Synonyms for “inadequacy,” according to the Thesaurus, include the following:
incompetence, incapability, unfitness, ineffectiveness, inefficiency, inefficacy, inexpertness, ineptness, uselessness, impotence, powerlessness, inferiority, and mediocrity.
Yes, that pretty much sums up how I felt when I held my first-born daughter, Allison, in my arms for the first time… and I felt little better when I held my second child, Jason, three years later. I certainly felt incompetent, incapable, unfit, ineffective, and inefficient. Even after three years, I was still inexpert. How did I cope? My own mother swooped in both times to save the day… or, rather, the first 14 days.
And I was grateful, oh so grateful.
But it also tended to confirm my feelings of inferiority and mediocrity. I imagine most, if not all, new mothers share these same feelings. After all, no life experience fully prepares you for motherhood. We all enter into it naive, bumbling, and full of fears. Even now, more than eighteen years later, I feel inadequate as a mother. The challenges have changed as the children have grown, but almost every day, in some small way, I am reminded of my insufficiencies.
Particularly on Mother’s Day. I will go to Church today and listen to the speakers laud their mothers who, like mine, were perfect in every way… loving, nurturing, encouraging, and forgiving homemakers who made our family life a bit of “heaven on earth.” (Now, I know not all children view their mothers that way… a neighbor across the street back in California vowed she “would be a good mother,” unlike her own; but you never hear of those kinds of mothers on Mother’s Day.) And I will come away feeling, again, inadequate.
I am no homemaker. I was never so inclined and, at this late stage, do not feel sufficiently motivated to master such skills. Besides, I was fortunate enough to marry a man who enjoys cooking and cleaning.
My so-called maternal instincts seem set on the back burner… unless my child is hurt and needs protection. Then I rear up like a mother bear, ready to pounce on the offender. But, for the most part, I seem to take too much after my dad: focused inward; always thinking about the world and analyzing its problems; shy about imposing myself on others; happy in my cocoon of self-isolation.
Why can’t I be more like my mother? She would love the whole world if she had time and money enough to travel. Her first instinct is to nourish. As soon as someone crosses their threshold, she asks, “Can I get you anything? Are you hungry or thirsty?” And she continues to amaze me in the kitchen. After all these years, she’s still experimenting with new tastes, spices, etc. More than anything, she gave me the room to grow into the person I am today, and the confidence I would need to be content with myself…
Except on Mother’s Day.
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