Hoovering By The Parental Narcissist



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.

21 thoughts on “Hoovering By The Parental Narcissist

  1. Bubbles 🍾 says:

    Dear Mr Tudor,
    My mother very rarely phones me, I’m always the one ‘expected’ to ring (it’s been like that as far back as I can remember)
    Yesterday, when I dutifully (once a day) phoned, she informed me of having a fall outside and injuring herself slightly, she did use her pendant to call emergency, however an ambulance was not required
    I had instructed her to ‘always’ take either her walker or quad stick outside, of course she took neither
    I pretty much had to probe everything out of her, she’s never forthcoming with information of this nature
    I understand this is her strategic way of receiving fuel from me having to ask all the step by step questions of what happened
    Is there anything else intentional going on here from her that I may have missed ?
    I told her to take two panadol and have an early night 😴
    Excellent article as always Mr Tudor, thank you
    Luv Bubbles xx 😘

  2. Leela says:

    When I moved away from home to study, my dad used to call me every day, and because every little poop. It was terrible! 🙁 He hoovers are benign as well as maligne. 🙁 Sometimes he called me just to put me down, just to tell me what a piece of crap I am.

    From him I got my narcissistic traits and I HATE them! 🙁

  3. Asp Emp says:

    I’ll be writing a Letter to you, Mother, dearest. Hope it’s nice and quiet wherever you are. I’m happier in my life without you in it, Mother, dearest.

  4. Kensey says:

    Still 5 yrs hindsight…His Matri Narc mother leaned across my body ( on my birthday yet) to say In front of me to her Narc son…”you must really love her to give up your inheritance “ . My dear fiancé then said ,” I don’t need your damn money . I have my own money”
    Should of been big Narc flag flying …
    Run, run ,run gurl !!!!

  5. lickemtomorrow says:

    Very interesting to hear about your own experience with your mother, HG. You were alerted at a relatively early age it seems (in terms of making sense of her behaviour) and were stunned. That is understandable, although once the awareness arises it’s amazing how clear it all becomes. I guess we’ve only ever known your mother as ‘matrinarc’, as well as the stories that go along with that, so it’s interesting to read about how you never had the awareness until you were an adult regardless of the impact her narcissism had on you as a child. Now you can fit the pieces together. Or could. It’s a long time since the realization dawned on you.

    I have only come to the realization my mother is a narcissist fairly recently. Mainly because I didn’t know what narcissism was. I just knew I have a fucked up relationship with my mother and could never understand why! Nothing made sense except there must be something wrong with me. I was the scapegoat child, so that was the message I constantly received. “You’re fucked up” It worked. In terms of me always feeling like I wasn’t good enough and somehow dysfunctional. Somewhere deep down inside I knew it wasn’t me, but I had no allies so I had to rely on my own instinct to understand there was something instinctually ‘wrong’ in the relationship. It just never felt right. And I could never put my finger on the reason why.

    What a relief to finally have an answer. And to know I’m not the one who is fucked up! HOORAY!!

    My father died when I was in my 20s. By then he had left my mother and was married again. He was the parent I parented, so I guess I got both barrels and didn’t realize that until I came here. But there is no other parent to keep me bound and I have two ‘golden child’ siblings who fill the space nicely for my mother while I suffer the silent treatment instituted by them all due to my mother’s machinations.

    I remember my mother one time saying (when we were still in contact) that if she died she would insist that any legacy she left to us would be tied to the ownership of property … as in, ‘you have to buy a house/property with the money I leave you’. Talk about keeping control from the grave. I remember arguing the point with her at the time. And the interesting thing is, if I determined to keep in contact with her for the sake of an inheritance I’m quite sure she would find a way to manipulate that situation and leave me out of the will. Her favourite tactic is pulling the rug out from under me. That’s her MO. And she would love it if I gave all my time to her in the expectation of something in return only to have it taken from me at the last minute.

    Now she doesn’t get the satisfaction of either – having me wait on her in the hope/expectation of any return, and the opportunity to pull the rug out from under me when she finally does depart this world. I’ve taken the rug, rolled it up, and I’ll be happy to lay it on her funeral pyre.

    1. Asp Emp says:

      Hi lickemtomorrow, it was interesting & good to know your experiences. My mother threatened to leave everything to charity. She didn’t. I think it’s fair to say – you don’t have a fkd up relationship with your mother. It’s your mother’s fkd up relationship with you. Stay strong 🙂

      1. lickemtomorrow says:

        Thanks Asp Emp <3

        I've opted out of the game playing. I did before I knew what she was, but I certainly knew she was playing games. And will until the day she dies. It doesn't seem like a very charitable response on my part, and I know others choose differently, but I just can't take it anymore. She diminishes me as a person, constantly. She doesn't even have to try. It comes naturally to her and wearing it no longer comes naturally to me. I have to resist. And that resistance comes in the form of my no contact. No point in wishing or hoping things could be any different. I've been down that road before and it led me nowhere. Or straight to perdition!

        Sounds like your mother was playing games with you when she threatened to leave everything to charity. It's best if you don't rely on their threats or their promises. Neither hold much water.

      2. Bubbles 🍾 says:

        Dear Asp Emp,
        My mother and step father’s wills were identical
        They both instructed to leave it all to charity
        The remainder was cruelly worded for the rest of us, even Mr Bubbles was mortified at the evilness my mother and step father had for me
        It was to be their final slap in the face
        Luv Bubbles xx 😘

        1. lickemtomorrow says:

          Wow, Bubbles, what could be more hurtful than the actual final slap in the face. They can’t even release us on their death beds. They have to get one more dig in. It’s appalling.

          So glad you have a supportive husband who has your back <3

          1. Bubbles 🍾 says:

            Dearest lickemtomorrow,
            It was beyond appalling
            It’s that final twist of the knife which is the deepest and most malicious of all
            I questioned mum about it being so utterly hurtful
            She just kinda looked at me, all glazed eyed, as narcs do
            Puts moving house as a joke in a whole new perspective, doesn’t it ?
            Mr Bubbles’ deceased narc dad left him out of his will 😱
            Mum did voluntarily put me in her will a few years ago however
            Be that as it may, it’s never quite over til the fat lady sings

            Thank you lickemtomorrow, Mr Bubbles definitely has my back ….and front 😂
            Luv Bubbles xx 😘

        2. Asp Emp says:

          Ouch that must have dug deep. Granted charities need financial support, I don’t dispute that. Still it was mean of your parents.

          1. Bubbles 🍾 says:

            Dear Asp Emp,
            Their intentions weren’t one of benevolence but of spitefullness against me
            They have always been tightwads, mum still is
            Everything they did was deliberate, in order to achieve their desired outcome
            Mum has never gone out of her way to donate to anything (she’s a hoarder) whereas Mr Bubbles and I have given our money, time, energy and participation to charities
            There’s the difference
            We have openly discussed our wills with our children, it’s what loving parents do, you pay it forward, everyone is happy

            I have never had any expectations from my mother, ever
            Until now
            I’m positive I’ll find “narc surprises” after she’s gone 😈
            Luv Bubbles xx 😘

  6. DrHouse says:

    Hg, are you not yourself hoovered? The whole treatment, is this not following your own rules?

    1. HG Tudor says:

      Of course I am occasionally hoovered, but it does not impact me in the way that an empathic victim is impacted.

      1. DrHouse says:

        Thanks for the honest answer.
        Let me ask you this, you seem very capable of supporting yourself. Why do you hang around them, is this not toxic behavior that crawls in through Osmosis regardless.
        Is revenge worth all this?

        1. HG Tudor says:


          1. Violetta says:

            What will you do after your revenge?

            What will be your life’s purpose?

          2. HG Tudor says:

            Creating a robot which answers the question “HG will I be hoovered?” leaving me more time to slip in between the lines.

          3. blackcoffee30 says:

            100% worth it.

    2. Whitney says:

      HG, the one who choked me Hoovered me today. He messaged “you coming back to [our sport]? people keep asking about you”
      I told my friend who is a Carrier Codependent. She is way more diligent and committed to fixing her addictions and having a better life.

  7. December Infinity says:

    Wow. My mother pulled every malign hoover on me in this article when I was growing up. I even moved away for university and she continued with the hoovers. She made trouble for me everywhere. It was awful. The drama and chaos. I didn’t realize it until lately when I have been reading and learning more about the narcissistic dynamic.

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