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On Inadequacy

May 30, 2013

Not a single day has passed since I became a mother that I have not, in one way or another, felt completely inadequate. Something about taking on the wonderful blessing and responsibility of parenting a child has highlighted for me all the ways in which I fall short on a daily basis. Not just as a mother but as a partner, a friend, a neighbor, a writer, a teacher…  images

I wouldn’t say that I was unaware of my inadequacies before I had a child, only that having a child really makes them very obvious and unavoidable. There is this sense that the stakes have never been higher – and they haven’t – so I better not fuck it up. I’m no longer a kid; I’m someone’s mother. I am the standard by which the whole world will be judged until my kid reaches the age where he realizes I’m actually just another person doing my best and that most, if not all, of what I’ve taught him can be taken or left as he sees fit. Some days, I long for him to reach that age, even as I fear his assessment of me as Mother.

Most days, though, I struggle to, if not embrace, at least sit with these feelings and make sure that I never veer into the territory of false humility. We all know the folks who put on a good show of being humble in hopes of camouflaging what are actually excuses for not trying. The trick with motherhood is to strike that delicate balance between not being too hard on yourself while being fully committed to improvement.

One of my greatest strengths as a human is that I know that I am just that:  human. I am not a unique and beautiful snowflake and as such my experiences on planet earth cannot be mine alone. Thinking that you are the only one who has ever felt or experienced something is very isolating and entirely unhelpful. Perhaps due to my tendency to share my feelings and deepest thoughts with friends and strangers alike, I’ve been made aware over and over again how completely un-unique my experiences are as a mother.

Those of us who are committed to seeing what is rather than what we would like to see will readily admit that motherhood, while exhilarating and miraculous and rewarding, is not unlike getting punched in the face over and over and over and over again. It’s painful and shocking and requires the ability to quickly get back on your feet and brace yourself for the next round.

Some days I pop right back up. Other days, I’m lying there on the mat, hearing the count in my head, face to face with all the other mothers who, like me, are bloodied and bruised and exhausted and digging deep to find the strength to stand back up. And then we do. We stand up, we smile, we breathe, and we tell ourselves it’s all worth it. We’re not perfect, but we’re adequate, and we refuse to let the  ‘perfect be the enemy of the good’.

Because it is all worth it, right? Riiiiiiiiiight???

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