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Notepad on Desk



Motherhood and imposter syndrome

Updated: Jan 8, 2022

As Mother’s Day comes around again, I’ve been reviewing some old blogs I wrote (anonymously then) about our journey to parenthood through adoption. I’ve taken some time to reflect on how I feel now, eight years on, looking through the fresh lens of my own coaching experience.

I am not what you think I am.

One of these days, I am going to get rumbled. Someone will find me out. I know I can trust you to keep my secret, Reader, but I suspect you have known all along. The thing is, I am a fraud. A complete and total imposter. I have been Mummy to two beautiful children for the last three years and I Still Have No Idea What I Am Doing!

It's not for lack of training. As prospective adopters, we probably had more training in How to be a Parent than most people. It comes with the territory. We attended preparation courses and read Everything. And to be officially 'approved', we were interviewed by panels of knowledgeable experts and vetted to the nth degree.

But even now, I am not sure I have any more clue than I did the very first day when two little faces peered round suspiciously from behind their foster carers' legs at these people who were going to be their Mummy and Daddy. They must have seen right through me then. I summoned the mantra 'fake it til you make it' and got on with it. All smiles.

In the first few weeks, we stayed at home most of the time, getting to know each other. We had fun. I learned that baking cakes with your children is not the secret to maternal happiness it is made out to be (not when you are a control freak and there are raw eggs everywhere). But maybe I’d missed the point if I was using social media perfection as a reference. #soblessed

As cabin fever set in, we ventured to the park, tentatively making wider circles away from home. We bumped into people we didn't know, with children who were the same ages as ours and already at the school we didn't yet go to. This is where the cover-up began. Were we new to the village? No, we'd lived here for years... avoiding the A-word. Changing the subject.

More adventurous trips were planned with military precision, taking the equivalent of a giant baby-changing bag for a 4- and 6-year-old. Another giveaway, I thought. I was proud of the organised arsenal of wipes, sunscreen, hats, gloves, sunglasses, changes of clothes and shoes, drinks, snacks, first aid kit, something to do, inevitably something vital forgotten. We didn't miss out on toddler-style tantrums, you'll be relieved to know. That's one parenting badge well and truly earned.

People must have seen through me on the way to school. The exasperated mum with the kids who wouldn't hold her hand, who would run too far ahead and not come back when called, who either ran across roads or wanted to have a toddler rein. I told myself my inability to cope was just how all new mums had once felt. I was sure they had probably got the hang of it by the time their children were at school.

We got to know the school-run parents who were supportive and kind. I began to appreciate that so many other parents struggle with similar issues – and comparison with perfect Facebook parenting can only end in tears. We were able to share problems and empathise with whatever issue had upset today's morning routine, offering suggestions, coffee and help. Nodding in agreement. A 'real parent’ acknowledgement.

Regardless of how we came to be parents, we have loved our two from Day One. Training is only truly available on the job and with the support of those around us, but the fact that we are growing together as a family, learning to know and understand our girls, helping them to shape their own lives, being their strongest advocates, helping mop up after all our failures, and taking pride in their successes is surely all the parental qualification we will ever need. But there are still days when I feel like an imposter. So shhhh, mum’s the word!

(Edited from my blog: Adapting2Adoption, 2016)

Edit: I’ve recently come across the word ‘matrescence’, a term coined by anthropologist Dana Raphael that describes the process of becoming a mother – acknowledging all the physical, psychological and emotional changes that occur during this immense life change. Aside from giving birth, we’ve had everything else. Add to that the significant complexities of adoption and I think we’ve earned our stripes.


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