image The Parenthood Impostor Syndrome

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‘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 mum, 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.

thea-and-me

Dear Bear and Beany
The Pramshed

13 comments

  1. The fact you didn’t think you were doing a good job almost completely guarantees you were! This is a lovely post and I’m so pleased you’ve finally realised you’re an awesome mummy. I think it’s a right of passage to go through that…even the mummies who seemed to know what they were doing will have been thinking that! #fortheloveofBLOG

  2. Wow what a beautiful post. I think that we all feel like this when we first have our babies. I remember feeling the exact same, that my husband was better at it than I was. But now I am confident in my role as Mother and I hope you are too. It’s take time to adapt to new roles and titles. You’re doing great. Thanks

  3. This is absolutely how I felt when I became a mother, that everyone else was doing it better than me, that I just didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I wish someone had told me I was doing a great job, but in the end I worked out for myself that it was irrelevant really, I was the only mother my son had, and I was trying my best! It’s natural that it takes time to adjust to such a huge life change, and I now feel pretty confident (most of the time!) about my mum abilities! Thanks so much for joining us again at #SharingtheBlogLove

    • Ah that’s brilliant you worked it out for yourself. I wish I had realised it sooner and like you, I’m pretty confident too now. I never expected it to all be so overwhelming. Now I really do make a point of trying to say positive things to new mums in case they are feeling like me. Thanks for reading x

  4. I definitely could have benefitted from a friend telling me this when my second child came along, I struggled to cope with two and I felt like I was drowning. Having someone say those words could make all the difference. Thank you for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove x

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