Posted by: Jivani Lisa | March 6, 2012

Mothers Inferior

Most of my friends and family know I didn’t have a good relationship with my mother.  She was a woman I could never please.  She was physically and emotionally abusive to me.  She had no idea how to relate to children or how to let a child be a child.  I grew up feeling unloved, neglected and misunderstood.  I used to break out in huge, mysterious hives all over my body.  The pediatrician found no cause for the hives (such as allergies) – so he said they were caused by anxiety.  My mother laughed in derision:  “Anxiety?  She’s a child!  How can she have anxiety?”

To my great surprise, the mother superior at the hermitage turned out to be another version of my mother.  She treated me in the same sorts of ways.  She played mind games.  I could never please her.  One day she would praise me for my initiative in accomplishing tasks, and the next day she’d call me lazy.  While in that place (for seven months), I broke out in hives for the first time in thirty years.  It was like being in my childhood home all over again.

My experiences with mothers inspired the following poem (the form is called a Pantoum):


Mothers Inferior


I perched on the edge of my bed.

Fear of you made my heart beat fast.

For endless years, friends have said:

“Inhale the present, exhale the past.”


Fear of you made my heart beat fast —

But mothers are s’posed to give love.

(Inhale the present, exhale the past.)

My heart longs for treasures above.


Yes, mothers are s’posed to give love —

Monastic mothers as well, I say.

My heart longed for treasures above —

But I found endless hell each day.


Monastic mothers repel, I say.

Your pride and power infused fear.

All I found was endless hell each day —

My prayer in vain, no one to hear.


Oh, every mother betrays me!

For endless years, friends have said:

“Exhale the past, learn to just be.”

I kneel at the edge of my bed.


  1. I love your wonderful. poignant, and powerful poem “Mothers Inferior.” So many can relate to your words! So glad you posted it here. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks, Jeanette!

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