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”.

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.

 

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.