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.

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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.

Post Natal Mind F#$k

My little 3 year old gets eczema on her cheek, and I think I’ve finally worked out what causes it. It’s not food allergies or hayfever or soap. It’s me.

I’m struggling at the moment.

I’m working more and the housework is  piling up. I’m still not getting a decent sleep at night because my 13mo is a wakeful little blighter. My ‘freakouts’ have been occurring a little too often and I feel anxious a lot. So the doctor upped my yippee pills, although it’s still a very low dose.

My little girl gets so stressed seeing me freak, that it seems to manifest in this intense rash on her face. It acts as a bit of a reminder for me, too, that my actions have a direct effect on her, that I need to stop, and make sure she understands that it isn’t her fault and that I still love her and her brother ever so much.  Kids take in and on everything.

I think the new dose kicked in properly today. Things are just starting to feel a bit more balanced. There seems to be  cross-over period where everything gets a bit chaotic for a couple of days: it happened when I first went on the medication, too. I had more freakouts, and was absolutely dog-tired.

The nature of the freak-outs has changed: before I started medication they would sneak up on me, wild, manic, almost primitive. Now they are more repressed, angry, but I am quicker to gain control and calm myself and I get a lot more warning, so I can try to step away from the kids so they don’t see me being scary. I do scare them. I know I can be very scary. And that makes me feel horrid.

I think I expected that the PND would clear up when my son turned one. Not sure why, or what the logic was. Probably because that was when I started to feel better the first time around, with my daughter – she turned one, I was finally getting sleep and things were much easier for me. You can’t rush these things, though.

I only hope I’m not f#$king up my kids too much.

The Snip

MLM (My Lovely Man) had ‘the snip’ last Tuesday.

Apparently the nurses gave all the blokes a pre-snipping  pat on the back and thanked them for agreeing to be fixed – it’s a safer, cheaper and easier operation than the equivalent tubal ligation for women. Plus, there was the death of the mother-of-four in Wonthaggi in 2011, just six months after giving birth. (Without wanting to be too judgmental, why did her hubby not volunteer for the snip? Sounds like she’d done her share of the work).

Anyway, MLM had the deed done, was very, very sore and bruised, but never complained once. I love him for that.

I’m also grateful that I don’t have to think about contraception. The idea of being on the Pill or having something foreign inserted under my skin for the remainder of my fertile days just doesn’t appeal to me. They’re taking ages with the male contraceptive pill, so MLM and I decided that a vasectomy was the go. My body (and certainly my mind) couldn’t handle another baby, no matter how many people suggest that I try for another (I used to smile politely, but now I just sneer at them).

You wanna rephrase that question?

Frankly, if we did decide sometime down the track that we absolutely needed another little kid we would be fine with adopting. As it is, we’re both happy with the two we’ve got (threats of selling them on ebay, aside).

Although, for a little while at least, we need to keep them away from Dad’s sore nuts – kids are just at the perfect height to cause pain, aren’t they?

Or maybe I should buy MLM one of these:

Bending Gender

gender neutral toy catalogueI’m not really that into gender neutral parenting, in that I don’t set out to do it. I think I’m more into regardless-of-gender parenting. Is that a term?

Most people believe boys will be boys and girls will be girls – boys innately like trucks, girls will always end up playing with a doll.

However, having both a boy and a girl, I really don’t think that’s the case. There is just soooooo much influence over what they will play with from those around them, that I don’t think it is innate at all.

From early days, my son has been getting comments from grown-ups judging what he’s wearing and playing with. Some clothes are too pretty for him, apparently (he wears some of his sister’s hand-me-downs – don’t panic, not dresses), and if he carries a dollie around there are plenty of comments judging it to be a gay or girlie thing to do.

He’s one year old.

A one-year old kid can understand a lot, though. A mocking aside about his infatuation with his sister’s hairbrush compared to the smiles and encouragement from the same grown-ups when playing with trucks, balls and hammers. That sort of feedback must play a role in his choice of toys as he grows.

I have to admit, I’d previously subscribed to the school of thought that there were innate differences between the sexes. Which is weird, because I can read maps. When I read a few articles about Cordelia Fine’s research, I started to change my tune. I started noticing little things about the way my daughter was treated (Fine’s book came out before my son was born). The way people were so quick to comment on her prettiness, her clothes and they’d worry that she was getting dirty when playing (whereas I think a dirty kid = a kid having a good time), or that she was too young to play on certain playground equipment (she wasn’t and I was spotting her anyway).

The different toys they each received for their first birthdays is interesting to note:

  • daughter – lots of books, playdough set, kawasaki quad bike (from her awesome uncle who knows I used to ride a kwakka myself)
  • son – cars, trucks, noisy push-along toys.

Now, bear in mind that our friends aren’t in any way sexist, they tend to have the same parenting style as ourselves, and all the gifts were beautiful – in fact, many were quite gender-neutral, because those are the kind of friends we have. It’s just interesting to note that Miss got mostly quiet toys (besides the kwakka) and Master got mostly noisy ones.

Toys are only a small portion of the way we influence kids in gender roles, though. Mostly, they learn through our own roles, how we relate to other people, and what we convey directly to them.

My daughter knows I work, like Dad does, but she thinks that all bosses are men, because mine happens to be a man. She thinks that Dad is the better driver, because even though I ferry them around during the week, I often get MLM to drive on weekends because I’m so sleep-deprived.

I don’t know if I’m being paranoid or pedantic, but I do know that I don’t want my daughter’s options narrowed because she’s a girl. I know I can’t keep her away from the fairy dresses for much longer. I just want her to know that she doesn’t have to be a fairy just because everyone else expects her to be.

There are so many other people who influence her now: childcare, playgroup kids & mums, cousins, grandparents, strangers. Some of these influences are going to be fantastic, some questionable. I don’t really have much control over that anymore, and that’s fine. I know both my kids will turn out okay, and that if they do follow typical gender interests and roles, it’s not a failure on my part, or some innate path they’re following. It’s just the culture we are a part of, and there’s no way you can block that out, or should want to completely.

Yippee Pills

I take a super-mild anti-depressant for PostNatal Depression.

It’s been surprisingly good for me.

I tried the psych approach – a long bout of appointments with a psychologist who made me feel like I was a bit of a mess because of various mother-issues,which I now realise was making mountains out of molehills. I’ve lived a sheltered life and, frankly, everyone has mother issues.

After a severe meltdown (where i sought the help of my mum, because she’s actually a really lovely person and I feel safe having a hysterical freakout in front of her) I saw a new psych who realised that all the talking in the world wasn’t going going to cure me.

The hard part was being diagnosed with PND. With my first baby, the maternal health nurse realised something wasn’t right, but obviously didn’t want to scare me, or label me with it. She suggested I see a GP and get a referral for a psychologist. The GP was a twit and said I was fine. I’m pretty sure he sneered, but maybe that was just his general countenance. I went and saw a counsellor off my own bat, anyway, because I knew I wasn’t functioning properly, and although she was helpful, I still struggled to curb my moodswings and temper.

That’s been the confusing thing with PND – for me, it’s not ‘depression’ as such, it’s a mood disorder. I get irrational, throw childish tantrums, throw scary adult tantrums. I roar like a cornered dragon because I can’t think of words. I sob like a grieving widow because I can’t work out where I’ve gone – the calm, reasonable, logical me leaves my body and inside I am empty and hollow. I get anxious about the tiniest things – an appointment time being changed, a friend’s comment on facebook, MLM not responding to a text message within an immediate timeframe.

Anyhoo, I finally found a GP who not only diagnosed me with PND after my second bub, but spent the time to really find out what was going on with me – and I’m so grateful she did.

I try to be as open as I can about these things. I’ve found that’s the way to connect on another level with people – and, particularly with motherhood, there’s a lot of “putting on a brave face” that goes on. Not one person has negatively judged me when I tell them I’m struggling, or that I have PND. I have a lovely, loose network of playgroup mums, old friends and beautiful relatives who have let me know that I’m not alone.

Plus, MLM and my kids who seem to love me no matter how horrible I’ve been.

My 87 year old grandma gave me a call to see how I was going. She was diagnosed with depression soon after undergoing a triple bypass 10 years ago – a huge personal upheaval that sent her physically and mentally to the edge. She calls her meds her ‘yippee pills’. Grandma tries to see the fun side of things.

I’m not sure how long I’ll need to stay on my yippee pills. Long enough so that I can be confident that I’m an active part of my kids lives again, rather than feeling like I’m watching everything from the outside. Long enough to know that I’m not going to revert to the mess I was.

I love my kids too much for that.

Postnatal Depression
by Aisling Longworth

Tummy Time

Nope, not for the baby.

For me.

I used to love my tummy. Always up for a tummy flash, I especially liked my belly-button: an outy in an inny. It actually looked like a little button.

Sigh….how things have changed.

After two kids it’s not so much a button now, as a squishy lump, and my tummy is so wrinkly that it looks like a 90 year old nanna’s tuck shop arm. You see, my second bub was a 10 pounder, I’m on the petite side, and my stomach muscles separated and decided to get permanently divorced.

My kids are fascinated with my tummy – always lifting up my shirt to look at it, poke at it and blow raspberries on it. Kind of cute, except it draws my attention to just how ugly everything is there.

I guess I should think of the stretch marks and lumps as war wounds. Battlescars. Wear them with pride. After all, I have two beautiful kids to show for them.

And I do – I look at their smiling faces, hear their giggles and think, wow – I made them, birthed them and have them as part of my lucky life.

But at the same time, I do miss my belly-button.

Josiah Jeremiah from 'Pastor Michael Comes Again'.
Nothing like a woman in drag...