Imposter syndrome: “The inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills.”
I was recently asked to share my views about imposter syndrome when it comes to parenting for Woman and Home magazine. You can view the full article here.
It’s such a contentious subject – imposter syndrome. So many of us will know that feeling – and I am not just talking about parents, either. Got a promotion and feel weird about it? Imposter syndrome. Doing something incredibly grown up, like buying a house, and feel like it could be taken away from you? Imposter syndrome (and Brexit). Being a parent and feel like you have no idea what you’re doing and feel guilty for that? Imposter syndrome.
Within that parenting collective, there are lots of different types of imposter syndrome too. For me, it’s for being a single co-parent. Yes, that’s the full title which I should really give to my status. It sounds ridiculous but it’s an accurate description.
Single parent stigma
Single parents are so often tarnished in the media for being a bit rubbish, lazy, spongers etc etc etc. The recent NHS scandal over their refusal to give IVF treatment to single mothers only adds fuel to that fire. I don’t need to say it again that, actually, we’re amazing. In reality, we’re double parenting and, because of that, we frequently sacrifice more than most in order to do the best for our kids. TJ is the first thought on my mind morning, noon and night and that won’t ever change. So, I deserve to be rewarded with the amazing little boy who he is growing up to be … right?
There’s many different types of single parent out there too. There’s the solo mama who was ditched by the baby daddy and has been going it alone since day one. The ones who were left by their husbands when he shagged the nanny/secretary/some other cliché. There’s the ones who are solo mothers by choice who took maternal matters quite literally into their own hands. The ones who split from their partners and now co-parent. There’s the ones who walked out on their partners and therefore ‘chose’ to be single parents. I am both of the last ones. And all of us are fucking champions, no matter the circumstances.
However, the fact that I’m a single co-parent, so I get a ‘break’ for a couple of nights every week when he is with his dad, seems to translate to some that I have an easy ride. “Ah, it’s good his dad is involved so you get some time away isn’t it?” people will say. Yes, I get to do the food shop solo and enjoy some time with my friends. But, all of that time my heart is 50 miles away down the M3 where daddy lives. So, I definitely do not have it easy at all. It just helps to save my sanity when doing the rest of it singlehandedly.
The hardest thing
At that Independent Mother event, I was asked by a new mate, who was pregnant, what the most difficult thing was when it came to parenting. I immediately answered that it was handing TJ over to his dad on a regular basis. And it is. Yes, the days when I am ‘on duty’ can be hard – and the nights too. But, nothing compares to the handover. Almost every single time, TJ cries. If not at the actual moment when we’re with daddy, but when I answer TJ’s question and have to tell him that he’s spending that night at daddy’s house. It’s not that his dad is a bad dad at all; TJ is just a mummy’s boy.
So, there’s nothing easy about knowing your little person is going through pain and that it is not only (partly) your doing but also that there is literally nothing you can do to change it, either. That’s an emotion which only co-parents, like me, will have to face repeatedly for years to come (along side all of the other amazing – and much more positive – parenting/growing up adventures which come with raising small people, of course.)
In it together
I know solo single parents have it hard too, as do the parents who live together. There’s a non-stop cycle for us all – no matter what that looks like under different roofs. I won’t – can’t – claim to know what that’s like for people whose circumstances are different to mine. But, none of us have it easy as we aim to raise our offspring to not be dickheads. So, why do we all get a confidence dip, that feeling of imposter syndrome, like we’re not proper grown-ups, every once in a while? We should all be pulling in the same direction.
I am not about to sound like an Insta inspirational quote (or maybe I am) but there’s comfort in both companionship and solidarity when it comes to parenting. Maybe that would stop us feeling the guilt which comes with imposter syndrome and just embrace parenting in whatever shape and size it comes in. We all deserve to take our place in the parenting pack and be so proud of ourselves for that too.