[[quoteright:347:[[Webcomic/GirlsWithSlingshots http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/MaternallyChallenged_8043.jpg]]]]

-> ''"I don't know nothin' about birthin' babies!"''
-->-- '''Prissy''', ''GoneWithTheWind''

This is a not-so-rare subversion of women-as-maternal which occurs when a [[AlwaysFemale female character]], usually a successful career gal, is revealed to know little or nothing about taking care of a baby. This will almost always be revealed by a plot in which she is [[ChildrenRaiseYou forced to take care of a baby]], [[StatusQuoIsGod temporarily]] if it's in a {{series}}. If it's not in a series, the Maternally Challenged will probably be adopting the baby permanently. Often, other characters will just ''assume'' she knows what to do since she's a woman. But she doesn't and HilarityEnsues.

This is TruthInTelevision. Humans are one of the few mammal species who do not instinctively know how to care for their offspring. Partly because it's a lot more complicated for us, what with the time they take to grow, but mostly because we are social animals that learn child care from our elders instead of having instinctive reactions. The former has the advantage of more flexible behavior that can quickly adapt to new situations while the latter does, of course, not require any parent or social group and no learning effort, which saves the animal time and resources. Compare to RaisedByDudes, which is a rough male equivalent. Subtrope of ParentsAsPeople.


* [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzNH9FkuF4Q This advertisement]] for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz featured a woman complaining to her son that he's boring and never discusses interesting things like world affairs or culture. Her son is a toddler, so he pretty much ignores her.

[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* In the ''Anime/TenchiMuyo'' episode "Hello, Baby", none of the girls in the Masaki household has a clue how to look after a baby - until Washu decides to take charge. [[spoiler:Namely because she's done this before.]]
* ''Anime/OjamajoDoremi Sharp'' - how the hell would a kid know how to take care of a newborn (thankfully, the parents did help out a bit with this starting out)? Momoko went through some of the same trouble in ''Motto'', and moreso because the other girls were now pretty experienced at this.
* One of the many comedy tropes that ends up being completely not funny in ''Anime/NeonGenesisEvangelion'' is Misato's utter inability to serve as a maternal figure. She would be a passable or even effective [[CoolBigSis Older Sister Surrogate]] if it weren't for the implied sexual tension between her and Shinji.
* [[TheWomanWearingTheQueenlyMask Given her background]] and [[TheOphelia her current state]], post-Eclipse Casca from ''{{Manga/Berserk}}'' actually averts this trope, as she is seen to take care of the mysterious moonchild [[spoiler:implied to be her own child]] very well. Her lover, Guts, [[RaisedByDudes on the other hand...]]

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* PlayedForDrama in ''ComicBook/{{Persepolis}}'': the narrator/lead character Marjane mentions how in a time of crisis, her neighbour handed her her baby and ran off, and since then she has always been very sceptical towards the concept of 'maternal instinct'.

[[folder: Film ]]

* Diane Keaton's character in the 1987 film ''Film/BabyBoom''.
* In ''Film/ThreeMenAndABaby'' (released the same year, oddly enough), one of the men asked a girlfriend for advice on taking care of the baby, expecting that she would know what to do. She didn't.
* The eponymous character in ''Film/{{Enid}}'', a biography on the life of Enid Blyton. When her baby starts crying she just stares at it, completely ignorant of what to do. In the end, she picks up the dog.
* In ''Film/RidingInCarsWithBoys'' the teenage protagonist has endless trouble taking care of her new baby. She keeps getting told her maternal instinct will kick in, but she struggles every step of the way.
* In ''Film/{{Maleficent}}'' all women except the queen show signs of this. Justified in the three fairy "aunts" in that they don't know much about human children (they may be competent at raising fairy children), and Maleficent just hates the "Beastie" with a passion ... or at least pretends to do. She is good at keeping Aurora alive, though. The only one who cares about Aurora and openly shows affection is Diaval, who is a shapeshifted ''raven''.

[[folder:Fan Works]]
* In ''Literature/{{Discworld}}'' fic ''[[https://www.fanfiction.net/s/11536013/11/Hyperemesis-gravidarum Hyperemesis Gravidarum]]'', Miss Alice Band freely states she has the maternal instincts of a concussed housefly. However, confronted with several pregnant colleagues....
-->"Babies." said Alice. "Who, without prejudicing my reputation as a flinty-hearted lethally murderous stone-cold bitch, I'd quite like to see. You know, out of interest. As long as ''other people'' have them. Did I tell you I've already had one offer to be a godsmother?"
-->Vimes started. Alice Band as a godsparent? Well, she'd be one mean Mother, Gods help the child.

* In ''Literature/ABrothersPrice'' women are not expected to care for babies, so Captain Tern's attitude (she left home because her baby sisters annoyed her so much) is considered unremarkable. Balin Brindle's lack of competence around small children, however, is considered highly unusual, and a reason to ''not'' marry him.
* Happened to Alanna in the fourth ''Literature/SongOfTheLioness'' book when she wound up protecting some clergy and orphans. It's her man-at-arms ''Coram'' who has to teach her how to hold a baby and deal with diapers, since he cared for her and her brother as infants. Presumably the experience helped her when she had three kids of her own.
* Mentioned in the ''{{Anime/Robotech}}'' ExpandedUniverse novelizations. One of the chapter quotes mentions that Max Sterling had taken over the familial and maternal roles, since his wife was from a race of ArtificialHumans with no concept of childbirth or childcare. When a visitor asked if she could hold the baby, Miriya threw him at her. The latter actually happens in ''Anime/SuperDimensionFortressMacross''[=/=]''Anime/{{Robotech}}'', where Miriya cheerfully lobs her newborn daughter to Misa[=/=]Lisa - while Max looks on, smiling.
* In one of the ''Literature/SammyKeyes'' books, when Sammy is handed a shopping bag with a baby in it by a terrified teen, she has a horrible time trying to care for the baby until she can hand him over to the police the next morning.


[[folder: Live Action TV ]]

* Unsurprisingly, the title character of ''Series/{{Bones}}'' is discovered to be Maternally Challenged in the episode "The Baby in the Bough". She got better at it by the end of the episode.
* One of the early episodes of ''Series/{{Friends}}'' had Rachel not even knowing how to hold her boyfriend's baby son. A ''much'' later episode had her not knowing what a bassinet is, ''at her own baby shower''.
* An episode of ''Series/HowIMetYourMother'' focused on this with Robin and Marshall and Lily's son Marvin. She's managed to avoid holding Marvin for eight months, and when Lily has to leave to get his binkie, Robin panics, first letting an old woman pick up Marvin to calm him down, then accidentally letting Marvin's stroller roll into the street, then letting the old woman take her and Marvin to a nearby strip club for warmth, and finally leaving Marvin alone with the old woman (who was, by this time, revealed to be Mike Tyson - yes, that Mike Tyson) in the strip club. Lily is more angry at the fact that Robin hid the fact that Mike Tyson held Marvin as a baby from her than the fact that she left Marvin alone in a strip club with Mike Tyson.
* Nadira, the BigBad's daughter in ''Series/PowerRangersTimeForce''. The handle of a parting was handled to her by the Green Ranger, and seeing the baby was what started her HeelFaceTurn. She later tries to protect a baby (maybe the same one, not sure) through the final battle between the Rangers and her dad, and seeing her almost getting hurt leads to the ''BigBad's'' redemption.
* Christina on ''Series/PrisonBreak'' lampshades this and seems quite resentful about it--much more so about Lincoln [[spoiler: who was adopted]] than about Michael.
* A more serious version occurred in an episode of ''Series/TerminatorTheSarahConnorChronicles'', where the titular character was told by a boy she'd had to protect that she kind of sucks at being a mom. She acknowledges it in a "Workin' on it" sort of way.
* ''Series/MurphyBrown'', full stop. She eventually settles into the role, but not without embellishing it with her own unique twists first.
* ''Series/GreysAnatomy'' plays with this one a lot.
** Mostly with Cristina. She was put in charge of a ten year-old daughter of a patient and despite her disinterest and missteps she does form a bond with the girl.
** Alex subverts this trope by being the best with kids out of the fab five despite earlier protests that he wasn't and his {{Jerkass}} personality. He eventually becomes a pediatric surgeon, so this skill comes in handy.
* Predictably, ActionGirl Aeryn in ''Series/{{Farscape}}'' expects she will fulfill this trope when her child is born. She later learns to love motherhood.
--> '''D'Argo''': You never struck me as the type who would want children. (Aeryn shoots him a significant look.) You either, huh?
-->'''Aeryn''': He wants it so badly. So I do.
-->'''D'Argo''': You'll come around when you see the little guy in person.
-->'''Aeryn''': I hope so.
* ''Series/LawAndOrderSVU'':
** One episode featuring Dani Beck, she develops a bond with a little girl who had been abused by her foster parents and takes her back to her apartment as a temporary living arrangement at the request of the girl. Unfortunately, this doesn't end as well as many of the other examples of this trope when the girl in question thanks Beck for her hospitality by ''attempting to torch Detective Beck's apartment so that they would be eternally together after they die in the resulting fire.'' Beck transfers out of the SVU the next morning, never to return.
** Olivia becomes the legal guardian of a young boy whose drug-addict mother abused him and was declared to be an unfit mother. This example goes much better than the Beck example as the boy Calvin is very appreciative of Olivia's efforts despite the fact she has admitted a few times throughout the series that she wouldn't make a good mother due to a number of reasons, the most frequently cited one being her job (hours, stress, etc.). The arc still ends in a bittersweet way, with Calvin being forcibly taken back to his birth mother. The final scene of the episode consists of Calvin repeatedly screaming Olivia's name as he's dragged away, with Olivia standing there, visibly upset and unable to do anything (the birth mother got an order against her).
* Miss Parker in the ''Series/ThePretender'' is initially shown to be this while babysitting Broots' daughter. She figures things out though.
* One episode of ''Series/{{Charmed}}'' had Piper upset that her husband and sisters seemed better at taking care of her son, Wyatt, than she was; for example, they could tell what he wanted by variations of his cries while she was always left confused. Surprisingly, she managed to fix this when the VillainOfTheWeek inflicted her with TemporaryBlindness.
** An earlier episode had Prue admit that she didn't want to ever have kids, only to be subsequently taken by criminals who are also holding a magically-powered teenager to help them with crimes. She manages to help him escape and ends the episode admitting she might want kids one day...[[KilledOffForReal though of course, she never does]].
* On ''Series/LivingSingle,'' Regina dates a single father and spends a day with his daughter. At first it goes well, with the two having a shopping spree, but Regina lets the little girl eat a whole cake and then is completely flustered when she's up all night sick. She admits this to her boyfriend, but he notes that at this early point in their relationship it's not a huge deal if she's a less-than-perfect mother figure, and they keep dating ([[GuyOfTheWeek not that we see that]]).
* Happens to Earl and Joy in ''Series/MyNameIsEarl'' with Dodge. Justified, though, as Dodge had [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baby_colic colic]]. Later episodes occasionally show Joy still in this trope. Earl is a little more ambiguous, because [[{{Jerkass}} Joy]] tricked him into signing away not only the trailer-home they once shared, but custody of the kids, when she divorced him.

[[folder:Visual Novels]]
* Rosa, from ''VisualNovel/UminekoWhenTheyCry'' will always be [[MemeticMutation BEST MOM EVER]], including [[spoiler:making her own kid willing to kill her horribly]] in one arc, though that's implied to be AllJustADream.

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* Danny in ''OtherPeoplesBusiness'' provides a rare instance in which this trope isn't played for laughs. Danny actually is a biological mother, but a great deal of her personal angst comes from the fact that she despised even the word "Mommy" and felt no connection at all to the role. She admits in a later comic that she's glad she lost custody of her son to his father and step-mom. She still maintains a strained relationship with her son (during her bouts of sobriety), but she doesn't seem to mind one bit that he calls his stepmother "Mommy."
* Persephone in ''Webcomic/DestroyerOfLight'' considers herself to be this, and therefore opts for an abortion when she gets pregnant.
* [=PeeJee=] and Aubrey in ''Webcomic/SomethingPositive''. Before they marry, Aubrey's husband says "My mother's buying me a vasectomy for a wedding present." Even more explicitly, [=PeeJee=] says at one point "I'm not carrying a parasite for nine months for any man." Oddly enough, they [[http://www.somethingpositive.net/sp09032009.shtml adopted a baby later]], and [[LampshadeHanging lampshade]] that they have no idea what they're doing, and spend most of the time talking about their new daughter's freakishly large hands. Later on, [[http://www.somethingpositive.net/sp03172009.shtml this]] FlashForward's pretty hard to beat... so far. Still, at least we know the kid's going to survive to 17.
* Zoe of ''Webcomic/VenusEnvy'' is press-ganged into baby-sitting her neighbor's infant son. After the experience, she expresses some relief that the hormone treatments she takes to transition from male to female have probably made her sterile anyway.
* ''Webcomic/{{Drowtales}}'': This seems to run in the Sarghress family and is PlayedForDrama, having very real effects on the lives of the characters involved.
** The matriarch, Quain'tana, is a warlord [[http://www.drowtales.com/archiveContest2009.php?id=36 who grew up on the streets]] and may not have ever known what proper parenting looks like, and as a result treats her children like tools at best and trash at worst.
** Her daughter Mel'arnach, who probably has the strongest maternal instinct of Quain's potential heirs, is in prison and has a horrible relationship with her mother to the point of actual death threats.
** [[http://www.drowtales.com/mainarchive.php?id=63 Syphile, who is completely unqualified, is forced to care for Ariel since the latter was an infant]]. Syphile ends up calling her out on this, telling Quain'tania just how poisonous of a mother she is, right before Quain' ''[[spoiler: kills her]]''
* Both of the leads from ''Moon Over June'' have an uphill battle to prove they are the reincarnation of June Cleaver; however self-described "single, perverted, promiscuous porn star" Hatsuki at least has admitted concern over her fitness to raise the child she just bore. Her [=OB/GYN=] roomie Summer (whose water broke just before she could sew up Hatsuki's c-section)?
-->'''Summer''': *sigh*
-->'''Hatsuki''': Let me guess, you're sad because you ''don't'' have and postpartum depression.
-->'''Summer''': I was so looking forward to it! Then, bam! Nothing but happiness! Talk about a real downer!

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* ''WesternAnimation/{{King of the Hill}}'':
** Luann knew absolutely nothing about baby care in the episode where she gave birth, due to [[KnowNothingKnowItAll all her information being from Peggy]] and thus severely outdated and dangerous as a result. When Luanne and Lucky practice parenting on Bobby they make him so confused and exasperated (they literally give him mixed messages, one after another) he proclaims them to be completely useless at it.
** Cotton's wife Didi, who often appears to have difficulty taking care of G.H. to the point that she occasionally forgets where he is. Unlike Luann and Lucky though, it ''really'' isn't funny for two reasons. One, Didi is stuck between Cotton's sexist and rather psychotic demands and taking care of a screaming baby, which at times seems to be driving her mad. And second, since Cotton is a possibly-homicidal jackass, G.H. would have no hope for a good parent if Didi isn't up for it. She had post-partum depression, and wasn't all together in the head to begin with.
* In an episode of ''WesternAnimation/JohnnyTest'', the twin geniuses, Susan and Mary, turn themselves into babies so that their boy crush, Gil, can take care of them, much to their brother's annoyance (since it ruins his plans to have fun). It doesn't take long for Johnny to find out that Gil is, in fact, a horrible babysitter who, while good intentioned, knows absolutely nothing about caring for babies and often threatens Susan and Mary's lives. Johnny steps in and suprisingly proves to be a far better caretaker for his sisters and being a good brother. He did have help from Dukey (the uplifted Dog) to help, though with the advantage in numbers.
* The Uxorite species from ''WesternAnimation/{{Ben 10}}'' as a whole have this. Once the egg is hatched the newborn is left to fend entirely for itself. They are actually confused by a parents' attachment to their children in other species.
* ''WesternAnimation/StevenUniverse'': The series revolves around the [[MagicalGirlWarrior Crystal Gems]] raising the teenage son of their former leader. Although they [[ParentsAsPeople usually]] do a good job, "Steven's Birthday" has him revert to a baby, and his father Greg has to take over because they have no idea how to take care of him. This is pretty {{Justified}}, since they're [[NoBiologicalSex asexual]] aliens who are all BornAsAnAdult. Their inability to understand babies (and ''especially'' Steven given he's a hybrid) is best shown in a flashback episode where they visited a baby Steven to bring him presents. Their gifts were a razor blade (He'll need it in the future), adult diapers (expecting him to shape-shift into them), and a dictionary (so he can learn how to talk).

* Cynthia Frady from the original ''WebVideo/MaddisonAtkins''.
* This is subverted with Cheshire from ''TeenTitans'' and ''ComicBook/SecretSix''. There have been moments where she's seen as somewhat loving and nurturing towards her daughter Lian, but it's blatantly implied that Jade has no actual love for either of her children beyond simply using them to keep their dads under her control when the situation calls for it. So it's more that she knows when to ''pretend'' to not be maternally challenged.
** It's probably better to say that Cheshire's maternal feelings are DependingOnTheWriter--some making Lian her MoralityPet, others consider her too evil to have any sort of loving relationship.
** Subverted as far as we can tell in her ''WesternAnimation/YoungJustice'' counterpart. She does genuinely care for her daughter and goes to confront the father to help get him up to code about it.