Let’s talk about that imposter syndrome feeling some of us feel when we return to work and we’re sort of doing it all except we’re not because who the hell, but nobody wants to admit it beyond the nervous jokes about mushy brain that is actually a thing. And I’ll use punctuation from here on out.
I may have mentioned a time or many that I’m very fortunate to work with some pretty fantastic people, leading to an incredibly supportive and inspiring work environment.
It’s also meant that I felt safe to share how I have felt as a working mother, juggling work with house chores without losing sight of my priority – my son.
And when I did open up I found out, to my surprise, that everybody is on the same little raft navigating gusty winds and stormy waters! All of us. Here. On this minuscule thing of a raft! I couldn’t believe it.
After the first six months of being back, when I thought I’d had enough time to adjust and baby was sleeping better and we had a new routine of sorts, I took a deep breadth and thought to myself – what the hell, Jo, how are you meant to do this? *pulls hair dramatically*
The laundry is never done. Like, never. The moment you clear the basket, someone needs to chuck something in there immediately just so the thing can laugh at you. Always. Meals and dishes and grocery shopping are yet another perpetual task because as luck would have it, we eat everyday. Multiple times a day. Who knew?!
At work, as much as you love your job and (in my case) the intellectual stimulation I can’t quite get from, say, laundry, some days you feel you’ve just gone for the coffee. You’ll still have meetings and you’ll say clever things and hope you’ve been useful and helpful, always useful and helpful, even when your eyes are propped open with toothpicks, but deep down you’re not feeling any of it.
Deep down you’re thinking of how much better you could be if you could get your hands on a good (or a few!) night’s sleep and no school pick up. Guess what? There would be other things. And guess what 2? Most people in that room are probably thinking a version of the same thing! It’s called adulting!
And just because none of that is enough to send you through the roof of despair, you’ll be thinking of how you miss your child and how you fail them by thinking of work through bedtime as you read The Gruffalo for the 5th time in a row doing a multitude of voices not quite remembering if you’ve kept them consistent (really?!). But that’s for another post.
So as I was saying, six months after being back you have yourself this merry little moment of what the heck? and because you’re fortunate you talk to colleagues. You tell them how you feel when they ask, how you really feel, not the hair pulling bit or the borderline swearing bit, of course, you somehow keep it professional and convey the same message politely and crucially, honestly.
You tell them this business of being a parent in full-time employment is actually bloody hard. You tell them you struggle at times and you think you’re not sure how everyone else is doing this whilst you’re finding it so hard, because surely you would have heard it’s tough from someone beyond the jokes over coffee, right?
Someone would have said this is actually hard. For real hard. Not a dismissive hard, but more a palpable one that will bring with it self doubt and a need for hugs and a community. And maybe someone did, but you only heard it when you stood tall and said “I feel like jelly today.”
And then you are hugged.
That’s when you know you’re in the right place. I’m surrounded by a powerhouse of people who get it! Women and men who are supportive, who get the jelly feeling, who know not to see you through your eyes but their own when theirs are so much kinder (and dare I say, fairer).
I’ve received incredible advice on this that has impacted my life deeply. Mostly, it revolves around acceptance and knowing you’re not alone. You are not broken or a lesser version of yourself or a poorer version of everyone else. No!
You are part of a special group of people who turn up everyday to their lives and live it.
And for that poo of an imposter syndrome meets unattainable always losing when comparing yourself to others syndrome? Hear it from those that have reached the sky, trust me on that:
Do you know what? Let’s just drop this imposter syndrome business! If we all feel it, it’s not a thing. It’s not. We’re all here, we’re all turning up. I know it’s easy to look at me or other successful people and think you are not doing it, but guess what?, we all have chips and cracks, you’re just not seeing those. You are doing it. We all are. Equally imperfectly! And let’s embrace that because that’s wonderful!Awesome work colleague of mine. Yep, that’s right, I do work with brilliant people!