In the realm of PhD students, we talk about imposter syndrome a lot. Imposter syndrome, according to wikipedia, “is a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud” (source). I would like to talk about another kind of imposter syndrome felt by many of my child-toting friends, mom-poster syndrome.
I clearly remember the first few days after my first child was born. She was born after 2 long days of labor and the only thing I wanted to do after she was born was sleep. I’m pretty sure I even forgot that there was a baby (it was not a calm birth). After I came to my senses, the nurses brought over the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. She was a bit blue and had a huge, lopsided head, but in that moment, I couldn’t imagine her being more perfect. For the next two days, we got to know each other. I bonded with her through skin-to-skin contact, breastfeeding, and staring at her sleeping peacefully in her crib. It was magical. Then, the unthinkable happened. They told me to take her home.
I didn’t anticipate how I was going to feel in that moment. I felt as if they were making a mistake. If they knew how incompetent I was, they would never let me take her home. I can’t take care of this little person all by myself. I just learned how to change a diaper less than 48 hours ago, let alone keep her alive and help her thrive. I thought there must be someone more capable of taking care of this wonderful, magnificent little being than me, what if I mess it up? Despite my mind racing, they packed us up, put her in her car seat, and out the door we went. I sat in the elevator with the baby carrier in my lap and the invasive thoughts kept coming. Even when a little girl in the elevator complimented my new, perfect, most beautiful in the world baby, the most I could muster was a smile without bursting into tears.
When I look back on those first few hormone-fueled days, they were magical and anxiety-inducing and joyful and terrifying all at the same time. There is no way to prepare yourself for motherhood without doing it. I read all the books, had all the best equipment, and knew all the tips and tricks, but tips and tricks aren’t what motherhood is about. Motherhood is about loving more than you thought you could ever love and caring more than you thought you could ever care.
If you have mom-poster syndrome, remember those feelings are coming out of love and caring. It’s hard to cope with the overwhelming amount of love that a child brings. Remember, you are NOT a “fraud” mom, you ARE a good mom. You will one day be confident in your parenting. You will one day look at the child that was once a helpless baby and realize that you have helped them transform into a beautiful, self-sufficient person.
I still have days when I look around and I’m not sure what I’m doing. I’m not sure if everything I am doing is right or if I am really making the best choices. But I am doing the best I can and being the best mom I can be for my kids and that’s what motherhood is about.