When I became a mom, I looked at my sweet baby girl and saw all of her goodness. I saw the miracle she was. In her first pictures at six weeks gestation she smiled back at me as a gooey glob of cells, and now, she was this 7 pound baby with the biggest dark eyes, boisterous cries, and little pursed lips.
I felt the profound weight of responsibility to raise her into who she was made to be. And then there was the responsibility of meeting her basic needs: food, sleep, comfort, and safety.
Doubt crept in, and I started to question why I had been given this miracle. Don’t you know I have no idea what I’m doing? Don’t you know I am completely inadequate? You’re all calling me a mom, but how will I ever live up to the title?
I could see goodness in my daughter, but when I looked at myself I only saw faults. I only saw the things I didn’t know.
I have felt this profound level of doubt and inadequacy before in my life, during law school and continuing into my career.
In law school, it was “you are not even that smart!” Even though my transcript would show I was doing well.
After law school, it was “You should not be trusted with these cases, Jenny.” Or “You are 25 and barely know how to be an adult, why would anyone trust you with their [insert life-altering legal dilemma here]?” Even though my clients’ outcomes would show I advocated and encouraged their success.
I was recently speaking with someone about this self doubt in my profession and she introduced me to imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is defined as:
a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in face of information that indicates that the opposite is true. It is experienced internally as chronic self-doubt, and feelings of intellectual fraudulence.
Imposter syndrome is discussed through the internet primarily in the context of higher education and professional endeavors—situations where people are given unfamiliar responsibility with a set of seemingly unreachable expectations.
When I heard of it, I immediately thought of my transition to motherhood. Oh sure, I’ve felt it in my career, but isn’t this what moms are always talking about? The feeling like we’re not good enough. The feeling like we’re falling short.
Throw in raging and unpredictable hormones, sleep deprivation to an unimaginable degree, boob aches, bum aches, the feeling like you’ve gone from secure in yourself and excited to meet your babe to completely questioning your every move:
Is she dressed cute enough for an Instagram photo today?
Should I use this blanket?
Should I put her to sleep now?
Is she crying because she’s hungry?
I just fed her!
Can I overfeed her?
Is she wet?
Are these diapers the best for her skin?
What about this bottle?
Is there a better one out there?
I just put you down 20 minutes ago!
It is so dark. When will it be morning?
Oh gosh! I fell asleep with you in my arms!
Are you breathing!?
Agh, thank God you are.
Pleeeeease stay sleeping when I lay you down.
Let’s focus on the last part of the definition of imposter syndrome for a minute: a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in face of information that indicates that the opposite is true.
New moms, seasoned moms in a new season, moms of multiples, repeat after me:
It feels like I don’t know how to feed my baby, but the truth is she’s growing and healthy.
It feels like I don’t know how to dress my baby, but the truth is he is warm and his skin is covered.
It feels like I don’t know how to comfort my baby, but the truth is she is most content in my arms.
It feels like I don’t know how to discipline my toddler, but the truth is I can and will find a way that works for both of us.
It feels like I don’t know how to get my baby to sleep, but the truth is I can and will find a way that works for both of us.
It feels like I am not good enough to be her mom, but the truth is I am. The truth is she is mine and I am hers and there is no better match.
It feels like I’m not the perfect mom, but the truth is: 1) there is no such thing; and 2) YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE. You just have to be HER mom. You just have to be HIS mom.
You just have to show up and love your kids, and the details of their care will fall into place.
The problem is the standard we’ve set for ourselves or that the internet has set for us, is not attainable.
Can we please change that? Like, today?
I am not a psychologist, and I’m not trying to make this more than it is, but isn’t this all too familiar? And doesn’t it feel good to be reminded that we’re not alone? To know our thoughts and feelings of inadequacy are common? To have someone see us and hear someone say “You ARE enough.” You may think you are not. You may think you’re falling short.
You may think you’re not cut out for this. But Mom, you definitely are.