The Imposter Mummy, that imaginary image of yourself you have concocted in your head that haunts you a little each day as you go about the myriad of tasks you manage.
Do you feel like you’re not doing your best despite walking out of the house with clean clothes (well, relatively), brushed hair, putting food on the table each night and remembering those important things such as birthdays, who likes crusts on and who doesn’t? Are you juggling a career, or supporting your partner’s career via a huge to-do-list of life administration and upkeep, maintaining those important friendships, your relationship and being a good daughter – but think how do other people appear so effortless in their endeavours whilst I watch the washing pile up and forget the occasional bill? Then you might be suffering the Imposter Mummy Syndrome.
Like the Imposter Syndrome found across the corporate world, the Imposter Mummy Syndrome is our never ending belief that we aren’t doing as good as job as we should, despite all evidence to the contrary. Whether you voice your concerns with a dose of self-deprecation or hide it behind that manicured and stylish serene presence (seriously teach me Yoda) many of us feel this way daily.
Imposter Syndrome was a term coined in the 70’s and refers to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalise their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Well let me tell you Mama you are definitely a high-achieving individual and its time you start telling yourself that!
Us Mummies in the hope we don’t get found out, apply additional diligence to tackle all of those tasks we believe must undertake and feel discouraged or a down right failure when we don’t achieve 100% perfection in them. But everyone has their own focus, those things that they really pour extra effort into and other things that you only apply a fraction of ‘the best you can do’. Not because they aren’t important or that they don’t stare at you with a disapproving stare that could rival your mother-in-law, but because you’ve had to prioritise. We make a secret deal with ourselves where those limits are and do our best to attend to the rest. Of course, our anxiety is back in a flash when we hear or see another woman achieving 100% in one of those areas we’ve only allocated 60%.
Having just spent eighteen months living in Japan, I was certainly thinking more than once ‘seriously how does she do it?’ The serene women of Tokyo rival the Parisians in the apparently effortless chic, attentive mothering and household management while I ducked up the road in my tracksuit for a coffee and scared them off with my stories of un-ironed sheets (or un-ironed anything for that matter), and leftovers for school lunches.
I think our generation more than ever is open about the joys and difficulties of trying to do it all, and whilst social media is perpetuating the glossy front of stage view of people’s lives it also delivers personal insights of others direct into the privacy of our lounge room. My Facebook feed is full of stories of how to parent your children, cook healthier lunches, make spectacular craft projects – but it’s also full of touching stories, honesty and down right funny anecdotes on life. My favourite this week is the Shitty Guilt Fairy, she definitely visits my house often but I give her a mouthful occasionally and boot her out the door with her wings between her legs.
So how do we move forward to stifle the Imposter Mummy in all of us? Here’s a few suggestions that I keep reminding myself of:
- Talk about the difficulties you experience with others – by sharing our feelings, we may just make another woman recognise that we all feel inadequate at some time or another.
- Tell a Mummy today that they are doing a great job and mean it, pick something specific. A casual ‘I don’t know how you do it’ ain’t going to cut it.
- Talk about that secret ranking system you’ve allocated in your head. If you and a partner have ranked things differently, then this is a sure to lead to a misalignment of expectations.
- Be kind to yourself! You are amazing, this period of your life can be complex, full of joy, successes, failures and consists of a huge to-do-list everyday. Make sure you have something that is just for you that makes you feel great and practice a little selfishness.
- Write down the micro things you’ve achieved or done this week. Keeping your child alive, has surely got to be at the top of that list ladies!
- Write down those big achievements! Stick them on the fridge and celebrate them. Whether it’s the manners your children possess, those important relationships you still maintain, that amazing promotion or a job you hold down as a working parent.
I’m trying to frame my thirties as a learning experience, not a final graduation in which I should have graduated top of the class. Because we are all learning and we all deserve to enjoy the view with a wine in hand and a smile on your face.
Get to know this articles author – Melanie Rayment
A strategist, social and experience designer, storyteller, advocate, mother of two and occasional dreamer.
Melanie is a native Sydney-sider, having lived and worked in the UK and Japan, learning from many amazing people along the way. She has worked with global companies in delivering brand experiences and has applied her design skills to multiple social issues, something she never dreamt even possible in her twenties.
She believes in the power of design to effect positive change across organisations, systems and nations and has hope that we can continue to find new and innovative ways to approach the problems we face in society.
She can be often found analysing life over a G & T, suffers FOMO when it comes to her passions and is now staring down the start of a PhD with trepidation whilst patching holes in the super mummy cape that her beautiful girls bestow upon her.
You can follow her or connect with her across these platforms