Recently, I went to the Art of Leadership for Women conference with some colleagues. Clearly, the draw was Martha Stewart—who remains a terrifying and awesome presence despite her time in the slammer—but I really enjoyed Katty Kay's session on the confidence gap. She and Claire Shipman (both journalists) have been researching the roots of confidence—particularly, why men have so much of it and women, ostensibly, so little.
Some people say they're creating a gender divide that doesn't really exist. But as I listened to her talk about how women dwell on the small mistakes and forget the larger victories; how they obsess about being perfect and are afraid to the risk of being wrong; how they secretly believe they don't deserve the good things that have come their way, I thought, That sounds like me.
And you know what else? That sounds like motherhood.
There is nothing more beautiful—and more terrifying—than the moment the nurse or doctor or midwife places your newborn in your arms for the first time. And even as you're falling in love with those sweet little features, you're thinking, Oh my God...they trust ME to take care of a newborn?!
Those endless questions—What do I do now?, Am I doing it right?—haunt us. We worry about whether our children are developing the way they're supposed to—because if they're not, clearly, it's our fault. We blame ourselves for problems or when things don't work out (see my obsessive guilt about not being able to breastfeed my first baby if you want proof of that one).
And yes, during that moment when we look away for just one second and the child rolls off the change table or falls off the bed, we question whether we are fit to be mothers.
I'm sure fathers experience some of those thoughts and feelings, too. But they ring particularly true for mothers, I think, because we are always evaluating ourselves—against other mothers or against some ridiculously high standard that is impossible to meet.
That's why we need to help each other out. As women, as mothers, we need to be kind to one another. In the absence of a "village" to help us raise our children, the least we can do is support one another—and know that, despite our confidence in our parenting skills (or lack thereof), we have all of the competence that we need to raise healthy, happy kids.
This, I know, is a gap we can overcome.