“Momposter syndrome is characterized by feelings of inadequacy with regard to being a Mom. ‘Momposters‘ suffer from chronic self-doubt, comparison to others, and they fear judgement. These feelings override any feelings of confidence, success, or real-life proof that they are a badass Mom.“
I wrote the definition of momposter syndrome after listening to a podcast where they spoke about imposter syndrome. While imposter syndrome is based on feelings intellectual inadequacy, something I am all too familiar with as a graduate student, momposter syndrome is based on feelings of “moming” inadequacy. As I listened to all the issues one would have with imposter syndrome, a light bulb went off in my brain. “Oh my god… if you switched out a few words here and there, they would literally be describing what most Moms feel like nowadays”. This week my goal is to crush all the momposter feelings out there. In this blog post I am going to list out and describe four reasons why you have might have momposter syndrome, and then I am going to explain why these reasons are complete bullshit. Buckle up. I am going to be honest and I might swear a few times because I feel like swearing helps me get my point across.
And then there’s me in my dirty house with one baby and no plans to have another because one is enough for us.
1. SOCIAL MEDIA.
We all love consuming beautifully curated social media content on Instagram. I get it. It’s pretty. Naturally, there are a ton of accounts that are geared towards moms. Three kinds of accounts I come across often that might give you momposter syndrome are:
Food accounts where every single square in the profile is a meal or snack they have made for their child with a super detailed description, of course. Steamed carrots infused with lemongrass and cut into heart shapes. Organic almond butter spread on fresh-out-the-oven homemade flax bread. So impressive! Then there’s me, breaking up store-bought banana bread (can we just call it cake… it’s cake) with my fingers. and pretending it’s healthy. Handing Milo a pouch of whatever on those days where he throws our GoodFood easy-prep dinner on the floor.
#MomStyle accounts where every square is a mom completely done up for the day. Not a special occasion. Just the day. Where in the fuck does anyone find the time to: 1. blow dry their hair and put in perfect curls; 2. apply a full face of make-up; 3. put together a flawless outfit that’s clean and not purchased in a pyjama aisle; 4. take professional photos of said outfit; and, 5. post the photo with a short novel of a caption. I wish I looked that put together everyday. But, then there’s me in the same clothes I slept in. Greasy top bun almost always. Same jeans and t-shirt almost always. The kicker is that most of these “style moms” have a few young children… yeah… that’s rich.
Perfect family accounts where they have 14+ children that are always in matching outfits and perfectly posing in every photo. A spotless and usually bright white home. Mom and Dad look like professional models, and the perfect lighting in their photos makes you think they must live on another planet. And then there’s us in our messy house with one baby and no plans to have another because one is enough for us. We had matching pyjamas at Christmas last year and that was a big deal.
You are the one that decides what social media content you consume.
I admire these accounts and I can appreciate the work that goes into creating them. What I don’t do is feel bad about our quick dinners and store bought snacks, my messy hair and jeans and t-shirts, or our messy house and lack of 14+ children. Would you look at an issue of Vogue and compare your life to a spread of some celebrity family. No. Would you look at a culinary magazine and feel bad that your Thanksgiving dinner didn’t look like Martha Stewart’s? No. Because magazines publish staged photoshoots that take a ton of time and effort to shoot and edit, right? Well, same goes for an overwhelming number of Instagram accounts. These accounts take a lot of time and energy to manage. I think because these people are not “celebrities” we assume that what is depicted on their Instagram is their real life. Like those split seconds in time that are captured in a photo represent their all day, everyday. I can assure you, it is not real life, despite what the little captions under the photo say.
Look for and follow social media accounts that are real and that you relate to. You are the one that decides what social media content you consume. Do you feel better about yourself after scrolling your Instagram or, do you feel like “ugh, I need to do X, Y, and Z better”. Or, use your social media awareness when you’re scrolling and when you see a beautifully curated account, appreciate the hours and hours of work that goes into it, know it’s not real life, and move on.
I don’t care how much research you throw at me about the benefits of baby-led weaning. NOT DOING IT!
2. UNSOLICITED ADVICE.
This one is tricky. Sometimes people are legit trying to be helpful and that’s great. But, I think as moms we automatically have this defensive reaction to someone when they offer advice because we think they’re judging us. Basically, if you’re giving me advice about something to do with my child, then obviously you think what I’m already doing is not the best way to do it. Then we feel like momposters! Or, maybe you’re just giving a suggestion. Chances are we’ve tried your suggestion and it failed. Or, we’ve already read everything there is to know about your suggestion and we don’t want to do it for X, Y, and Z reasons. Nowadays, with so much information available at our fingertips, most Moms are well versed in everything baby/toddler/child-related. We know the “rules” about safe sleep and carseats. We know that baby-led weaning is all the rage right now. We know we should have a solid and consistent bedtime routine. We know we eventually have to wean our babe from a bottle (FML). WE KNOW! And guess what? Sometimes we just don’t care! Sometimes we choose to do things that make life easier for today and maybe harder for tomorrow. And that’s fine. For example, we scatter 4-5 soothers in Milo’s crib before he goes to bed. It works for us right now. He wakes up without a soother and instead of whining and us having to get up and go in to give him one, he finds one on his own and everyone is happy and sleeping. Is this going to f*ck us over later on? Most definitely. And we know that!
It’s annoying when you’ve been dealing with something for a long time, you’re frustrated, and someone who doesn’t have a clear picture of your situation suggests something in a way that makes it sound like it’s a simple answer to all your problems. When this happens, keep in mind that people (except professionals) only have experience with their own children, in their own home, with their own family dynamic. What worked for them is not necessarily going to work for you and your family. Maybe you’re not comfortable doing something that someone else swears by. We tried baby-led weaning for about 30 seconds and then decided nope, not for us. Milo ate purees for months and has since moved on to teeny tiny pieces of everything. I don’t care how much research you throw at me about the benefits of baby-led weaning. NOT DOING IT!
Own your decisions as a Mom. Stand by them. Believe in them. Let people make suggestions and be confident enough to either accept it or ignore it without feeling like you’re being judged or criticized. You also have to give people the benefit of the doubt sometimes. Most people genuinely want to help or share something they feel they’re knowledgable about. I have many friends who are professionals (i.e., speech language pathologist, psychologist, behaviour analyst, etc.) and I love having discussions with them about topics like crying it out, screen time, nutrition, etc. Be open to what people have to say, educate yourself on topics you’re curious about, do what works for your family, and live your best life as a result.
3. THE ONE STUDY THEY OBSESS ABOUT ON EVERY MEDIA OUTLET.
Like f*ck, Janet. I haven’t even taken the crusts out from my eyes and you’re already up, sending people this sh*t!
Let me paint this picture for you. Your alarm goes off in the morning, you grab your phone and notice you have a message from a friend. Open message. It’s a news article… “SOME TITLE ABOUT SOME RESEARCH THAT’S WRITTEN IN A WAY THAT MAKES YOU INSTANTLY FEEL LIKE A MOMPOSTER.” Something like how rice is basically arsenic and you’re poisoning your child if you give them those little rice puffs they love so much. Or, screens destroy your child’s brain and they’re doomed if you so much as think about putting the friggin’ Wiggles on!! Like f*ck, Janet. I haven’t even taken the crusts out from my eyes and you’re already up, sending people this sh*t! Ugh. Moving on with your day. Walk to the kitchen, pour yourself some coffee, sit down on the couch for an unidentified amount of quiet time before your child wakes up and chaos ensues. Turn on TV. BOOM. There’s Al Roker and Hoda Kotb discussing the same f*cking research study that Janet sent you. Now you know that for the next 2-3 days, everyone you know is going to ask if you heard about that new study that’s been on the news, and blah blah blah. And, you’re gonna have to give some kind of response about how you’re going to incorporate these research findings into your life for the betterment of your child.
I guess this topic is even more annoying to me because I live in the research world. I know that the media is pulling only what they think will get viewers, likes, clicks, downloads, etc. Let’s play a game. Here’s a news headline… “New Study Determines That 75% Of People Have Sex Three Times A Day!” WOW. That’s shocking. I know I feel like sh*t about my sex life after reading that. Now, let’s pretend we got ahold of the actual research study they’re citing and we find out that only four people were surveyed. The four people were males. The males were between the ages of 20 and 25. And, the researchers considered masturbating “sex”. You catch my drift here?
Take home message here is that these singular studies are exactly that. Single studies. Yes, some have extremely valuable findings and will encourage more research to be done in a certain area. But, before you throw out all your rice puffs and screens, I recommend diving deeper into the research. Don’t let a 2 minute news story on TV, or online news article with only 3 quotes from the actual primary research study induce momposter syndrome. Now, go get some arsenic puffs, put The Wiggles Christmas special on repeat, and call it a day.
4. THE #BLESSED MOMS.
Definition of a #blessed mom: A regular mom, just like you and I, who would not dare speak a negative word about their experiences as a mom. They project only a 100% #blessed ideal of motherhood to their online and real-life family and friends.
We all know some #blessed moms. And I’ll preface this section by saying there’s nothing wrong with being a #blessed mom. However, I will say that moms who are open about their struggles and feelings find #blessed moms annoying AF. Moms know deep down that they are all having similar experiences. Both the good and the bad. But, when you are surrounded by a group of moms, whether it be virtually or physically, who are uncomfortable about being honest, you might start to feel like a momposter. Like, why am I not feeling pure bliss day in and day out? Why don’t I enjoy sitting on the floor for 3 hours at a time playing with my baby? Why don’t I like rocking my baby to sleep for an hour every night? Yes, everyone has their baby-bliss moments…. but, every day, all day? Frig. Imagine this caption under a photo of a mom with a huge smile and her 5 month old baby… “This little cutie only let mama sleep for 3 hours last night! She just wanted mommy snuggles! I have to take all the snuggles I can get before this girl grows up! #lovemybaby” Like, really? You’ve got to be sh*tting me right now.
Because I have a background in psychology, I always find myself thinking about why people behave in a certain way. For example, I know I use humour when I talk about upsetting things. That’s my “defense mechanism”. I make things funny. So, I wonder if being a #blessed mom is their own way of coping with difficulties. Maybe they are afraid of sharing anything negative or their true feelings about something baby-related because they think people will judge them. Whatever it may be, we all know that there are extreme highs and extreme lows when you become a new mom. Some people are comfortable sharing and discussing every detail with other moms. It helps them get through the difficult times. The #blessed moms are going through the same sh*t. They just aren’t comfortable discussing the sh*t, and that’s fine. Do keep this in mind when you’re in the company of #blessed moms and you start to feel the momposter syndrome coming for you.
Take home messages from this blog post:
- Social Media: Beautifully curated mom-related social media accounts are a result of hours upon hours of hard work. They are carefully thought out and utilize a number of people and programs to help keep it up and running. Despite what the captions might say, they are typically not representative of every day #momlife.
- Unsolicited Advice: Most people who give you advice genuinely want to help. They offer suggestions based on what has worked for them personally, or based on their experiences with babies and/or children. Every family, baby, mom, dad, dog, goldfish, and household is different. What works for one family may not work for another. Hear out what people have to say, but ultimately you are the one that knows your baby best. Be confident in your decisions as a mom!
- That One Study: Don’t lose your mind and trade in your iPhone for a flip phone because the TODAY show mentions a study about children’s screen time and cognitive development. Do get curious about it, do some investigating (Google is the bomb), get educated about the matter, make a decision that works for YOUR family, and crush life.
- #blessed moms: Everyone has different comfort levels with regard to sharing personal information with others. Some moms feel better opening up and being honest about difficult situations to family and friends. Alternatively, some moms feel better projecting pure joy/bliss/happiness/perfection to family and friends. And… that’s okay! In the end, we all know we’re ALL going through the same bliss and shit.