On a Monday afternoon, I sat on a small blue classroom chair, listening to how my eleven-year-old son couldn’t keep up with his peers; his curriculum was being modified back to the basics.
In fact, his teachers’ voices sounded like the adults in a Charlie Brown cartoon, but rather than being Charlie, I was a mother hoping the system would find a different way to help my son without tagging him as a boy with severe learning challenges. In retrospect, I was experiencing a case of the Motherhood Imposter Syndrome, and yes, it’s a real thing.
Imposter syndrome happens to all of us. Students get it all the time, when they feel like they are not as intelligent or capable as their peers. Or you might have felt it when you joined a new workplace and doubts about your actual skills and competence started creeping in.
The thing is, these feelings always arise when we are faced with a situation or people that makes us reconsider our methods, approaches or decisions. As a mother, this can arise often when we are faced with other mothers or, as my experience suggest, with criticism from other figures of expertise.
Perplexed at their comments about his lack of reading and writing skills at a grade five level, I took a deep breath, looked at all three teachers, and asked, “Can someone please tell me how is it that my son cannot read or write, but he can create and launch an ecommerce store, design merchandise, sell it, make a profit, and donate a portion of it to charity?”
I got crickets.
Then one of them explained that ecommerce was an easy skill to acquire because all he had to do was “click here and there”. They all nodded in unison. I was stunned by their response.
All my years as a mother failed to prepare me for this
I have been a mother for 11 years, a step-mother for 23. After spending most of my adult life in a motherly role, one would think I had diapers, homework, and temper tantrum management down to a science. In fact, it couldn’t be farther from the truth.
You see, the more experience I have as a mother, the more I learn from my children. I’ve adopted the term “Conscious Parenting” as one where I follow the “flow” of motherhood, learn and listen to my children more, as they, too, are human beings. I listen and watch others, and make intuitive decisions.
As a mother, we have a 7th sense about our children, their safety, and their needs. Motherhood Imposter Syndrome need not be adopted because as mothers, when we tune in and listen, we know our child’s needs.
Listening to my instinct was my best bet
In the moment when my son’s skills as a budding online entrepreneur were completely discarded, I felt it in my core. I was overcome with a sense of inadequacy, of failure and guilt. Yes, I was hit with a wave of Motherhood Imposter Syndrome.
You see, I believed that my son should be celebrated for a business endeavor that only a minute percentage of the population would ever undertake. In this case, they were not looking at all of the life skills he was gaining, but only that he couldn’t complete a book report.
I don’t blame the teachers for that. I blame the system. You see, we’re bread to believe in the “natural order of things”: Send your kids to school so that they can get good grades, a solid education, and then a job.
When you veer away from conventional thought, you are questioned and can sometimes be ostracized by your family, peers, and professionals.
It is an integral part of motherhood
Over the years, I have learned to embrace feeling like an imposter as a mother, and have opened myself up to questioning everything my children might experience. In doing so, I feel like I am making the right decision as a parent, one that is for the highest good for my children.
Here are several topics I’ve questioned on multiple occasions as a mom:
- Breastmilk or formula or both.
- Screens, screens, and more screens.
- Babysitters, nannies, daycare.
- Homeschool, public school, private school.
- Is saying “no” detrimental to their psyche?
- Allergies and did I transmit them? Is it my fault?
- Will my kids grow up to be responsible adults even when they’re hanging off the ceiling in public?
- Arguing in front of the kids.
- Pet or no pet.
- Discipline or lack there of.
- How to deal with bullies.
- Dealing with loss or illness of any kind.
The list goes on and on. But after a while, the feeling of being an imposter subsided. Yes, it can flare up when I am confronted to situations like my story above. Yet, it also comforts me to know that questioning myself about being a good mother is a sign that I actually care.
What does your motherhood imposter syndrome list look like?
With the overwhelm of societal dogma, cultural norms, and marketing, tuning in and listening to what we, as a mother, think is right for our children can be a challenging. It’s important to remember the unbreakable bond that you have with your child, and after having researched all of your options, go within and find your answers. You are more powerful than you think.
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