When Mom Looks to Her Daughter To Be Her Emotional Partner- Why Maternal Parentification Is a Problem

( Here is what maternal parentification looks like) 

“Help, my Mother won’t let go- Mom expects me to be her best friend, her emotional partner, closest ally, even sometimes her therapist. She wants to know everything that’s going on with me. I feel like I can’t make a move without her buy-in.

When I avoid her call, I know this hurts her feelings but what she doesn’t realize is this – “I am swamped with guilt,  I feel suffocated and resentful. Where did I sign on to be her emotional partner? I wish she would let me live my own life. “

As a psychotherapist for over 30 years, I see this more and more often…   

Daughters who just want the space to live their own lives without mom’s emotional clinging.

The reason for mom’s over-involvement range from full-blown personality disorder to differing cultural expectations. If mom is Narcissistic, Borderline or Addicted her attuned daughter may be trapped in the role of the good daughter.  She takes on an emotional burden that was never supposed to be hers.

How does this happen?

Sometimes mom is divorced and hasn’t successfully recoupled. Other times mom has checked out of her relationship with her husband and has a long-standing pattern of looking to her daughter for emotional support. Either way- When mothers look to their daughters to be their primary partner, instead of their partner or peer this interferes with their daughter’s emotional growth. This makes her daughter feel guilty for growing up and leaving home.

Looking to daughters for this level of closeness is called parentification and holds daughters back from living their lives. 

When mom has serious psychological difficulties, this difficult dynamic is put on steroids! Mom goes nuclear if she detects her daughter is pulling away. Using epic levels of guilt, the disturbed mother will stop at nothing to bring her daughter back into her realm of influence.

The unspoken rule is this- the daughter is responsible for mom’s emotional well-being. 

Letting go of your daughter will break your heart and is the most important gift you can give her. I should know.

Either way, these daughters end up feeling a debilitating guilt for their natural strivings for independence. If a mother is troubled and clingy and her daughter has taken on the role of good daughter, she is trapped inside of an unhealthy position… taking on making mom’s needs instead of making a healthy separation for herself. This is very unhealthy for her daughter.

To find out if you are in the role of the “good” daughter – go here.




Do you relate?
If so, here are some ways I can help on your journey from Good Daughter to Empowered Woman:

Do you have The Good Daughter Syndrome? Take the Quiz (It’s Free)

Read the first two chapters of The 4 Good Daughter Traps- Break Free of Your Difficult Mother and Take control of Your Life …for Free- Go here! 

Watch & Learn Video Course Practical Strategies for Dealing with a Narcissistic, Borderline, or Difficult Mother That Work Tips honed from working with daughters of difficult mothers for 30 years, as a psychotherapist.

What Kind of Good Daughter Are You? Conflicted? Independent? Obedient? Take this (Free) Quiz

Consult with Katherine- Private Coaching – When it’s time to tell your story.

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  1. Dawn Hopkins

    I’m in absolutely no doubt ….I am the good daughter…..I’m beginning to heal. But..my little sister is feeling the same, and even more difficult for her is she’s my mom’s primary care- giver., As I was for many years. I GOT AWAY! Continue to struggle with guilt..but I have the option of no contact. My sister doesn’t., And I feel a genuine sense of empathy for her and she knows this. So…it’s complicated. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge so women don’t feel so alone in this issue.

    • Katherine Fabrizio

      Thank you for writing. Let your sister know there are still things she can do to protect herself even in the light of feeling stuck. I can tell you feel for her despite having gotten away. I invite you to break free of the guilt- I know no small task, but at least let it into your consciousness. No one should be held hostage of another person’s demands no matter what the bloodline.
      My best to you,


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