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Maternal Imposter Syndrome: The Struggle I Hope My Kids Don't See

By Sierra Black |

My kids think I'm perfect, but they're wrong.

Usually, if I’m hiding something from my kids, that’s a good indicator that I should stop.

That late night cookie habit? Not great for my health. My unfortunate tendency to let the bills pile up on my desk till they threaten to drown me in a wave of paperwork? I’m gonna quit this week, I swear. My addiction to soapy TV dramas about teenagers? Better left hidden in the wee hours after bedtime, where I’ll be sitting eating an entire batch of chocolate chip cookies and not paying my bills.

On some level I know my kids know I do all these things. They wouldn’t be shocked to see me eat a cookie, and they know I’m a huge Gleek. They’re too young to know what bills are, but they see my messy desk every day.

There’s one struggle I really do try to hide from them, though, and it’s the one that’s all about them. Maternal Imposter Syndrome.

You know the feeling. It’s that fake-it-till-you-make-it feeling. The sense that any minute now the Real Mother will return and wash these children’s faces, straighten up their toys, and lay dinner on the table all without chipping her perfect nailpolish. The sure knowledge that a) you don’t know what you’re doing but b) you’re probably doing it wrong.

I know my kids look up to me. They see me as an idol, the perfect being who orders their little world. I’d rather not burden them with the scary fact that I have no idea what I’m doing.

I know the basics. I can change a diaper and nurse a baby in my sleep. I can cook at least three different dinner dishes without resorting to take-out. I’m well acquainted with the washing machine, dishwasher and vacuum cleaner. I deliver a great bedtime story, give good hugs and rarely run out of Band-Aids.

It’s the big stuff I’m lost on. How much TV should they be allowed to watch? How many sweets can they eat? What do I do about discipline? How can I help them be civil and loving to each other? Will they ever clean their room?

I have to wrestle with each of these questions every day, and I have to do it fast. I don’t have time to ponder my choices. I make snap decisions while distracted by cooking dinner, folding laundry, running the bath and reading the stories. Most of the time, I feel like I’m faking it.

After almost 9 years as a parent, I’m used to this feeling. I don’t take it to seriously, or give it too much of my attention. But even though I’ve been at this gig for nearly a decade, the Maternal Imposter Syndrome hasn’t entirely vanished either. It lurks behind every decision I make, big or small, making me wonder if I could have done better. What would Real Moms do? What would my mom do?

I’m well aware that many if not all mamas feel this way from time to time. Mostly my friends and I just shrug it off. And hide it from the kids. I have a hard enough time second-guessing myself. I don’t need to bring them into it. She might be a fraud, but their all-knowing, all-loving Supermom is pretty special. No need to know how very much I’m making her up as I go along.

Read about the personal struggles 6 other parents try to hide from their kids.

Photo: happyworker

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About Sierra Black


Sierra Black

Sierra Black lives, writes and raises her kids in the Boston area. She loves irreverence, hates housework and wants to be a writer and mom when she grows up. Read bio and latest posts → Read Sierra's latest posts →

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3 thoughts on “Maternal Imposter Syndrome: The Struggle I Hope My Kids Don't See

  1. Paula/adhocmom says:

    I wasn’t aware of it, but after reading this I’m pretty sure I have MIS too!

  2. Ado says:

    Like you I have almost 9 years of parenting under my belt and I still feel lost and riddled with MIS too (great term, by the way). I’ve realized that since children grow and they’re constantly moving the goal posts on me that I will probably never quite be expert at it – and by the time I do consider myself somewhat on the ball they’ll be off to college! I think a lot of my parenting is “faking it” also – putting on a brave or happy face – and that’s ok. I think sometimes it’s better to fake it than show how I really feel. What kid wants to see their mom truly muddled and confused, or unhappy – if I didn’t fake it – when I go to the grocery store with them, and feel overwhelmed, I might just curl up in fetal position in the bread aisle! (-:
    - Ado

  3. Theresa says:

    Oh my, I felt like this, still do sometimes. I always thought all the other moms were doing it right, were real moms, while I was just going along, hoping no one would notice I was a fake. It wasn’t until I talked to another mom about it and realized that she felt the same way.

    I blogged about this a long time here:

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