Many moms label motherhood as the best thing that ever happened to them. Some even say, “being a mom completes me. It’s all I ever wanted.”
Don’t get me wrong. Motherhood is amazing. There’s nothing like it in the world and since I’ve become a mom, my life has changed dramatically for the better. And for many moms, motherhood does complete them. But not for all moms.
There’s another side to motherhood very few moms talk about. The lonely side. The side where we sit at home with our crying babies day in and day out. The side where we forget when we last showered. The side where we pick crusted food off of the same pair of sweatpants we’ve worn for the past two weeks – simply because we’re too tired to wash them.
Let’s talk about that side, shall we?
When I gave birth to my son nearly eight (!) months ago, I experienced deep feelings of loneliness almost immediately. This may sound surprising, especially since we all know what life is like those first few weeks. Chaotic, right? There’s a constant swarm of people coming in and out of your house. How can you feel lonely?
Easy. None of those people (not even your spouse) truly understands what you’re going through. Even the people who have kids don’t fully understand – after all, they didn’t have your kid. You’ve embarked on a journey that nothing and no one can prepare you for.
I remember sitting upstairs breastfeeding my son on Christmas Day while my family was downstairs playing games. As much as I enjoyed and even craved alone time with my baby, I felt lonely. My family was sharing memories while I was upstairs missing out. It may sound selfish, but it’s true. And you know what? It’s okay to be honest about our feelings.
Moms, we’re in a lonely season of life. A season where our kids come first. A season where colds, doctor’s appointments, naps, etc. make it difficult to make time for friends. A season where we are so overwhelmed we can barely remember to shower and get dressed (I’m lucky if I managed that during the first few months after my son was born). A season where our laundry pile takes on a life of its own. A season where sleep is more important than girl’s night out. A season where we struggle to keep up with the curveballs life loves to throw at us every day (or sometimes every hour).
It’s completely normal to feel lonely. It doesn’t mean you love your baby any less. It doesn’t mean you wish you never became a mom (although, ask me that question during a 3am wake-up call and you may get a different answer!). It just means we’re human and that one season in life, no matter how great, often requires a tradeoff in other areas.
How do we handle loneliness when it arrives at our doorstep? Here are some ways I’ve learned to cope:
- Do something for yourself. Take a hot shower, go for a run, catch some much-needed sleep, go shopping (for you, not baby), get a pedicure. You get the idea. I’ve noticed that my feelings of loneliness are strongest when I’m not feeling my best or taking good care of myself. When you’re sleep deprived, your emotions mess with you. So put yourself first. Don’t worry – the earth will keep spinning if you decide to take a “mom break.”
- Have a date night. The most important relationship to cultivate outside of the one with your child is the one with your spouse. This comes before all your other friendships. Getting out of the house just the two of you is a great cure for loneliness. Not to mention it’s amazing what a little lipstick and heels can do for your mood.
*I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out to the single moms out there. First off, you ladies are amazing! Second, you can still do date night if you’re single. Grab one of your best friends and hit the town. Date night doesn’t have to be romantic! Or take a night just for yourself. Watch your favorite movie, veg on your favorite snacks…the key is to make it about you.
- Connect with other moms. This can be in person or online. There are so many great mom blogs and forums out there. Hop online and vent to other moms who get it. You never know who you’ll end up meeting in the process (feel free to email me at email@example.com if you need to vent, too!). If you’re looking for a face-to-face connection, check out local mom groups in your community. There’s bound to be groups or activities you can get involved in that will help you form relationships with other moms.
- Remind yourself that this too shall pass. I know it sounds cliche, but sometimes reminding ourselves that a situation is temporary can be a huge boost. This won’t last forever. You will leave the house again. You will form new friendships (and maintain some of the old ones too). I’ve also found it helpful to make a list of the people in my life who have always been there supporting me. It shows me I’m not alone and that there are many people in my life who love me and will be waiting for me when I come up for air.
- Seek counseling. Many people are afraid to get counseling. Some may feel ashamed to ask for help. Some may think it’s only for people who need serious help. I’m a big believer in counseling – it was critical in helping me navigate my parents’ divorce. I think there’s great value in talking with an objective, neutral, third-party about your feelings. You don’t have to feel guilty or worry you’re letting that person down. If you can’t afford counseling, talk to a mentor, pastor or someone else you trust. The point is to share your feelings, rather than let them fester inside you.
Hang in there, momma. While motherhood may feel like a lonely, thankless job, it is one of the most important jobs you’ll ever hold. Embrace it. Cherish it. And when you’re having a bad day, talk about it.
How do you cope with feelings of loneliness? Leave a comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. To see my journey as a new mom, follow me on Snapchat @michellelvroom!