I’ve heard before that when feeling insecure in a new job you just have to “fake it till you make it.” But I seem to have mixed luck with my attempts—especially in my role as a parent. Mostly, I just end up exhausted when I allow insincerity to take over. I was able to “fake” my way through three months as an eternally chipper Chick-Fil-A cashier, and I only remember getting nuggets thrown at me across the counter once. As a first year teacher, I faked that I wasn’t a fresh-outta-college rookie who was intimidated by the 17 years olds in my class. I faked that I understood Moby Dick. And I faked that the reason I recognized a plagiarized Tupac song embedded in a student’s essay wasn’t because I owned that album. After all, teachers are supposed to listen to Kenny G while grading essays and sipping chai tea by candlelight.
But then I became I parent. And the faking that can come with this role is exhausting. I couldn’t fake that I felt like I wasn’t drowning my first month back at work after maternity leave as students banged relentlessly on my office door while I was trying to pump. I couldn’t fake that many middle-of-the-night feedings were spent crying through lullabies rather than delighting in baby bonding. I couldn’t fake that I wasn’t sometimes envious when I’d see friends enjoying our “old life”—going out to dinner SPONTANEOUSLY or eating at restaurants without a bib, high chair, and pureed prunes in tow.
The newborn baby fog soon lifted, and the baby bliss set in. My husband and I temporarily enjoyed a taste of “we got this.” Then our immobile blob baby became a tiny toddler tyrant. I got good at faking that I knew how to discipline and that I had grace under pressure. Inside, I was embarrassed, exhausted, and desperate for someone to give me the elusive how-to parenting book that everyone else seemed to have access to.
Our toddler then became a preschooler, we added another boy to the mix, and are currently cooking one more new addition. In this phase, the faking and exhaustion look a little different.
I’m faking that I care about Rescue Bots and Paw Patrol. (For the record, I legit enjoy Daniel Tiger…my only parenting wins are because of his songs.)
I’m faking that the entire t-ball game is fun to watch.
I’m faking cool composure when company rings the doorbell when in reality I’ve been scrambling to cook and clean and screaming for assistance just moments before.
I’m faking that pictures of other people’s insta-families don’t have influence on me.
I’m faking confidence in my own ability to truly know my kids.
But it’s that last one, the confidence-faking, that I’m learning isn’t all bad. If I allow self-trust and remind myself that no other person knows my kids as well as my husband and I do, in spite of not knowing all of the answers, then I find relief from the faking exhaustion. My kids also need to know that I feel confident in them and in our family structure and values.
But practically speaking, sometimes self-talk just seems hollow. I’m experiencing almost daily that sharing vulnerably with other parents is the best antidote to finding our faking pitfalls because . . .
We learn we are not alone—we are all fakers to some extent.
We find encouragement from an outsider’s perspective.
We can learn concrete improvement strategies from trusted others who actually are doing it better. Conversely, our strengths can help with their weaknesses, too.
I know that our family is only a few short years away from bigger issues and more mature kids who are going to see through facades. My sincerest hope and prayer is that they’ll always feel free to be their real selves with us. I hope that practicing vulnerability with them and with our own peers will model for our kids that there’s actually safety in the risk of exposing yourself. (Clearly my parenting fail here is wordsmithing . . . we’ll come up with a better catchphrase before we promote self-exposure to our kids.)
In what area do you feel like you’re “faking it” as a parent? Who is someone you can be vulnerable and real with?