My last two posts addressed the Impostor Syndrome, the tendency for successful and intelligent women to discount their own accomplishment and doubt their own ability. But it’s a syndrome that reaches beyond the professional world.
Last night I was out for dinner with two close friends. All three of us are educated, intelligent and well adjusted women. We’re all financially secure, healthy, industrious, fun, interesting and resourceful. And we’re all moms. Between the three of us, we have eight kids, ranging from toddler to almost 16.
Our conversation roamed all over and we settled on the topic of being a mom. Would it surprise you to learn that we have a tough time being mothers? We all agreed that we love our kids, but we don’t always love motherhood. It’s actually a more common feeling than most people realize.
Years ago, I watched an episode of Oprah that addressed the topic of moms who hated motherhood. One guest was a mom who loved her kids but massively struggled every day with the hard work of raising them, and was bitter as a result. She said “Nobody ever told me it would be like this.” The other guest was a “June Cleaver, Becky-Home-Ecky” type of mom, all sunshine and roses, who loved everything and every moment of being a mom. Her response to the struggling mom was one of condemnation and judgment. It was so sad to watch because I related much more to the “this is HARD!” mom than the “this is FUN!” mom.
For the record, I do not hate motherhood. I desperately love my kids, ages 14 & 15. But I admit that the volume of the maternal instinct in my brain has always been very low. Parenting is hard for me. I feel like a failure most of the time. Am I disciplining right? Am I training them well? Am I too strict or too lenient? Are they becoming contributing members of society? Are they growing spiritually? Are they developing good character traits? Are they kind, industrious, creative, thoughtful, polite, generous, disciplined? Am I doing a good enough job?
Most times I think “No, I’m not doing a good job.” I feel like a fraud. I feel like a failure. I’m not consistent enough with discipline and boundaries. I’m too soft on chores. I let them get away with bending rules. I don’t expect higher standards from them in some areas. How can I expect them to clean their rooms when I’m a messy person myself? If they give me teenage attitude, sometimes I let it slide. I don’t know if I’m preparing them well enough to enter the world. I fear I am failing. Miserably.
I’m an Impostor Mom. I look like I have it all together, but on the inside I’m thinking “I’m so failing at this job! And any moment, I’ll be found out.”
The Impostor Syndrome is not limited to professional people in professional positions. It infects with a much wider reach, deep into the heart of women in what I think is the most important and most difficult job: being a mom. So many of us moms are walking around thinking “I don’t know what the heck I’m doing. Am I doing a good job? I haven’t a clue. And any minute, I’m going to be discovered as a fraud.”
It was so freeing to discuss this with my friends last night. What freedom there was in knowing I’m not the only one who feels this way! We had such liberation and relief in talking about our fears, our limitations as moms, and our strategy for parenting. It was a powerful and empowering time.
Do you feel the same way about your mothering skills? You are probably a much better mother than you think you are. But you can’t know that until you can find a safe place to express your feelings. Be honest with yourself first, and then find someone safe to be open and honest with about your feelings. Accept the fact that you are human, and realize that you are not alone in your struggles. Invite other mothers to be part of your struggle. Allow them to affirm you, encourage you and build into you. In return, you’ll be able to do the same for them.
And once that starts to happen, the fraud fears will start to fade. You will be more confident, more transparent and more hopeful. And you will be a better parent. At least you’ll be a less stressed-out parent. And that’s a good start.