10 Signs You Have Adult Imposter Syndrome

by Stephanie Sprenger
Originally Published: 
A mother playing with her daughter in a park while both are holding ice cream cones

I’m a 37-year-old mother of two, and I have a confession: I am totally faking my way through adulthood. No matter how many grocery lists I write, tiny fingernails I clip, and family dentist appointments I schedule, I can’t shake the feeling that I have absolutely no business being in charge of myself, and certainly not being in charge of the two small people I claim on my taxes. Here’s some evidence that I am merely pretending to be a grown-up:

1. I don’t iron. Ever. In fact, after a few years of toting my unused ironing board around every time I moved to a new home, I finally gave up and gifted it to my domestically refined brother. He knows how to iron. I prefer the tried and true “throw it in the dryer with a damp washcloth” trick. Or if things get really desperate, the “hang it in the bathroom while you shower” strategy. I mean, I buy clothes at Target. It’s not like the cotton-ribbed tank requires much in the way of wrinkle control.

2. I don’t take clothes to the dry cleaner. Aren’t adults supposed to do that? In Sex and the City, weren’t they always picking shit up at the cleaner’s? That is waaay too much work for me. See Item 1. Whenever I accidentally buy something that says “Dry clean only,” I fume for days, wear it unwashed too many times to be couth, and then jam it up into my closet, vowing that I will totally get it dry cleaned. I think you know how this story ends.

3. I am gripped by a paralyzing fear of bees and wasps. One summer afternoon, while enjoying a beer on the back porch, a wasp landed on the rim of my bottle. I shrieked, à la Nathan Lane in The Birdcage, and threw the glass bottle into the air, watching in slow motion as it shattered all over the concrete. Adults aren’t supposed to scream and run away from danger while their children stand dazed in the sandbox.

4. I can’t tie a knot in a balloon. I find this fact to be somewhat humiliating. Also, I’m terrified of balloons popping, a trait I unknowingly passed on to my oldest child. You know that birthday party game where you sit on a balloon? Yeah. Neither one of us is doing that shit. I’m basically a celebration failure.

5. I don’t feel qualified to make parental decisions. Sometimes when my kids ask me a question, I look behind me to see whether they’re actually talking to someone else. Surely there’s someone who’s really in charge here. Can you watch another TV show? Eat a popsicle? Take polka lessons? Have a sleepover? Explore your shadow self? Hell if I know! Occasionally I feel as though I may instead be merely their babysitter, one who happened to push them both out of her vagina.

6. I always make someone else uncork the champagne. It’s akin to the loud popping balloon thing, and I’d just as soon not have people watch me while I pretend to know how to do it. Instead, I smile demurely and pass it on. No thank you, I’ve had enough tokes on this joint. I also can’t open bottles of wine with those fancy armless corkscrews. You know, the kind where you just sort of jam it in there and then pull it straight out, triumphantly, as though you’re a caveman who just speared his dinner and then proudly retracted his weapon? Can. Not. Do that shit.

7. I have no sense of direction. Malls and parking lots are my worst nightmare. I swear a lot and sometimes cry while driving.

8. I am super out of touch with current events. Sometimes when we’re around other adults who are discussing politics or national news, I just nod politely or look shocked, shaking my head regretfully depending on which genre the current event falls into. I can never remember what the hell fracking is, either.

9. We are like ten years behind on all the cool TV shows. We just finished Breaking Bad and finally started House of Cards. I have never seen Mad Men. Or Downton Abbey. I tried The Walking Dead, but when that zombie kid turned around in the opening scene? Fuck it. I was out.

10. I can’t use chopsticks. I mean, that’s just embarrassing.

On my darkest days, I remind myself that I still make unique and valuable contributions to my family and society in general. After all, not every adult can flawlessly quote from a plethora of obscure films from the ’80s and ’90s, compose strongly worded letters to crappy businesses, and deftly spot misspellings on public signs. Also, I suspect I’m not the only one who suffers from “Adult Imposter Syndrome.” You’re just faking it too, right? (Please say yes.)

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