Whole Parenting Family

When You’re an Inadequate Mother

whole parenting

Are you wondering if your parenting is inadequate? Well, I hate to be the one to tell you, but it is. You’re an inadequate mother.

And I am too!! Nothing brings this realization closer than spending 12 hours with three children under the age of five. I know these are both the easiest and the hardest years of parenting, so I’m cool without the reminder that they will grow up so fast and just wait til she’s a teen. I also know that I only have three irrational kids so my friends with more–I’m on easy street. Let’s throw in that I’m not currently pregnant and therefore not throwing up everywhere all the day long.

In an ideal world: we would all have a nice sleep, awaken refreshed, I would lovingly awaken and dress my children, and enjoy our breakfast in peace and harmony before commencing homeschool preschool.

Back to reality:

It was an agonizingly long morning pre-breakfast involving SuperBoy jumping into our bed forty-five seconds after his dad had bolted out the back door: so 6:30:45::: and me threatening, bribing, stage-whisper yelling at him to keep away from the sleeping BabyLoves who had casually sprawled his twenty pound 3 foot long 8 month old baby body all over the bed because that stinker had just gone back to sleep, complete with a 7:00am SweetPea shimmying her way in the door frame, past the gate that’s wedged there to keep our waring cats from each other’s furry neck holds, remarking loudly, I MADE A STINKY POOPY! and then you know what happens next.

Fast forward to the bathroom and fights over putting coconut oil on their tired winter epidermis, scuffles over who is going to use the toilet first and who is going to get which toothpaste first, and me lugging around Gorilla baby because he makes love eyes at the <<dirty>> toilet and wants to get all the bacteria in the world inside his mouth.

Side step to the bedrooms and disputes over outfits and mandatory laying down of the law all over the irascible two year, 9 month year old flip-flop brain. YOU ARE WEARING THE FIRST OUTFIT YOU PICKED OUT SO help me, God. BabyLoves is eating paper scraps from a newspaper cutting you did with your dada last night of nun pictures to tape up in your closet cloister. He may also be precariously scaling your big-girl twin sized bed whilst mama is helping you make the right choice about covering said epidermis.

SuperBoy next door in his room has pulled out five tees, a fistful of undies, two pants, and a rambling assortment of mis-color-matched socks, same style, Target Boutique, and carefully laid them on his persian rug somberly. His coach, coach of the Minnesota Twins, has instructed the players as to the picking out of their shirt. Or the voices in his head have done so. <<you tell me>> He agonizes over each one before a careful correct decision. No sense in shouting OATMEAL IS MADE because until that coach has given has given the green light, that boy is stuck naked in his bedroom.


Too long, sorry, all before breakfast. And I’m in my nursing bra & bathrobe wishing I could dart back up stairs to get something on that qualifies as “dressed for the day clothing” but that’s not likely to happen til I nurse the baby down for his morning nap.

I’m inadequate because I cannot get everyone dressed, cleaned up, and breakfast cleaned up on a regular basis. Either they’re in jammies mid-morn or I am. Either the kitchen shows signs of toast with honey & cinnamon, oatmeal clumps on the counter in front of the baby’s seat, strawberry banana smoothie dribbles in front of his spot, and hers, the remnants of a yokey egg and too much left over oatmeal, or the beds are a shambled memory from last night’s busy kicking dreams.

In my mind palace, a la Sherlock, my home is clean and my day orderly. But this is a standard I fail to reach daily.

My friends who work, I know you feel it too. Nothing is ever completely and wholly paid attention to the way you want it. No one gets all of you. And even as an at-home mama, it’s the same for me.

I feel inadequate and yet, this is okay. This is where I am.

I won’t always be this disheveled or out of breath. I won’t always be wiping multiple bottoms and dressing baby escapee fingers & toes. I won’t always be darting from here to there in my own house, only to slump to catch that breath and sit back and see three beautiful children playing happily for one single moment in time.

They’re alive. They’re here. I’m just fine.

whole parenting


  1. Amanda on January 13, 2015 at 11:17 pm

    Solidarity, sweet friend. And I have one less bottom to clean. 😉 Our mornings sound very in sync.

    • Natural Mama Nell on January 14, 2015 at 1:33 pm

      Hahahah! Love that you’re here and I’m not alone on crazy train!

  2. Erin on January 14, 2015 at 12:13 am

    Nell, my mum always puts things, me stressing, worrying etc in perspective when she says “Will this really matter the day they are walking down the aisle?” and it works. and hugs. Personally I found 3 kids under 4 the hardest years of my parenting{{}} might have a lot more kids, might span a lot more years but those earliest years were HARD!!!!!

    • Natural Mama Nell on January 14, 2015 at 1:32 pm

      So beautiful! What a great perspective. Your mum rocks!

  3. Amy @ Motherhood and Miscellany on January 14, 2015 at 8:55 am

    Wow. I just realized that I’ve kind of passed that phase now 🙁 or :), I’m not sure. I once had three under four, and now I only have one bottom to wipe, and I still can’t keep my house clean half (most) of the time. I blame homeschooling, which I’m fully inadequate at. I’m with you mama 🙂

    • Natural Mama Nell on January 14, 2015 at 1:31 pm

      And it is okay to be inadequate because we are simply trying our hardest!

  4. Kelly Meagher on January 14, 2015 at 9:31 am

    Loved this, Nell. So, so true. And here I sit letting my pajama clothed kids watch Sesame Street while I sit and read blogs with messy morning hair. But my coffee is SOOOOOO good this morning!

    • Natural Mama Nell on January 14, 2015 at 1:30 pm

      Gotta love the morning hair!!

  5. Tori on January 14, 2015 at 10:20 am

    Haha, my house is perfect in my mind palace, too. But in reality there are orange peels all over the dining room floor, and sticky peanut butter faces all around.

    • Natural Mama Nell on January 14, 2015 at 1:30 pm

      Always the sticky. The mind palace is stick-free!!

  6. Christy on January 14, 2015 at 10:28 am

    Hey, it’s my life! I’m still in pajamas at lunch time if we’re just home doing school. And I’m still never really eating breakfast, and I’ve been a mom for 7 years and it just feels as if I can’t get a handle on everything! It’s a conundrum for sure. But I’m with ya!

    • Natural Mama Nell on January 14, 2015 at 1:29 pm

      Do we just embrace the new norm? Does a handle ever come??

  7. Mandi Richards on January 14, 2015 at 10:32 am

    Nell, I hope you feel like you don’t always have to compare yourself to women with bigger (or smaller) families:

    “I also know that I only have three irrational kids so my friends with more–I’m on easy street.”

    Every family is different, every mom can handle different things. I have one child (not “only” one child) and there are some ways that it’s easier and some ways it’s harder than having more. There is no number that is “easy” and no number that is “hard”. I think comparisons are never really helpful, and it can be defeating to be struggling when by comparison you think it should be “easy”. If it is hard to you, it’s ok for you to acknowledge it without a caveat!

    • Natural Mama Nell on January 14, 2015 at 6:58 pm

      I meant that my life would be more complicated if I had 4 kids under 5 instead of 3. I’m not comparing; I’m merely discussing where I am in my own feelings of wishing I could be more on top of things but embracing that I can’t and coming to peace with it.

      • Mandi Richards on January 14, 2015 at 10:00 pm

        Oops, sorry I misunderstood you then! It just makes me sad when I hear a mom (and it happens so often in blogs) who can never say “this is hard” without saying “but I know I shouldn’t say anything because so many other people have it harder.” We should all be able to honor our own feelings and experiences.

  8. Ashley on January 14, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    I used (and still do occasionally) let myself get worked up over my inability to get dressed or showered or getup at 500 am so I could get a jumpstart on my list but I finally realized, thanks to my husband, that it’s not what I can do right now. I think God gave me these four little ones to slow me down, it help me realize that there beautiful pitstops to be had on my journey. Otherwise, I would allow myself to miss all the beauty.

    Thank you for your encouraging post. I hope your day goes well.

    • Natural Mama Nell on January 14, 2015 at 1:28 pm

      Beautiful pitstops. I love that!

  9. […] so inspired by her gentle words and encouragement to make peace where we are in our journey. In the post, she talks about her mind palace which led me to thinking about the mansions of the Interior Castle […]

  10. Hafsa on January 22, 2015 at 11:23 am

    This is just what I needed to read this morning as my kids are all sick and we’re on day 4 of watching cartoons on Netflix streaming.

    • Natural Mama Nell on January 23, 2015 at 8:04 pm

      So sorry about sickness!! We are battling it too!