand more about what I was, although it was not something I planned on sharing. Yet, as I understood how my behaviours fitted with the model of behaviour to which she had directed me, I also realised that my mother was similar and thus also was one of us. A different type of narcissist, but one nevertheless. Such a revelation admittedly stunned me but I soon buried such thoughts as they served no purpose. There was no point dwelling on what had occurred in the past, that was redundant and only going to take me to a place that I had long since escaped. Instead, I focused on my new understanding and how I should now apply this knowledge to my advantage. Thus, that is what I did as I began my journey post university, entering the world of work (aside from summer jobs and the like) and continuing to ensnare unwitting victims romantically, socially and even through the merest of interactions.

Through this time I sought to exercise my independence from MatriNaric who of course sought to exert it as often as she could. I attended university, like many, away from the place where I grew up and therefore this represented the first weakening of the control that MatriNarc had exerted over me. Of course, those elongated holidays meant a return to the mother ship and her continuing machinations and it was only when I commenced my first position on the career ladder of my chosen profession and with that came the necessity of being based in a city, that I truly started to pull away from her grip.

As you would expect, she would not allow that grip to be relinquished with ease and so it is with all parental narcissists. Just like the viewpoint of the romantic relationship narcissist, the parental narcissist considers that you, his or her child belongs to him or her until death. Indeed, whilst those in a romantic liaison with us may sever the Formal Relationship this is far less likely where the dynamic is between parent and adult child. The adult child feels a sense of obligation borne out of the familial tie. How often have you said,

“She is my mother, I can’t NOT invite her to the christening.”

“I know she can be a pain, but she is my mother after all.”

“He is bound to cause a scene but he is my father and well, it would just feel wrong if he was not there.”

“It will cause too many questions if my dad doesn’t attend.”

Such is the sense of obligation which is imbued by the familial link. The narcissist knows of this sense of obligation and moreover relies on it. That is why there is no seduction between narcissistic parent and child (leaving aside those arrangements where incest arises, which is not the purpose of this article) because the existing familial connection supplants the need for seduction. The victim is already tied to the narcissist through blood and you are never allowed to forget that fact.

This tight binding of victim to narcissist does not end there. The existence of the other parent (usually not a narcissist) also causes the victim to remain exposed and bound to the narcissistic parent. Perhaps some of these comments will be familiar to you?

“I put up with my dad for my mum’s sake.”

“I feel sorry for my dad having to deal with my mum.”

“I only see my dad because I love my mum and want to spend time with her.”

“I do it for my children so they see their grandfather, otherwise I would not bother with my mum.”

Unlike the romantic coupling where, once you realise that this person is an abuser (if you have not worked out that they are one of us) you may well escape and aside from the usual concerns and vulnerabilities which come with the empathic victim in such an instance, you make good that escape, the familial ensnarement brings with it a collateral consequence; the other parent. Whilst you may consider quite readily abandoning the narcissistic parent, once you have become alive to what he or she is and how this will not change, your planned escape is hampered by the consequential impact on the other parent who is not a narcissist. Like the dedicated platoon which ‘leaves no man behind’, you are also kept in the grip of the narcissistic parent because of your obligations towards your other parent who is not one of our kind. Once again, do not underestimate the narcissist’s knowledge of this sense of obligation. They will be unlikely to realise that they are a narcissist, but they know how to exploit your relationship with the other parent to their advantage.

Whilst devaluation is a frequent occurrence within the dynamic between the parent narcissist and the adult child, discard is fairly rare. The dynamic between parent and child falls into one of three categories:-


  1. The adult child is an intimate partner primary source – rare;
  2. The adult child is a non-intimate partner primary source – unusual; or
  3. The adult child is a non-intimate secondary source – common

With most interactions falling into the third category, the adult child will be relied upon as an intermittent, but frequent provider of fuel. The narcissistic parent will also look to gather traits (for instance living through the success of the adult child) and utilise residual benefits (especially as the narcissistic parent ages).

In a non-familial dynamic, the narcissist tends to interact largely with the secondary source victim in benign ways to gain positive fuel, for instance:-

  1. A secondary source who is a friend will be invited to social events and spend time with the narcissist;
  2. A secondary source who is a colleague will also be invited to social events, but will be relied on by virtue of the existing obligation which arises out of the work dynamic;
  3. A secondary source who is also an intimate source will be picked up to use for social events, intimacy, spending time together. For instance, a person the narcissist is having an affair with, a friend with benefits or a dirty little secret.

In those instances the narcissist offers a benign hoover

“Do you fancy going to the pub tonight?”

“I can meet you at the hotel at 3pm this afternoon.”

“I have tickets for that new play, I hope you want to come.”

“I have not seen you in ages, how about lunch?”

“Can we get our heads together to discuss the new project?”

And consequently the victim will almost always respond to this hoover, interact with the narcissist and provide the positive fuel. The narcissist will have a range of secondary sources so the reliance on one particular secondary source is intermittent. This means the positive fuel remains fresh for far, far longer and therefore the golden period can continue for a long time.

With the situation where the narcissist interacts with a familial secondary source, the victim may well be a golden child or a scapegoat. In either instance, the parental narcissist considers there to be an obligation borne out of the familial tie so that the secondary source should not actually need to be hoovered. Since the range of familial secondary sources will be far fewer than secondary sources as a whole, the familial secondary source is EXPECTED to make themselves available for fuel provision et al. Whilst they may no longer live with the parental narcissist this does not matter. The adult child who is a secondary source should attend without prompting to provide fuel to the parental narcissist. For instance, it is expected they will come over for Sunday lunch each week or visit at least once a month for the weekend if they live a distance away. There ought to be weekly, perhaps daily telephone calls/skype/facetime. They expect to be messaged first to be asked how they are, whether they need anything and so forth. If these expected routine events where fuel is provided are not adhered to, then the parental narcissist will deploy a hoover to bring about the interaction and of course the required reaction which provides fuel.

The parental hoover may be benign in nature (which is usually used for the golden child) but also malign. The latter type of hoovers vary to the degree by which malignancy is used. Some may be mild, intending to prick the conscience of the recipient adult child and others especially savage in order to provoke an outraged or alarmed response. The malign parental hoover has one key ingredient ; it invariably causes the child to have to parent the parent. This of course should come as no surprise to the seasoned scholars of the narcissistic dynamic. The parental narcissist remains the vulnerable child which manifests when fuel levels begin to dip and thus the hoover deployed to the adult child is designed to trigger that long-held obligation of the adult child to parent their parent, something they have done for as long as they might care to remember.

It is often the case that a parental narcissist will have given rise to the creation of a child narcissist which in the fullness of time becomes an adult child narcissist. This individual does not escape the demands of the parental narcissist. They still have fuel to provide and most parental narcissists do not know what they are and therefore do not recognise themselves in the adult child narcissist, thus the interaction will continue, often with explosive consequences.

Thus, the parental hoover is a frequently used manipulation which is deployed by the parental narcissist for the purposes of exerting control over the adult child and for the gathering of precious fuel. What do these hoovers look like? There are many of them and here are just a number of examples.

Benign Parental Hoovers

  1. Holding a celebration for the achievements of the golden child;
  2. Wanting the golden child to show what they have done or explain their latest promotion, show their painting etc to both the parents and third parties who have been summoned;
  3. An impromptu BBQ because it is a ‘lovely summer’s day’;
  4. To celebrate the birthday of the golden child;
  5. Wanting to share good news with the golden child;
  6. Seeking the advice of the golden child if they are a specialist in some area – for instance investment advice;
  7. Wanting to effect an introduction to or for the golden child which places the parental narcissist in a good light for being the deal maker;
  8. Identifying a problem and wondering if the golden child might possibly have the time to resolve it for them;
  9. Identifying (or fabricating) a family problem involving triangulation with another relative (usually the scapegoat) and seeking the good office of the golden child to resolve the issue;
  10. Having some spare tickets (which are not spare at all but purposefully bought) which they would like to offer the golden child;
  11. Suggesting a holiday with the golden child

Malign Hoovers

  1. Noting the adult child (“AC”) has not visited and asking when this might happen;
  2. Triangulating the AC with the golden child pointing out how the golden child has visited more often;
  3. Feigning a crisis – the ceiling is leaking, the oven does not work, the neighbours are too noisy and something must be done immediately
  4. Bemoaning the fact nobody comes to see them;
  5. Highlighting how unwell they are;
  6. Pointing out financial difficulties
  7. Disapproving of the AC’s friends, romantic partner
  8. Claiming they never get to see their grandchildren;
  9. Complaining they are only ever used as a child minder for their grandchildren;
  10. Berating the AC for some imagined vice – drugs, drink, gambling etc based on the flimsiest of evidence but declaring that “I only have your best interests at heart”


  1. Turning up unannounced and uninvited for the weekend;
  2. Declaring how lonely they are and how “your father never listens”
  3. Moaning about never being able to go anywhere;
  4. Pretending to not understand what a letter means and asking for them to come and help;
  5. Deliberately sabotaging something and using it as a pretext for requiring immediate help and assistance;
  6. Threatening to remove the AC from their will unless they make more of an effort;
  7. Calling early on Christmas Day or their birthday to demand why the AC has not contacted them to wish them Merry Christmas or Happy Birthday;
  8. Frequently referring to the death of people they know and commenting how they won’t be long for this world and then “you will be free of me which is what you want really”.
  9. Throwing in the face of the AC everything they have ever done for the AC from his or her childhood “I wiped your bottom” even though they actually did the bare minimum of parenting;
  10. Utilising frequent sarcasm “I was just calling to let you know I am still alive because after all you have never bothered to call me in three days.”

The adult child is not allowed to lead their own life, to expect the ongoing support of their parent but instead be on call whenever these hoovers are deployed and to respond straight away so that fuel is provided without question or delay.

31 thoughts on “The Parental Hoover

  1. nunya biz says:

    I’ve had many of the malign ones. References to benign ones from mom too but were only to tell me what GC sister does that I don’t.
    Sarcasm common, sometimes accompanied by shrill laughter. Because, you know, hurt is funny. I said to someone a few months ago about how my mom expected me to parent her and I never agreed to it, so I do appreciate seeing it spelled out here as well, it’s validating that sometimes I can rely on my perceptions despite being told otherwise. I’m actually really quite perceptive.

    Having some emotional reactions today to manipulation triggers (triangulation is still the worst one for me), I think I’ll go do some relaxation and meditation. Great post and appreciate the sharing of when you figured things out, very interesting.

  2. supernova says:

    Wow! This is really my life even today with my parents and ex N’s parents!

    HG, I am soaking in each and every word written by you and can’t believe how the reality has hit home. I always thought I come from very loving parental background but I have joked recently that I ended up parenting my own parents for several reasons. Now I see it in all black and white.

    Oh HG, thank you so much again! No amount of therapy could have helped to bring closures in life.

  3. /iroll says:

    My narcissistic mother is a secondary abuser in a dynamic with my (complex)-ASPD father, who is the primary aggressor. She’s a narcissistic enabler and betrayer (gaslighter too) for her own selfish interests. She was able to sacrifice parts of herself to take his abuse in return for material benefits, but she also does this by being complicit in our abuse. We (especially two of us), were violated by Dad, her response was to feel non-empathic sexual jealousy and retaliate with a servile loyalty to him and devaluation of us, that increased his dependence on her. She gains subversive control – via managing the domestic aspects of life, the boring details of running the show, which he then doesn’t need to concern himself with, he can be a giant baby. She also gives him total freedom from accountability and the consequences of the highly destructive impulses behind his dominant, grandiose facade.

    From what i can tell, these introverted narcissistic types just need you to play the role they give you so that they can construct their version of the truth – and their facade. They do feel neurotic shame and low self-esteem, but they dump it onto you. They can also have grandiosity, but it needs a source outside the self, to support it – which can come from a dominant partner or some secondary affiliation with status. Their hostility is an envious projection that helps them feel more powerful, but so is their idealisation of the relationship, where they are the loving or suffering one.

    I construct boundaries with my mother by not telling her how i really feel, about anything, and by keeping things light and superficial. This came also from the advice of my therapist. Sometimes it is better to have distance with the appearance of a relationship – than confrontation. In a way, the only language narcissists speak – is facade, and there’s no good reason for you to offer them anything more than what they (can) offer you.

  4. Chihuahuamum says:

    Every so often my mother hoovers me in the way that she will say “i love you” or want a hug which we never hug. Ive learned to avoid reciprocating and its been difficult bc my nature is to embrace and forgive but i can no longer forget all the damage shes done to my self esteem and development over the years.
    I got a taste of this this past weekend when we all went out for a dinner to celebrate my sons achievement award at school. I can usually sense when shes in a foul narkish mood but i wasnt observant and fell into my old habit of trying to please and being over accomidating.
    She gave me a present silent treatment the whole time never once looking at me or acknowledging when id try to speak to her and this deeply hurt me. The old feelings of inadequacy resurfaced making me feel invisible and nonimportant.
    Next i was gaslighted as i recounted a story from the past that was traumatic to me as a child. She told me i was wrong and it happened differently. I stood up to her and said no it was me it happened to not you!! I was there you werent! The guests felt awkward and she became quiet.
    I left the dinner feeling really low. I realise i have to keep a vigilant no contact in respect to my way of interacting to her. I will no longer initiate conversation with her unless necessary and when she gaslights me i will develop logical thinking vs emotional and realise its her narc tactic and let it go. Seperating her narc behaviour from my beliefs about myself.
    Im so glad i never allowed her hoovers to be close bc i can see she has not changed and never will.
    Shes as good as dead to me as a mother figure.

    1. Windstorm says:

      Reading this brought back many similar memories of my interactions with my own mother. I can still feel the pain, but thankfully mine will keep getting farther and farther in the past. I remember so many meals and family gatherings where my mother would give me present silent treatments and contradict what I would say, too. She gloried in making me feel inferior. She had an extended family meal once where every single dish had meat it it, knowing of course, that I was a vegetarian and would have to sit there with everyone and eat nothing.

      All narc parents are harmful, but I think having a narc mother warps us in ways we will struggle with for all our lives. My children were such a comfort to me. They saw and understood how hurtful her treatment of me was and were the rock I clung to for strength to endure her abuse. I hope your son understands and supports you and is a comfort to you. Sending you strength and positive energy.

    2. Chihuahuamum says:

      Hi ((((Windstorm)))…ty so much for your reply. Im looking at it thru an unattached observer of the behaviour and thankfully i remembered HGs article on different silent treatments. Its such a damaging form of abuse and one my mother has used a lot. Despite everything ive learned over the past few years her present silent treatments didnt fully hit me in becoming aware of the damage as a result until last weekend. I felt really low and i assessed my feelings asking myself why i felt so ashamed and low. It hit me i felt unimportant and then why…bc of her present silent treatments throughout the years.
      The awful thing about present silent treatments is they serve as a covert way to smear people. If they are ignoring you others will sometimes think somethings wrong with you and follow suit. Its sets up an environment where the abuser comes off looking superior and people will engage with them and ignore the ignoree.
      It in turn makes you feel like a zero. It projects a deep shame and thats what narcs do best is project their feelings and issues onto others.
      Im sorry your mother hurt you as well. Youve turned into an amazing woman!

      HG id love to see an article specifically on present silent treatments at more length thx

      1. HG Tudor says:

        Noted, thank you.

      2. Windstorm says:

        Thanks Chihuahuamum!
        You’re right about the effect of present silent treatments in company. It does make you feel like a zero. Brought back memories of family gatherings where everyone was talking to one another and no one said a word to me. It was like I was invisible. That’s especially hard at a dinner table.

        These relatives were all my mother’s family. They all took their cue from her. Once the other older family narcs were dead, they were her faithful lieutenants, believed everything she said and treated me like a pariah. Still do, even though she’s dead. Makes family funerals very difficult. Last one I attended, one of my uncles cut me when I treated him, turned away like I was invisible. Sort of humorous in a dark way – an 80 year old man cutting a 60 year old grandmotherly woman at a funeral. Lol! They all smiled and talked to my exhusband right next to me! I can laugh now, but it wasn’t funny at the time.

  5. purpleinnature says:

    I just remembered something about my Dad to add to my post below. When I was a baby, he had a complete nervous breakdown and had to send us away temporarily because he was afraid he would hurt us (so the story goes). According to him, it was because he was in the military and a superior officer harassed him so much, he literally went insane. Could this have actually been a narcisstic collapse? If so, when his “mind came back together”, as he describes it, could it have affected his need for fuel? (as I said below, he doesn’t seem to need much fuel) How does recovery after a collapse affect a narcissist? Do they ever recover from a complete collapse?

    Side note: He has a glorious, fantastic tale of how the superior officer was eventually humiliated and forced to apologize to him. It involves Masons, military police searching the country for him and evading a court martial after going AWOL. Really Dad? Lol. Oh how I used to hang on his every word…

    1. Julie says:

      And the oscar goes to….(drum roll) dad!

  6. Stefani says:

    And what of the greater narcissist’s failure with a benign hoover on an adult child primary source?

    1. HG Tudor says:

      I am not sure Stefani, what you are asking me. Might you expand?

  7. Supernova DE says:

    HG thank you for this one. Truly. Brings a lot of questions into focus for me.

    1. HG Tudor says:

      You are welcome.

  8. Em says:

    Yes my ex husband and lesser narc parents are defined here. Very controlling family business, demands to come for supper etc always tried to control my children – if I made a rule she’d break it – witch. He could not breathe he never defended me from her.
    My mother is on here too.. always threatening to die.
    Always complaining about how tough life is – I offer to help and she refuses but big smiles because she pulled my strings. Then says why do u want to help clean? Is my house dirty? I will call on you when I need something. Control.

  9. Tra says:

    Excellent article!! I stumbled across your blog accidentally abou 5-6 months ago. I took on an assignment which I had to deal with highly manipulative individuals/ sociopaths.. etc…
    I found more informative information from your sblog then from other sources.
    I was telling a colleague about your blog and it ended up that another colleague just told her about it.🙂
    My question is: How do you maintain a healthy relationship with an adult NC when you aren’t one. Or, how do maintain the b st possible relationship?
    I know previous article s I read said you can’t. Do you have a book that deals directly with this topic???

    1. HG Tudor says:

      Not yet.

  10. Julie says:

    Wow! Great article HG.
    This really explained so much. I have the narc “momster” and been NC for about 5yrs .
    Thank you

    1. HG Tudor says:

      You are welcome.

  11. Kelly B says:

    Narcs in the family dynamic. Dad a greater narcissist and brother a mid range narc. My sister the golden child and I’m the scapegoat. Its a circus can’t even be in the same room with them. No contact with all of them only the greater narc. And I’m on alert the whole time.

  12. Hannah says:

    As sad as romantic relationships are with narcissists my empath heart truly goes out to those with narcissists as parents. Children don’t stand a chance.

  13. Liza says:

    HG, do you know my parents????? Just kidding!
    Thanks for this article. It nicely summarized what I had been subjected to. NC for 2.5 yrs from the remaining Narc Daddy has given me most of my sanity back, although their voice still echoes in my ears some times.

    As an only child I was both the trophy and the punch bag depending on their moods. Since I have been very academically accomplished with their financial help, this was the first line of defense when I dared, at 42, to stand up to them….”after all we have done for you”.

    After I learned of the disorder, I read extensively and spent a couple years just watching their behavior through clearer lenses. i was gray rocking as much as possible and distancing myself. After NM’s death, i became more distant, because NF had no primary fuel sources and thus became more demanding (Mind you i live in another continent).

    The final blow out with NF was when I decided to respond to his accusations of “not caring for him”, what a “rotten child I am”, “how selfish”, “he has failed as a father”, by explaining to him very calmly all the evidence of his disorder and how it makes me feel. He did not respond to any of these and instead started attacking me verbally. I could feel the rage and I could hear the panic in his voice. He knew then that I was strong, stronger than he ever thought possible. He really tried to pull me into the fold (after all, I was always his little girl and obedient). I had none of that and when he said something to me I exploded, called him a despicable human being and hung up on him. He attempted all tricks in the book to hoover me back in. To no avail…..

    Every behavior you have described, I have seen in him!
    Thank you for the info. It has helped me regain my freedom!

    1. windstorm says:

      I can identify with your situation. I was an only with 2 narc parents, too. I had lots of financial benefits, including my education. My father went first and I don’t think I could have survived dealing with my mother if it hadn’t been for my children. My freedom came about 2.5 years ago also, with her death.

      I know two narc parents warped me in ways I’ll always have to deal with. I hope you continue to do better and better in your life now. 😊

  14. purpleinnature says:

    My dad is a narcissist, but a strange one. I was the golden child. He ticks all the boxes in the dsm. No empathy or genuine emotion, a sense of grandiosity, the smartest person in the world, fantastical delusions and magical thinking (communicates with the dead, remembers a past life, etc..), superior to everyone, disdains almost everyone, never wrong about anything, tells fantastic tales about his past, delights in telling me of ways he has harassed his “idiot” co-workers, disdains animals, will not be disagreed with, etc… BUT he has NO friends, I have very rarely seen him express “hot” anger although I can sense it’s always simmering. He is retired now and he spends most of his time tinkering on solo projects and he very rarely communicates with me except for special occasions. He is submissive to my mom who isn’t assertive, but also has no empathy. It’s almost like he’s a narcissist that doesn’t need fuel and expresses his fury and superiority through humour and passive aggressiveness. What gives? Where does he get his fuel? My mom is not a good source of fuel, or maybe I just don’t know what’s going on when I’m not there?

  15. mollyb5 says:

    Do narcs have friendships that are similar to their narc parent / narc child relationships …such as a lieutenant friend that is an aging narc needing help all the time ….and my narc gets to be the golden friend that builds / and fixes everything for the male Friend (narc) . Is this possible ?

    1. Tra says:

      Great question: My opinion is that when you aren’t aware of where you came from/Narc etc-you form relationships that are familiar to you thus creating the same story….

  16. Lou says:

    Oh, I like the new presentation better that the old one, HG. Nice!

    1. HG Tudor says:


  17. windstorm says:

    Reading this again made me laugh! I only ever got malign Hoover’s as an adult even though I was the only child. Having two narc parents, I got to be the golden child of my father and the scapegoat of my mother. She outlived my father by 27 years, so anything golden was long in the past.

    But she is now in the past as well, and time is a great leveler. Her past ugliness and machinations were very hurtful at the time, but now just seem sad and pathetic. Seems to be the legacy of many midrange narcs – sad and pathetic – for all their perceived superiority.

  18. Jess says:

    I am the scapegoat child. I’m “clearly bipolar.” NarcMom is a total monster but when I go no contact child protective services ends up at my door even though she lives in NY and usually hasn’t seen me in over a year… She is pitiful but I keep in touch bc I don’t want to see her decompensate more than she has alrdy. Emotional thinking…bollocks.

  19. Lou says:

    Ha, I was just thinking about this subject today! I received a message from my Darth Moeder by Messenger ( I recently downloaded it) saying she has not heard from me in a long time and asking if I am ok. She knows I am ok and she knows I do not want to have contact with her. I have blocked her in my email, FB and WA accounts. She now contacts me via messenger as if nothing has happened. She also asked my sister to send me a photo saying it is from her. The photo is a humiliating one, of course. The good news is that I could see the comical part of the whole thing this time. Their messages made me laugh. Before, their manipulation would have made me feel guilt, sadness and shame. It did not this time.

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