The posture of parenting

Within the daily struggle of parenthood, being me has become my biggest battle.

Last week, I was looking at my children playing at my feet when I had a sudden moment of realisation. I spend an inordinate amount of time with my head down. Watching the girls, looking at my laptop or phone, preparing food. Always with my head bowed, hunched forward. A posture that, to an outsider, might suggest that I was sad, shy or lacking in confidence.

The power of body language

Years ago, a social psychologist called Amy Cuddy gave a TED talk on body language. It was about overcoming imposter syndrome and techniques she used to build her own confidence. Acting as though she were powerful and self assured for so long that she convinced herself. Cuddy advised using power poses to make yourself look and feel more confident.

Some of Cuddy’s research has since been discredited. But the fact remains that we can tell a lot about a person by their body language, and the likelihood is we are reading our own body language too. It has been proven that if we force ourselves to smile, we naturally feel happier. So, is this constant tendency to look down having a detrimental impact on my confidence?

Losing my identity

I know it’s not for everyone but when the children came along, giving up my established career was the right decision for me. And with it, I waved goodbye to aspiration, achievement and validation. Along with work socials, companionship and lunchtime drinking with friends.

Instead, I signed up for loneliness. Hours spent in front of the laptop, alone at home with only the dogs for company. It brought opportunities too. Being with the children all the time. Never missing a sports day, parents evening or school production. And that was what I wanted. It still is.

But somewhere down the road that led me from working lunches to lonely days at home, I lost my way. The competitive, energetic person who did triathlons and socialised was replaced by something else. An imposter trying to have it all and failing horribly. Someone who feels uncomfortable in their own skin. Incapable of having a conversation with strangers, shy around friends and a complete social reject in big groups.

Head held high

It doesn’t really help to know that I’m not the only one, or that plenty of parents fall into the same trap. But perhaps that body language expert has a point. Perhaps forcing myself to walk into a room looking straight ahead instead of down at my children – or my feet – would be helpful.

Maybe the people who retain an air of confidence do just that. Force themselves to keep their heads held high, embrace difficult situations and go out of their comfort zone. Until the air of confidence they exude convinces even themselves.

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  1. I used to have a lot more energy and confidence too! Now things make me nervous as I don’t always want to go to big groups or try something adventurous. But I definitely do try and pretend I am confident, even if I’m not feeling it! Fake it til you make it! X

  2. Yep, you’ve just described me too! Maybe I need to give this a try. I actually did it on Stroud half marathon as I wasn’t feeling confident about it at all, so I made myself look up and smile at the start of the race and it worked!
    I observed my daughter meeting new people a few months ago and I realised how open her body language is. As a result she seems to just attract people and there’s now about five people at her new school who class her as their best friend!

    1. That’s wonderful about how your daughter is, and I can totally understand why people want to associate with her if she is like that. Glad it worked for you on the HM.

  3. I found volunteer training with children’s centre and another children’s organisation really valuable for working on getting confidence after having kids. Perfect advice from one lady running a course ‘head up, shoulders back, tits out, look confident, feel confident’ 😉

  4. I totally relate – I went from speaking to hundreds of different people every day and being able to spark up a conversation with anyone from pretty much anywhere in the world to having panic attacks about going to a baby group! The thing that really helped me was starting my yoga class. I think taking just a bit of time, even if it’s an hour a week to just do something for yourself where you meet new people but the pressure isn’t on socialising really helps. And I’m so glad I did it before Oliver started school because it’s actually quite nice making friends on the playground!

  5. Hi Nat, I can totally relate to this, except I was like it long before my children came along. Sometimes I can hold my head high and put on an air of confidence, especially when I have a camera in my hand (it creates a perfect barrier between me and the world), but I find it exhausting and have come to the conclusion that just isn’t me. I am the twitchy one, who says things that even surprise me at times. You’ll always find me under the table at parties (and I rarely drink or go to parties!). I’ve now come to the conclusion that I’m happier being me, lacking confidence than me, trying to be confident… But Nat, if you were that person before, you still are that person and once your girls have grown up, that person will get a chance to shine again… I promise.


    1. Ah thank you Debbie. I’ve always struggled with confidence on and off but learnt the bravado for a previous job where it was essential. I’m not sure I’ll ever go back to being like that. Great idea with the camera, I need to buy one!