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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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?

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...