When I was a new mom, I had been warned about so much — let’s face it, that’s everyone’s favorite pastime with expecting mothers, right? To tell them all about how terrible having a new baby is? I had heard about the crying, the lack of sleep, the spit-up, the diaper blowouts. There was really no preparing myself for it, of course. You can’t know what it’s like, prepare for having a baby, until you have one. But there was a reassurance in knowing that it was normal. This is what having kids is like. Everyone goes through this. It’ll get better soon. But there was something literally no one warned me about.
No one told me how lonely it is to be a mom.
As a work-from-home mom, I discovered firsthand how soul-crushing the loneliness can be. I spend day after day after day with my five children, and even though I’m technically not alone, I have little-to-no adult contact or conversation. My day consists of tending to the wants of little people, who are loud and irrational and needy. I love my kids, but it’s a long, thankless job, being home with the kids. Most days, I’m in old, stained clothes. My hair hasn’t been washed in days. The bags under my eyes are darker and puffier than ever before. I probably smell like some weird combination of yogurt, spit-up, and baby poop. And my only outlet to the grownup world is Facebook.
Even though I’m never actually physically alone, the loneliness is unbearable. There’s no one to commiserate with. No close friends to just call up and spend time with, because your kids take up so much of your life. No real conversations.
It’s not much better when you work outside the home, either. The only interactions with colleagues can be impersonal and don’t lead to true connection with other people, and yet that can still be the the only interaction you have with adults all day. You rush in the morning to get everyone ready for school and then get to work on time, go to work — where you may or may not spend any time socializing with anyone at all — and then come home, where you rush to get everyone fed, bathed, and in bed. By the time it’s over, you’re exhausted and fall into bed.
Mom loneliness isn’t a stay-at-home or working mom issue. It affects us all.
Being a mother is isolating in a way I never expected. Literally no one warned me. No one said that your friends fall by the wayside — not by choice, yours or theirs, but because of necessity — and that you spend so much of your day yearning to connect with someone on a deeper level than watching Little Einsteins for the 57th time. And yet, because I didn’t really know what it was, I didn’t realize that the issue I was facing was loneliness. I would spend day after day feeling sad, or stressed, and I never really connected it to what the problem actually was. When I finally realized I was lonely, it was like a lightbulb went on. There’s nothing wrong with me; I’m lonely. Motherhood is lonely work, and it… well, it sucks.
I still have friends, close friends whom I love. But they’re parents, too. They have jobs. They have lives. When you become an adult, and especially when you become a mother, it gets harder and harder to see those friends on a regular basis. Everyone has their own stuff going on. We love each other, we see each other when we can, but day to day, I’m alone. It’s hard. And I wish that someone, anyone, had told me it would be like this — that motherhood can be isolating and that I would battle this soul-crushing loneliness that makes you feel so alone. It helps so much to know that you’re not, in fact, alone. But no one warns you about the loneliness.
The good news is, once you realize it’s a problem, you can start trying to change it. Just picking up the phone and talking to someone helps, even if it’s only for 10-15 minutes; for me, that usually ends up being when I’m driving around in the afternoon, picking my kids up from their respective schools. I’ll call one of my good friends who lives in Chicago, and we catch up on our lives. It’s a sanity-saver. Or you can reach out to other moms, go on play dates, schedule a moms’ night out — joining one of the JMB Neighborhood Mom Groups is a great way to do this. But really, it doesn’t matter what you do. Just reach out. Reach out to someone, anyone. It’s okay to admit you’re lonely. It’s okay to crave adult interaction. And once you do that, once you reach out, you can start beating the isolation we’re all struggling with.