Mariah Carey’s ‘Painful’ Relationship With Her Mother Patricia Carey

Elif Ozden

Mariah Carey has made countless headlines with her musical talent. Yet, it’s the complex dynamics of her personal life that often capture public attention as well. Among those aspects, her strained relationship with her mother, Patricia Carey, has continuously been at the forefront of public discourse.

Who is Patricia Carey?


Patricia is an opera singer and vocal coach. Her love for music derived from listening to a classical music station on the radio where she heard an ‘aria.’ Afterward, she moved to New York City and won a scholarship to the ‘Juilliard School for Music.’

In 1977, Patricia recorded the album ‘To Start Again,’ which featured 13 tracks.


She met Mariah’s father, Alfred Carey, in the late fifties. They got married on February 20, 1960, in Brooklyn, New York City. Patricia and Alfred endured much racism throughout their marriage, including being shot at their home and their pets being poisoned.

Patricia was reportedly ‘disowned’ by her mother, Elizabeth Hickey, due to her relationship with Alfred. Due to concerns following the opposition to their union by neighbors, the couple moved several times. Their daughter Mariah was born in 1970, the same year they moved to a more prosperous neighborhood in New York.

The family continued to face racial intolerance, which led to Alfred and Patricia’s divorce when Mariah was three years old in 1973.

What Happened Between Mariah and Patricia?


Thanks to her family background, Mariah was exposed to the world of music from an early age. This was a world that would become her lifeline and, later, a platform for expressing her tumultuous relationship with Patricia.

After the divorce, Mariah lived with her mother, and her siblings stayed with their dad. Their mother-daughter relationship has been described as ‘painful’ by Mariah herself:

“Jealousy comes with the territory when you are famous. But when it comes from your own mother, it is very painful.”

Mariah has spoken publicly about the pressure and high expectations her mother had for her, particularly when it came to her musical talent. These expectations were both a driving force and a source of strain in their relationship.


The artist describes her relationship with Patricia as a story of betrayal and beauty, love and abandonment, sacrifice and survival:

“Ours is a story of betrayal and beauty. Of love and abandonment. Of sacrifice and survival. I’ve emancipated myself from bondage several times. Still, there is a cloud of sadness that I suspect will always hang over me, not simply because of my mother but because of our complicated journey together.”

Despite the strain, Patricia played an instrumental role in Mariah’s early music career. It was Patricia who first noticed Mariah’s vocal abilities and encouraged her to pursue a career in music. Yet, this encouragement was often tempered with strict discipline and what Mariah has described as an overwhelming pressure to succeed.

Patricia once told the following to Mariah, which deeply affected Mariah:

“You should only hope that you become half the singer I am.”


While Mariah’s professional success skyrocketed, her personal relationship with her mother remained a challenging aspect of her life.

Her 2020 memoir, ‘The Meaning of Mariah Carey,’ offered fans a deeper insight into this difficult dynamic. The book details several painful instances showing the turbulent nature of their relationship, from intense arguments over Mariah’s career choices to Patricia’s alleged indiscretions regarding Mariah’s personal life.

As reported by People, her memoir also recounts the time Mariah nearly drowned at the beach at 7 years old, and Patricia didn’t notice despite her crying.

Mariah admits to a distinct shift in their relationship, stating that Patricia made her feel like the competition. She states that her mother’s jealousy hurt her, and she had to create boundaries with Patricia.

Is Mariah Now on Good Terms with Patricia?


To work through her past trauma, Mariah sought therapy, which helped her to reframe her relationship with her mother:

“For my sanity and peace of mind, my therapist encouraged me to literally rename and reframe my family. My mother became Pat to me, Morgan my ex-brother, and Alison my ex-sister … I had to stop making myself available to be hurt by them. It has been helpful.”

She also believes that Patricia’s tumultuous relationship with her own mother influenced her dynamic with her:

“That was an abomination. It was the ultimate humiliation. My mother’s marriage to my father was beyond betrayal to her mother; it was a high crime against her white heritage, punishable by ex-communication. In my grandmother’s view, my mother loving my father made her a bottom-feeder, procreating with the lowest human group and making mulatto mongrels — me and my siblings [Morgan and Alison].”

Despite the strained relationship, it’s important to note that Mariah has spoken about moments of love and compassion shared with her mother.


In 2010, Mariah and Patricia collaborated on a holiday classic song called ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ for Mariah’s ‘Merry Christmas II You’ holiday album. The mother and daughter performed the song live during a Christmas special that aired on December 13, 2010, on ABC.

So, Mariah’s relationship with Patricia might be deemed ‘painful,’ but it’s also a critical part of the pop icon’s story.

Below, you can watch Mariah performing ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ with her mother, Patricia.

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