Have you heard of the impostor syndrome? Author Amy Cuddy describes it as “the general feeling that we don’t belong—that we’ve fooled people into thinking we’re more competent and talented than we actually are… It’s not simple stage fright or performance anxiety; rather, it’s the deep and sometimes paralyzing belief that we have been given something we didn’t earn and don’t deserve and that at some point we’ll be exposed.”
I remember feeling like that when I was working. When I was a manager in retail, any good results were flukes. I didn’t do anything to generate them, and when my manager found out that they just “happened,” I would lose my job. This would be bad for me, but I shouldn’t have the job anyway; I wasn’t qualified. Coaching conversations weren’t useful in my development—they only meant that my boss found me out, or was at least starting to figure out that I was a fraud.
At my last job, which was one of my most favorite jobs ever, I spent all my time thinking the job was entirely too easy for me to possibly deserve the praise, responsibility, compensation, and benefits my employer and co-workers gave me. I just knew that at some point, they would find out that I didn’t actually contribute anything that made the workplace better. And not to pat myself on the back, but really, this was crazy talk.
Then three-and-half years ago, I left the workforce to stay home with my daughter. Talk about feeling like an impostor; this—motherhood—is where I figured I’d feel like a fraud…
My little sister was born a couple of months after I turned two. My mom tells me they gave me my own “baby” when they brought my sister home from the hospital, and I that would “breastfeed” the doll, and bathe it, and care for it. I have no memory of this. I do not remember a time when I was particularly nurturing or selfless, and I never wanted to have a child.
I said this from a very young age (apparently some time after I was two), and maintained it through the first nine years of my marriage. I’m selfish, I highly value my alone time, I don’t like noise or chaos, and I have a terrible temper. These are not the type of skills that help make one a good parent. But, after a car accident led to a sleep study that revealed I had sleep apnea and hadn’t had a good night’s sleep since the mid-nineties, I started using a CPAP machine. It is amazing what sleep can do you for you. A couple months of sleep and I was a new person! One who wanted a baby, like, yesterday. So because I make life-changing decisions on a whim, I was pregnant five months later.
I had never changed a diaper in my life. We’re talking three decades here, folks. The first time I held a baby, I was pregnant with my own. I totally expected to feel like an impostor—like someone should take the baby away because I had no idea how to be a mom. You know what? I never did. Not when my husband had to teach me how to change a diaper in the hospital, not when I was trying to dress the poor kid so we could go home, and not even when the husband had to school me in how to give the baby a bath and hold her safely.
Now, that’s not to say that I’ve never felt like I could be doing something in a different (read: better) way. I’ve read my fair share of parenting books and blogs. I listen to my friends, fellow playgroup moms, parents at preschool, my daughter’s teachers, expert speakers who come in to talk to the parents at school, and even my daughter to learn new, different, and, yes, sometimes better ways to parent. None of that means I’m not a good mom. None of it means I’m not supposed to be here. It means that I’m continually growing and developing my skills and becoming a stronger, more capable mom.
I struggle a bit with my internal judger when I see a parent who I think is doing it “better” than me, but even then I don’t feel like someone should take my kid away before I ruin her for life. (Perhaps by throwing a cicada at her, for example. Oops. I’ve already done that.) I may be exposed as “flawed,” but I didn’t “earn” or “deserve” my daughter. She’s here. I’m here. Her dad’s here. And we’re just here, together. It is what is and we are who we are.
Impostor? Nope– not even of the designer* variety.
*Yeah, so I wanted to write a funny post, but it came out all schmoopy. So there’s your humor. Enjoy. (And is it sad that I actually remember this commercial? Down to the weird repeat/skip part at the end.)