Imposter Syndrome

I have recently read Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean In’, where she explains Imposter Syndrome in terms of professional women not feeling that they are actually qualified for their role and being worried that someone will find out.Lean In

I could certainly relate this to motherhood, too. There’s a lot of pressure to put on a brave face, or to show how much effort you’re putting in to raising your own kids. So what if someone finds out that you’re not doing what you think you should be capable of? That your house is a complete mess and you don’t actually care. That the kids have sat in front of the telly most of the day because you can’t face getting out more arts and crafts that they only spend 5 minutes using. Or that you had your own temper tantrum because you couldn’t find the freaking nappy wipes, a pair of matching socks, the kids don’t know where their expensive new sandals are, and you just needed to get out of the house on time today.

I try to be honest about my struggle with motherhood – I’m open about my PND, sleep-deprivation and not being able to find a balance with work and family. Yet, I still have friends who are surprised when I am able to empathise with their own struggles – as if they thought I was impervious to self-doubt, guilt, and emotional breakdowns. They think I cope well, manage beautifully-behaved children (ha!) and have life well and truly under control.

And that’s without even trying to put on a brave face!

Tired mum

← Actually, this is more like my brave face.

I guess what I’m saying is that we should probably worry less about how we seem to be coping compared to others,  and whether we’re doing a good enough job compared to everyone else, and more about reassuring each other that it’s okay to feel shitty about being a mum occasionally. Don’t let the inflammatory headlines tell you you’re doing something bad by misquoting some pseudo-scientific “research” on the latest parenting technique. 

As long as we care about what we’re doing as parents, we’re not imposters. Unconditionally loving our kids automatically qualifies us for the role.

My love for little cars – Part 1

My first car was a 550cc Suzuki Hatch. I loved it.

I wish I’d had a yellow one, but mine was silver.
They usually came in the fashionable colours of white, silver and brown.

Waaay back in 1996 I got a $2000 student loan which my parents convinced me to use for buying a car, when I really wanted a motorbike. Which was just as well, really, because the only reason the uni approved my student loan was because I said I needed a car to cart props and costumes around as part of my performing arts course – which is a bit hard to do (and justify) with a motorbike. Plus I was studying in Ballarat, which ≠ good motorcycling weather.

Uki (I couldn’t call her Suz, because my mum’s name is Sue, and that just seemed weird) helped me move house 6 times, bump-in countless theatre shows when I was a busy but poor stage manager, and kept my relationship with MLM going when he remained in Ballarat for 2 years while I moved to Melbourne.

We often squeezed up to 5 full-sized adults into Uki (and by ‘adults’ I mean uni students, so I’m talking in a physical sense and not necessarily mental). I could look in my rearview mirror and see 3 pairs of knees squished on either side of 3 woolly beanied heads.

Pict0020

Uki even participated in our wedding – she delivered the groomsmen in style…cramped style.

Yes, Uki struggled up the hills, but boy she picked up speed going down them – occasionally even up to the speed limit. The trips between Ballarat and Melbourne on the Western Highway were hairy – lots of hills and lots of heavy trucks. I learned how to slipstream and became familiar with the perfect spots to pass, or get out of the way of, trucks.

Uki broke down at times – I was a student who couldn’t afford regular maintenance. She was pretty easy to push off the road, though. One time we found ourselves running on only two cylinders. Suzuki Hatches only have three cylinders, so this meant driving along in the emergency lane on the Western Highway, doing about 20km/h. When we came to a hill, my boyfriend (MLM) got out and walked alongside, giving a bit of a push to make sure we didn’t start rolling backwards. That was a very long trip.

Fast-forward to the year 2000, and MLM and I went to Tasmania for our honeymoon. We hired a small car for the trip, as we intended to drive all the way around the island. We were allocated a Toyota Starlet, which, to be honest, sounded a little like a Japanese toddler ballerina school to me. Well, we fell so in love with that car that when we got back, we bought one: a second-hand 1998 black Starlet with tinted windows and sports exhaust. We called it the Mini Mafia Staff Car.

But the Mini Mafia Staff Car & it’s untimely end is for another post…

Uki eventually got passed on to a lovely friend of ours who was learning to drive and wanted her own small car. She loved and cherished the little car for a good few years before Uki also met a sad end – being rolled by some Daft Punk fans outside the Arts Centre after a concert. Poor Uki.

Siberia

I’ve been warned yet again, by a good friend, about posting links to articles on my facebook page which might cause offence to some people.

polarbear_feeding_cubsI’m not talking about articles that are sexist, racist, or revolting. I tend to post articles that explore, and usually compare, different parenting choices and philosophies, like this, and this, or this . I link to them, because I find them interesting, and they usually reflect something about my own experiences.

So, why do they cause problems? Because people think I’m judging their own choices.

Yet I really don’t think I am. I completely understand that each individual – and I’m talking about every individual in each individual family unit – has their own experiences, knowledge and needs that shape the ‘choices’ they take in parenthood. I use ‘choices’ because I also understand that sometimes they’re not exactly first choices, and sometimes we have them foisted on us by outside forces (i.e. being unable to breastfeed for medical reasons).

It’s just that you don’t seem to be able to state your personal opinions without causing offence. Since when has offence been the first reaction, though? Why can’t we feel free to debate? Are we too scared of being wrong? Every opinion should be available for debate – how else do we actually discuss ideas? An opinion is just that – not a fact, an opinion. Something to be discussed. Mums, especially, seem to be very defensive about choices – when we should feel the right to be matter-of-fact about them. I occasionally tell people that my 4yo still requests boobfeeds. I don’t tell them that to judge what they’re doing. I tell them that because that’s part of my life and I’m finding it challenging at the moment.

On another note, Clever Mama had a guest post about the importance of women supporting each other through life. Now, I’m one of those people who always thinks they get along better with the blokes – I understand their humour, and I like their honesty (to throw in a couple of generalisations) – but the article got me thinking. When I had kids, I knew that I needed to reach out to find other mums to connect to, because it can be lonely. As a shy person, this was (and still is) agonisingly difficult or me to do. But I attended local playgroups, went to ABA meetings, and even organised some get-togethers with other mums who I went to uni with.

It was a rewarding experience, and I loved talking to other mums- especially the ones who I shared a bit of humour, philosophy, history or sleep-deprivation with. But I have always been shy. And I have always doubted that others like me. I realise now that’s connected to the anxiety, but that’s my problem, and something I’m going to have to learn to overcome.

What I’d like others to overcome (and I mean that in the nicest possible way) is the notion that by sharing ideas, opinions and parts of me – who I am – that I’m judging, being spiteful or trying to hurt. That’s just not me.

siberia

So….I’ve gone into exile in terms of facebook. I check it a couple of times a week for messages.

I’ve also gone into exile from life a bit. I’m burying myself in work – which I enjoy, but creates a lot of pressure for the few hours I work – and we don’t seem to visit people anymore. My 4yo asks if we can visit this person or that, and I keep making excuses because I can’t remember if I’ve possibly offended them, so best to stay clear.

I’ll get over it. And myself. But I just need a bit of clear thinking space where I can do a bit of soul-searching.

Ah, the serenity…

Baby, I’m tired.

It’s official: I’m tired.

I’m too tired to drive.

I’m too tired to get my eyes tested.

I’m too tired to think of longer sentences.

This week has seen my 21mo (who normally only wakes 2-3 times a night) with a nightly fever, two new molars poking through, and a chest infection, which also means I get f&ck-all sleep. When you’re sleep deprived (or is it now sleep depraved?) it’s hard to find perspective. The first sleepless night, I was angry every time he woke. Poor thing. The second night, I ran weeping into the backyard and lay on the concrete until I heard MLM manage to calm him down enough so the screams stopped.

Now, I’m so sleep deprived, after almost 4 years of continual sleep deprivation, that I’m having trouble distinguishing between realistic dreams, and the fog that I operate in when I’m (supposedly) awake.

While I still believe that my beautiful boy will sleep through one night, at some point, it’s hard to reassure my body that. I know there are those worse off, but my head hurts, my eyes can’t handle shifts in focus and I cry every time I can’t get to sleep because things are whirring in my head.

MLM is planning on taking the afternoon off tomorrow so I can have a sleep while he looks after the kids. He’s banning me from doing any work from home, which is awesome. I love him so much, but I’m tearing up with the idea of having a couple of hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Goodnight.

Counting sheep, or sleep…I can’t remember which

What does tiredness look like?

Sleep Deprivation, you ol’ Devil…

My son is 18 months old and has never slept through. Very occasionally he only wakes once, but usually it’s 2-3 times.

I find that if I can get a block of 3 hours’ straight sleep, I’m fine. Although, when I say ‘fine’, I, of course, mean can vaguely function without turning into a screaming, weeping mess.

We recently went through a phase of 2-hourly wakings. That was a killer. I woke up each morning feeling more tired than when I went to bed. I felt like a zombie as I went through the rituals of breakfast, driving to appointments and trying to invent lunch. I dreaded being stopped at the rail crossing – the rhythmic clanging almost lulled me into a doze.

I know there’s sleep training out there. I know he’s much older than a lot of other kiddies that sleep through. I know that if he slept through, I’d get more sleep and life would be sooooo much better. But here’s the thing. I’ve tried sleep training before and I hated it. I don’t really need advice on what I should be doing, because, to me, what I should be doing is loving my kid and making sure he knows he’s safe, secure and loved. I think I’m doing that alright.

Kids have been waking up during the night since…well….since kids were ever around. The difference is, we used to live communally for survival, so you’d have help at hand.Even a couple of generations ago, there’d usually be a maiden aunt on hand to give you a break.

So instead of advice, just give me (or any other poor sleep-deprived parent you know) a hug and let me know that this phase will pass.

Don’t make us feel like we’re doing this to be martyrs – we’re not. Don’t start a sentence with “You should try-” because there are better ways at offering help. Frankly, the idea of changing any sort of routine or method of getting kids to sleep differently at this stage just makes me anxious.

I just have to keep repeating my frazzled mantra – “I’m doing the right thing for us and we have lovely, wonderful kids – sleep will come”.

Bending Gender 2

photo courtesy of http://www.lubirdbaby.com

Being female and experiencing sexism in various guises over the years, I’m acutely aware of things that affect my daughter. I don’t want her thinking she has to play with dolls, avoid physical activities, or adhere to certain expectations just because she happens to be a girl. I’d love for her to grow up feeling strong and courageous enough to be herself, and to stand up for herself when facing sexism or sexual harassment, etc. Until I wrote my first Bending Gender post, though, I hadn’t really thought about the sexism that my son faces.

I’m talking sexism in it’s milder forms – comments and assumptions – that are not intended to harm, but could probably play a role, or a support role, in shaping how kids act and what they choose to play with.

For example, in one day I noted various comments that were made to, or in front of, him from a couple of different people:

“You’re such a mummy’s boy, aren’t you?” (in response to him wanting a cuddle from me)

“He’s such a boy – climbing up everything, little trouble-maker” (even though my daughter did the same thing at that age)

“Don’t forget he’s male – he can only do one thing at a time” (I found this one a bit insulting!)

“No, you don’t want that, here, play with your truck” (phew! that princess dress would’ve tainted any future manliness for sure)

Now, I’ll admit, they’re tame comments that certainly meant no harm. My son’s not going to seek therapy for them down the track. Yet they do buy into the role that males are supposed to play in our society, and at a very early age. These little comments, and all the other influences around him, help to shape what toys he chooses, what games he’ll play, how he’ll treat other kids, and his own view of what it is to be a male.

I guess this is all very “well, duh” to people. I don’t know. Battle of the sexes differences has always irked me. I don’t like to just identify myself with being female – I feel part of a bigger community. I guess I feel protective of my kids – I want them to be the ones that do the choosing for themselves, who decide what they enjoy, rather than feeling they have to fit in with other people’s expectations. To have generalisations and societal labels describing them at such a young age just seems wrong to me. Especially because kids are so impressionable & eager to please.

Maybe it’s because I’ve never really felt that I’ve managed to work out what I’m about – I hate pigeon-holing myself as a certain personality type, or having particular characteristics, because, really, they change depending on my mood. Maybe it’s because I resent other people telling me what they think I should do with my life, or those of my children. Maybe it’s because I just enjoy watching these beautiful little personalities discover and learn and I know I’ll love them no matter how they turn out.

Parents react differently when their babies are mistaken for the other sex. Some are indignant, some are fine. Strangers are apologetic when they ask ‘boy or girl?’ Most babies under one or two could really pass as either, though, couldn’t they?

Isn’t it more interesting to observe their personalities grow, rather than put them in the girl or boy box? Or are we too lazy to pepper small-talk with anything other than generalisations about boys and girls?

And, hey, I’m guilty of generalisations, too! It is an automatic conversation-filler sometimes. How do we break out of it, though?

mucking in the mother guilt

Becoming a mother leaves you open to all sorts of criticism and unwanted advice – some good, most not. Whether it be what age you introduce solids, how long you should breastfeed, how you discipline your child (or don’t), or what you should do to get your baby to sleep through the night.

There’s a lot of pressure on mamas to make the right choices. Having people constantly asking you whether your baby sleeps through the night is one of these pressures.

Sleeping like a baby?

My little girl was a cat-napper, woke numerous times (at one stage hourly) through the night which she could only be coaxed back to nod by a breastfeed, and didn’t respond to any of the gentle sleep cues we worked so long and hard at. At nine months of age, in desperation due to undiagnosed post-natal depression and in response to much prodding from family & friends, we tried Sleep School. It didn’t work for us.

Then something wonderful happened. I talked to a couple of mums with older kids, who had exactly the same trouble as me, and guess what? Their children now slept through the night. There was an end in sight.  Instead of cursing her for disturbing my sleep – I took on the role of soothing her back to sleep. Acceptance, and knowing that others had been there before, helped me.

The reason I’m writing this is because I often post articles on my personal facebook page about gentle sleep techniques, as opposed to controlled crying, to help a few other mums who I know are going through the same thing, and let them know it’s alright. There have been numerous articles recently about controlled crying, like this, this and this.

Unfortunately, I’ve inadvertently ostracised a few mums who have had to go down the cc route – especially one wonderful mum who has been such a great support for me the last couple of years. I really didn’t mean to do that – after all, I tried the Sleep School, too. I know it works for some people, but it doesn’t work for everybody.

The headlines (‘baby torture’, ‘could damage brain development’) are not helpful to the people that actually need that information. Even though I was trying to provide support and information to some mamas, I was actually adding to the mummy-war arsenal, albeit unintentionally: there is so much guilt and negativity in the headlines alone.

So what do I do? Do I remove the articles, or do I add some sort of disclosure/warning? The content in the articles is still valid, but I don’t want to make other mamas feel guilty because they’ve taken a different route in this crazy car called Parenthood.

I hope my friend will forgive me – I will try and work up the courage to call her, but I’m still having a rough time with anxiety at the moment, and the thought of an unanswered call makes me jittery.

My philosophy is that we all do things differently. Each kid is different, and each parent is, too. We should do what we feel is right for our own families. We get defensive about our choices as parents, when, really, we should just accept them as done and move on. Easier said than done, when everybody wants to put their own two cents in, but then again, isn’t it wonderful that we have so many choices to make as parents, that we can all do things differently? I don’t think there is a right or wrong choice. There’s just life, and you do what you do to get on with it.

 

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