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.

16 thoughts on “The Parental Hoover

  1. jimmyjamm10 says:

    H.G., Thank you for doing what you do, the impact you have had on my life is ineffable. I was wondering, what are some of these explosive consequences that you mentioned?
    “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.”

  2. Jane hall says:

    My 21 year old son is living with his grandparents as he works in a nearby hospital. My X a narc is now there too. I do worry about my son. I honestly thought he would have upped and left as soon as his dad arrived. But he hasn’t. My son had the chance of living with two other people his own age….and turned it down. I just don’t understand it.

    Then – just after Christmas – I mentioned Antidepressents and how I didn’t need them, I felt peaceful that I had done my best to make the marriage work – my son turned to me and said “You know”? It turned out, My X had told our Son that he was on antidepressents. Now why do that? To ensnare – to make our son feel sorry for his dad, to feel he HAS to stay with his dad and emotionally support him.

    Two days later, I sent our son – a photo from my x Facebook page – wishing everyone a very happy Christmas – it was a facebook page run by my X who is now playing guitar back in his old band. I sent the photo which had big smiley faces on it and lots of positivity… our son – and just said “I want you to know that you don’t need to wring yourself with worry about your dad. You can see by this facebook post on his “Bands Page” that he is doing ok.

    Hopefully, it may help our son to escape the pity play his dad has set up.

  3. Presque Vu says:

    I’m still getting my head around this. I observed many situations over the last few days with my family. I felt empowered as I sat and listened and I could see manipulations, gas lighting and being painted black and white from various people. For the first time, in my whole life, I feel I’ve been given a super power gift. This also includes gravitating towards people with good cheer and kindness….I would normally have got caught up in it all and then unable to reverse out of the situation leaving with a heavy heart and hating myself. I have distanced myself with the power of knowledge!

  4. IdaNoe says:

    Re: Matrinarcs – is the goal to turn the bound child into a codependent? Thank you

    1. HG Tudor says:

      No, this is a collateral consequence which sometimes occurs as a consequence of the narcissist’s needs and ensnarement of said child.

  5. Kathy Mor says:

    I called my Matrinarc today and wtf what was I thinking? Five seconds into the conversation, not only she spread the tentacles of guilty trying to choke me to death by asking me when I’d go see her but she also tried to triangulate the living shit out me using neighbors, cousins, her stupid friends, dogs, birds, cats… every freaking TV show, and even using the memory of my grandmother (her deceased mother) who was the greater, saying that she missed grandnarc more than anyone else…

    I was like hey bitch! Merry Christmas to your stupid ass. I gotta go now have fun ice skating as you sit there missing grandnarc, after all the shitty apples don’t fall far from the rotten tree…

  6. Michelle says:

    My therapist says my mother was a narcissist and I am still trying to wrap my mind around this possibility. Some days it makes total sense and other days it doesn’t. I was an only child so for the most part I was a Golden Child. If my mother was indeed a narcissist, the label that fits best is “communal narcissist” because she saw herself as able to care for people and bring people together. She also had a real martyr complex and would do things like literally taking the food off her plate and feeding it to my dad to show how good she was. Since she was not particularly concerned with physical appearance or intelligence, I was never devalued for either of those things, but I was expected to be very good and well-mannered. I was definitely on the receiving end of silent treatments, sometimes over holidays or vacations, and was quickly put in my place if I insulted any of her caretaking abilities. She was wounded badly when I finally moved out of the house (at age 24!) because it was a sign that her caretaking was no longer needed. I was expected to stay in a perpetual state of childhood so that she could be validated, and hopefully bring a husband and children into the picture for her to care for, too. Since caretaking was her thing, for the most part my childhood was pleasant and I was indulged and spoiled in some ways. My parents also funded my university education and several other major expenses in my life — things I was reminded of if I ever had the audacity to suggest that my parents had done anything wrong. I can recall offhand remarks like, “If I had to choose between you and your father, I’d choose your father, because I’ve known him longer,” that seemed to come out of the blue. She painted my boyfriend black (for a decent reason at least) and threatened to make me choose between her and him many times. I think a lightbulb went on for me when I saved her life during a medical emergency, and she responded by saying, “But why didn’t you hug me?” I was busy making sure you weren’t going to end up dead, sorry . . .

    So I guess I’m coming to terms with whatever this is, slowly. Meanwhile, the narcissists I’m attracted to tend to be people who have the adult confidence I was never allowed to have, something I am now working on in my mid 30s. I really am allowed to do things by myself, and demand respect, and be independent . . .

    1. windstorm says:

      I identify with much of your story. My mother was a narc also and treated me like I was incapable of making decisions and taking care of myself, while ridiculing me for being incompetent?which I was not). Narc mother’s warp us in ways we never truly get over.

      1. Less confused says:

        More info on different types of matrinarchs would be fantastic… It’s possible I think to display matrinarcal behaviour while being on the empathic/co-dependent side. It’s just a hunch (because I know it is true for myself) that some here have a split view of their own motherhood – (I could not do what my mother did to me, I’m good vs. oh my God, I’m failing as a mother, I’m bad). With that kind of split thinking we breed narcissism… Just saying….. again, I’m not out to hurt anyone here, it’s just that while I believe all the descriptions of narc abuse by parents I don’t quite buy all the descriptions in various comment threads of how unconditionally loving empaths are… I say this because I myself had to give up some false (potentially grandiose) views of myself as regards my motherhood (while always doubting my motherly qualities). And it’s so damn hard. I wonder is there anyone here who is going through this as well?

      2. kel says:

        LC, my two cents is that we, as empaths, ensnared and damaged by narcissists, are also messed up people. I certainly wasn’t a perfect parent or always warm, but I think you do your best from one hectic or emotional day to the next. It’s important to let your children know that you’re human too, they’ll love you all the more for it. I notice a lack of empathy in comments in this blog from time to time, and sometimes a bit of grandiosity. Be yourself, give yourself a pat on the back for doing your best, somedays are good, some are bad, just love them as best you can.

    2. Caroline R says:

      Many of the things you’ve said resonate with me. My Lesser N-Mother liked the caretaking role (being in charge, being in control) and would have been happy to keep me dependant on her, as I was a major supplier of fuel and other benefits for her. She was threatened by my independence in some respects, while also speaking proudly about me to others because of it.
      It’s very complex, the situation with a N-mother.

  7. Mona says:

    HG, there are much more malign hoovers than you told. Not in my case, but I know some people now, whose parents smeared them so much, that they should lose their children by court. Good possibility to own the grandchildren. A very good tactic to get control again.

    One young girl asked me in panic not to talk to her mother. I could not avoid it, but I was warned. The mother came, told me what a wonderful person I am, even invited me for a dinner to get to know as much as possible about her daughter. I lied to her as much as I could and said only uninteresting things. I was very polite but told her nothing. At least I hope so.
    Later I talked to the girl again and said to her : ” I really understand you and will protect you as good as I can.”
    Some parents are not able to build up a perfect mask or maybe I am too experienced now not to see through.

    The only thing that makes me happy about the young girl, is, that she really knows her mother at a young age and therefore she is able to go NC very early. That could lead to a happy life without mother`s influence.

    1. jimmyjamm10 says:

      Mona, you are correct, my mother gained control of my son using that exact tactic that you mention. It actually looked like she was helping me! So to make a long story short, when I realized what my mom really was and how I was emotionally abused by her, I spoke up. She lost that control of me, and it injured her. She found my replacement, my son. The most frustrating part of all this is trying to find someone who does not think that I am just mad at the courts for giving control of my son to my mother, and I am smearing her, of course I realize that that she controls the whole sitation. Anyhow to make a long story short, my narc mother gained control of my son by smearing me, manipulating the court system. I see how her toxic ways have affected my son. I will not give up on trying to save my son from her, as long as I am breathing, I notice tho she gains fuel from me from from that also. Anyhow the tactic you mention is a very sinister one, I am going thru it now

  8. Less confused says:

    It’s important to realise that you stay matrinarc’s puppet on a string as long as you don’t confront the introject, the version of herself that she has placed inside you when, for example, she made you copy your homework over and over again, purposefully seeking for flaws and ignoring all else. She placed herself inside you probably unwittingly but she did so all the same. You know all that of course. But what you don’t say here : There is no greatness in being controlled by a maternal introject you need to silence by abusing others. The pain you inflict on them is something you really want to make your mother feel. She does not, so you go on and on. The good news : there is greatness in attempting and succeeding to find and nourish a true – and independent – self, your very own self despite what she has done. I have a feeling you might trust the good doctors enough by now to give it a go not just here but outside.

  9. mommypino says:

    The hoovers that I get start with benign but because I can’t even pretend to buy it anymore it becomes malign. I’m the worst daughter for a narcissist.

  10. Windstorm says:

    This seems very apt today, since you must attend Christmas dinner.

    I was an only child so in ways I was both the golden child and the scapegoat. I got both benign and malign Hoovers.

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