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Motherhood Impostor Syndrome and Overcoming It

Earlier this year, I was required to do an impostor syndrome test and I scored extremely high, which isn't a good thing. I’ve been aware of these feelings, but the magnitude of it shocked me.

Even worse is that I realized in addition to the general state of feeling like an impostor, I experience a more targeted kind of impostor syndrome. That specific area is in my mothering. I feel like a phony parent.

Why, you may ask? There are many reasons, but before we get into that, let’s sort out what impostor syndrome is.

The term was first coined by the clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in the 1970s, and is defined as a pervasive feeling of self-doubt, insecurity and incompetence despite evidence that you are skilled and successful.

People who exhibit this syndrome frequently feel like frauds, and that they will eventually be found out, even though they are highly competent. This is me overall, but it’s even worse in my parenting.

I am a great mother. I know that. I am attentive, engaging, loving, nurturing, kind, thoughtful, empathetic and I allow my children to feel like they have a voice, but somehow, I always feel like I am not doing enough. I always have a sense that there is something that I am missing, or something I can do better.

The times when I have raised my voice at my children out of frustration, I feel horrible, even though it doesn’t happen frequently.

I used to commute daily with my children on the subway and random strangers who I had no idea were watching would come up to compliment me on my parenting, in situations where most parents would have lost their shit.

My neighbors frequently compliment me on how involved and active I am as a parent. They see me daily with my children and admire my commitment to being what they see as a great parent. I know it, but for some reason, I judge myself harshly in small mistakes and still feel like a fraud.

I was a nanny for many years so I am more than capable and competent when it comes to being with children. I was prepared for this, but when it comes to my own, I feel someone may figure that I don’t know what the hell I am doing.

But then again, what parent knows what they’re doing all the time?

Unfortunately, I have to acknowledge that I have a slightly warped sense of parenting. I feel like I need to remain calm in all situations like some stepford wife. Yelling for me feels out of control and uncomfortable, and for that reason I have placed an enormous amount of pressure on myself to maintain an impossible amount of control. It hasn’t been productive.

Ironically a few months ago, someone used the stepford wife analogy to describe me and I took some offense to it. Even though I said nothing in response to that, there was some truth to it. That I have to admit, even though I think the comparison is a bit extreme.

I am slowly learning to combat these feelings, by being honest about the severity of my impostor syndrome and how it makes me feel as a parent. I have an amazing sister circle who listen and encourage, and also my therapist who reminds me of how much I do and to show myself compassion.

I am learning to stave off self-doubt by trusting my decisions, because I do not take being a parent lightly. I bring the right attitude into my parenting and I am always willing to learn. I remind myself that tomorrow is an opportunity to do better and hopefully not repeat the mistakes of the days past.

I am also working on knowing my value as a mother. I am learning to believe that I am enough. My children tell me so much how much they love me daily. They smother me with kisses and hugs daily. I see genuine happiness in them and I know that it is my display of love to them that shows them how to love me.

I know that in the early part of the pandemic, these feelings were at an all time high for me. I have found that starting everyday with the words, “Today is a great day and I am a great mother,” have helped me believe in my heart that I am an amazing mother.

If you struggle with parental impostor syndrome, I say to you, you are an amazing parent. If you still can’t shake off the feeling, seek out a therapist. You are enough.



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