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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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.