THE BLOG

The Parenthood Impostor Syndrome

25/10/2016 11:37

'I don't think I'm good enough.'

This sentiment, this sense of lacking in some way, of being deficient in ability or capacity is one that surely many of us feel at some point in our lives, even if we don't always verbalise it. It's a feeling of uncertainty, of anxiousness and for me, it was the very real idea of being a fraud in those early weeks of motherhood.

I have experienced that impostor feeling before when I was appointed to a senior position, a step-up from my previous role in which I had felt safe and comfortable and capable. 'I'm not sure I belong here,' I'd mused nervously, silently, as I'd sat in my first management meeting. But I did and six years later I attend those same meetings assured of my place at the table.

But, that familiar self-doubt made an unwelcome reappearance after the birth of my daughter. 'I don't know what I'm doing,' I thought as I struggled to work out the logistics of the role - the nappy changing, the feeding, the dressing, the bathing and the soothing at 3am when there seemed to be no rhyme or reason for her screams. 'Everyone else is better at this than me,' I told myself as, more and more, I noticed mothers everywhere we went, mothers who all seemed to instinctively be able to identify and respond to their child's needs. And: 'I'm not a proper mother,' I opined once, silently, feeling the weight of my guilt at my - perceived - fraudulent use of the name 'mummy.'

There was no reason for me to feel like this. I was doing everything I could to meet my daughter's needs whatever they were and whenever they arose. But I just couldn't help feeling that I simply wasn't good enough. I'd look at my daughter for some reassurance and she would stare back at me, blankly. My husband was, as ever, hugely supportive but when I watched him, so calm and cool, I was convinced that he was better at this job than me.

Then, one day a friend was visiting and I was feeling my usual lack of confidence as I tended to my daughter's needs, and she said to me:

'You're doing great.'

I listened to her words and they had an immediate effect, giving me an instant shot of self-belief.

'You're doing great.'

To hear that, from another mother, was validation, and just the soul-lifting comment I needed. A little while later, I was with another friend, also a parent, and I said, in jest:

'I'm hardly the best mum in the world!'

But: 'To your daughter, you are,' she replied.

'To your baby you're the best in the world. Because your hers.'

And I realised she was right. All this time I'd been worrying that I wasn't good enough, that I didn't come up to scratch, and all the time I'd been being the very best mummy I could be to my baby.

When we first become parents, we move into a brand new scary world where we are expected to carry out a role we've not been trained for - and we get no feedback from our babies on how well we're doing. So, it's no wonder if we feel out of our depth and like an impostor. I am sure there are others who have shared my feelings and that is why I truly believe we need to support other mums and dads with supportive comments and ringing endorsements, just like my friends did.

After all, this isn't a competition.

In time, that feeling of being an impostor has vanished and with experience, my confidence has grown. I am a proper mum, a complete mum. And this Mother's Day, when my daughter gave me a keyring bearing the slogan 'Best Mummy Ever,' I felt only a momentary sense of being undeserving of the title before I remembered: to my daughter, I am the best mummy ever.

Every day I do my absolute best for my daughter in a hundred different ways. And now I don't have to search her face for signs of feedback because she tells me just how well I'm doing with a smile or a giggle or by reaching her arms out for me to cuddle her. I don't feel like an impostor anymore.

I'm good enough.

We all are.

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