One is Not Always the Loneliest Number

A week ago I sat down to start gathering my thoughts for this post, and at the time I had every intention of it following a similar format to previous posts of mine.  An anecdote or two, followed up by how I felt about it, and capped off with my pearls of wisdom that I learned from it.  The aim for the majority of my posts is to not only help me clarify my own experiences through the writing process, but they are written with hopes of letting other moms know they aren’t alone.  I cross my fingers that someone reads it and it breathes wave of relief into their chest as they are reminded that motherhood, while unique and individual, is also very parallel and shared.  Something that screams, “I feel it too, and I understand.  You are not alone”.  Something that allows someone to find a piece of themselves in someone else’s experience, too.

Like several of my prior posts, I reached out to my Momtourage beforehand to gather any of their thoughts or experiences with the motherhood lonelies. Message after message after message poured in illuminating the vast and varied forms this solitary feeling can take on, and I was holding twelve pages worth of candid and honest words that completely shifted my understanding of the topic.  Loneliness that stems from work or staying home, friendships, marriage to being a single mom, or the loneliness that comes from having to find a whole new identity as you try and grasp to pieces of your prior self. To write about my singular experience would be severely limited, and trying to integrate their thoughts into my narrative would be reckless.

So below (and with their permission), I’m sharing their experiences along with my own peppered throughout.  I’m hoping that through hearing our words, others can find comfort in knowing that the number one is most certainly not always the loneliest number.  

“My loneliness stems from being “just a mom”.  I’ve always worked a lot and its hard to have an identity and purpose when your sole purpose is being someone’s mom.  I struggle with relating to my husband and friends because they truly have no idea how hard it can be.  Its the best kind of work but its still work and I feel a bit discounted for the work I do.  Its so easy for the day to pass and you feel like you have accomplished nothing. Having commitments on the calendar (classes, play dates, whatever!) really help”.

“It’s all an adjustment learning how to go from no kids to one, from one to two and from working to staying home. They are all big changes! I feel like whenever something involves a struggle it can often be accompanied by lonely feelings.”

“I think being a stay home mom is the most wonderful gift but there are times when I feel so alone, like the lone soldier left on the battlefield! I also feel like I can’t say anything about the loneliness because my husband works very hard so I can stay home or to my friends that would like to stay home but don’t have the opportunity. Most of the time I would not give up the chance to stay home for the world but there are times that I feel very alone and those times I feel even more alone because I feel like I can’t say anything to people about it because it makes me sound ungrateful for the opportunity!”

“I think this is something that no one can prepare you for. You are always with baby, yet sometimes you feel so alone. In the early newborn phase I feel like it wasn’t as lonely because other people could soothe her and she was new and exciting so everyone wanted to help with her, so people were around more, asking about how WE were doing, etc. As she gets older, the newness has worn off and she knows other people, yet if I’m around, she only wants me, and it can be very lonely. No one seems to ask about how I am doing anymore, it’s all about her which is fine, she is awesome and I really love to talk about her too but I can pretty much guarantee no one really knows about anything going on with me outside of what’s going on with my baby!”

“Gosh, being a single mom is the loneliest I’ve ever felt in my whole life. Not only do I go to sleep by myself at the end of every long and trying day but I watched my son walk for the first time by myself, he rode his bike down the sidewalk and I cheered him on by myself, and with every accomplishment and milestone I celebrate by myself. Sometimes I feel grateful that I don’t have to share, but if I could just have someone curl up next to and the end of a long day and say “today he swam, all by himself!” I would be thrilled. I love being a mom, I love doing and being everything that my son needs, but I just would like to feel like I have someone to rely on other than myself”.

“I remember being on vacation with several other adults (all family including my husband), and baby girl would be crabby and need a nap or need to be fed or just need a change of scenery so without thinking much about it, I’d walk or drive around just her and I for hours sometimes to get her to sleep while the rest of the people got to hang out, take their time eating, drinking, having adult time … yet here I am essentially alone doing what needs to be done for my baby. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I cherish those moments because she only wants me and it makes me feel like I’ve done a good job loving her and she knows it, but sometimes I wish someone else would understand her needs like I do”.

“[an incident involving babe potentially getting hurt]… This incident just reminded me that no matter how many people are around, she is still 100% my responsibility. It’s all on me and I can’t truly count on anyone else to keep her safe because if I am there, everyone else thinks I’ve got her”.

“I have a great husband who helps out with the baby and yet I still feel alone. I know I’ll never truly be alone but the feeling that I provide my child’s daily food (at an impressive rate I may add), work full time with high expectations from my boss (or maybe I’m just continuing to hold myself to high standards?), and keeping up with the things that need to be done can be lonely. And on top of it the standards my husband holds for me regarding duties around the house and other things. Maybe the feeling of loneliness comes from us having a baby and his social life continues without any hesitation.  Maybe I feel alone because my list of responsibilities has grown and his didn’t”.

“My feelings of loneliness hit this summer when I was off work! I love being home and if my husband said I could stay home I would in a second, but none of my friends have kids! So NONE of them really get it! I see my sister in law with every one of her friends having kids and it makes me feel lonely. I’m trying to make more of an effort but a lot of the time it’s just little babe and me and as sweet as she is she doesn’t talk back to me yet!”

“I think as the excitement of having a newborn wore off and as routine set in, I noticed hubby starting to check out a little. He was perfectly fine with me doing everything (I was still on maternity leave) and he wanted to resume his normal social life again. But as hubby was gone more and more and little man started to get out of the newborn stage (aka not sleeping ALL the time), I started to experience a lot of loneliness. It seemed like I was doing everything to care for little man, continue to take care of our home, and I also had gone back to work. I felt like I was alone every weekend and a lot of weeknights (my husband stays very busy). I have learned from all of this that I need to say no, I need to ask for help, and I need to be honest! Becoming parents is an incredible privilege but it is also a very stressful and every changing time in your life and having a solid support system and team is absolutely essential!”

“Oh, the lonelies. I absolutely had them and still do. They first kicked in when the visitors stopped and my husband went back to work. I was busy caring for baby, my house and myself and full of joy and happiness – but lonely. It’s such a strange internal conflict to never be alone (NEVER!) and still feel lonely. The things that have helped the most are support groups. Real life ones that I got dressed and left the house to go to. It’s incredible what a safe space to talk to other women, nurse your baby, and change diapers all in one room (besides your house) can do to help those feelings. Going to visit friends at their homes is just as good when groups aren’t available. My online mom groups are invaluable too. Especially during a never ending middle of the night feeding or any other time when its not feasible to leave the house. Now, when I’m lonely, at least I don’t feel alone!”

“It’s so amazing that there is the whole new wonderful person in the world yet sometimes feels like there are now LESS people in your life. Friendships change, marriage changes, family dynamics change. Cray cray MILs are really the only constant! 😉 I’ve felt lonely in a sense that I know my emotions regarding my baby are not replicated by anyone else. So my fears, whether valid or not, will not be the same for anyone else. So, it’s hard to find someone who understands because they really couldn’t. I want to say that this Momtourage has drowned out the loneliness for me on so many occasions. I think when new moms leave the hospital, their first order of business should be “Find a Momtourage!”

“I chose to move out of state for work after college, never expecting to meet my husband and start a family away from my own family. I’ve always missed my family but it wasn’t until I had my child that I felt verylonely without them all the time. Those first few months raising my baby without my own mother to call over anytime was the hardest. I love my husband but for me there were so many times when I just needed my mom there. I am also grateful for our Momtourage because it saved me from that loneliness many times”.

“I’ve noticed my loneliness stems from my struggle to make myself get out of the house and put myself first. Even if it is to run errands I find it difficult to just do it. I am someone who is okay being alone because being alone and being lonely are two very different things. I like my quiet time and very much enjoy it but loneliness is another beast. I miss the freedom some days of just doing something without having to think, just send a text that I was going somewhere and I’d be back later. I’ve noticed that since having baby girl I am less likely to reach out. I agree that doing something sounds nice but unless prompted I won’t push it and make it happen; very different from my typical self. I’m not sure if its exhaustion that influences all of this but I know that getting out has been helpful, meeting the ladies from our Momtourage was and is helpful and spending a few moments on the phone with my best friend is always amazing too. I think being a new mom is lonely because the only people who get it are the ones that are in the trenches with you”.

“Since I work, I don’t think I feel the loneliness the way you would if you are home, but sort of the opposite. When I have a busy week at work, and I’m relying on hubby to do the drop off and pick up/dinner time with little man, it seems like little man and I grow apart a little. He typically prefers my husband, but when I get stressed and busy at work, I know I’m not mentally all in at home either and sometimes not physically there to see him, and the wanting daddy gets even worse. I sometimes feel exhausted from having to put so much work into building my relationship with him back up again. Makes me feel lonely in some way if that makes any sense”.

“When baby girl was a newborn, at around 10 weeks, I thought about going back to work earlier than my planned 14 week leave. It was a hellish winter, I was in a town with limited friends, my husband traveled most weeks M-Th, and I was stuck inside with a newborn that I loved very much, but who was unable to give me much reciprocity for all the effort and love I poured into her. I felt bored, lonely, and unstimulated. I felt horrible for wanting to leave her and go back to work early. Now that I’m home again at 20 months, it’s a lot better. She is fun and active and we can get out more. But if I don’t make an effort to see friends, do classes, or at least get out with her, I feel very lonely and unstimulated. It helps greatly to have my parents nearby, too. Sometimes I just go over there with baby girl and do nothing more than I would at home, but it just feels good to have someone else around” .

“It can be very lonely to climb into bed alone at night after rocking a screaming baby to sleep. Don’t get me wrong, I love my baby more than anything in the world. But I do wish I had someone to sit down with and talk to after a long day. I was married to my high school sweetheart for a long time. And then I went through a very difficult divorce. I decided it was better to be alone than with someone who didn’t make me happy. Little man is better off with a happy mama. Loneliness is better than being unhappy. They are two completely different things. What combats loneliness is finding wonderful friends to surround yourself with. Support groups. Family. I’m thankful for things like our Momtourage. This is where I come to after my long day”.

“The lonely feeling for me always involves my husband being gone – work, trip, even running errands while I’m home. It usually involves monotony – stuck in the house during the winter or rainy days. I feel like a prisoner in my home those days and sometimes I want to just get out kid free to do SOMETHING! It intensifies when the kids are difficult or when I feel really motivated to do something but nothing pans out due to schedules or no one else being available”.

“What I struggle with is that I work all day so when I’m not at work, I want to be with my kids. I want a date night with my husband so bad, but all that means to me is more time away from the kids. I have tried not to miss my friends’ weddings, bachelorette parties, showers, birthdays, etc, but again, it means more time away from my kids. So time for JUST ME? Forget it! Its lonely.”

“One of the ways I find myself feeling very lonely is when it comes to missing stuff because you have to take care of the baby.  All the times we had family or friends over and I had to head up to bed long before everyone else because none of them are going on months without getting a full REM cycle and none of them have the responsibility of getting up at 6 a.m. with their game face on.  They all continue on laughing, eating, drinking through the night without a care in the world, and I’m upstairs trying desperately to hit three hours of straight sleep.  Have you ever been to a wedding and brought your kids? That’s usually a whole heap of loneliness.  The speeches at dinner are one of my favorite parts.  Because baby girl was overstimulated for too long.. guess who was having to wander the halls alone with her, missing all the dinner speeches? Unless a lot of your friends and family have their own kids present, chances are you’ll be missing out on interactions and fun you desperately want and need. As helpful as husband is, its usually on mom, and its a very lonely feeling”.

“I’m a stay at home mom and I go through stretches where I feel very trapped and alone.  The walls of our main living area can be like a jail cell if we aren’t getting out enough.  And its not always because we don’t try to get out… we do. But nap schedules don’t always align, between the two of them there’s a good chances someone is teething, or has separation anxiety, or refused a nap and has subsequently grown horns… there’s always something.  We schedule regular play dates with other moms and kids I adore, but unless your kids are a bit older, the level of attention and conversation you can really give each other is very limited.  You’re there with each other, but there are still very busy kids running around that need attention and tending to”.

“I married a man from the town I went to college in. So after college all my closest girlfriends moved out of state or back home while I remained in my college town. I had my first child in my mid twenties when most of my friends were still single, let alone even thinking about marriage! At the time, I think I imagined that motherhood and having a baby might fill that void of loneliness in my heart but I quickly realized that, though the love you feel from and with your child is like no other love imaginable, it still left me feeling lonely and isolated from the adult friendships I had had for so many years. It’s just so hard to connect with your “old” friends when they are still spending late nights at the bar and you’re spending late nights feeding and nursing a baby. You’d try catching up but their stories were of crazy drinking adventures and your stories of were of an explosive diaper and hearing your girls’ first real giggle. I’m a working mom and most of the women I worked with at that time were older and their kids were in high school or even my own age! I just felt like I didn’t have anyone to connect with. It took awhile but I finally had felt that on my second child and changing jobs helped me to finally meet some great mommas who were in the same stage of life as me. I so thankful for these friendships now that I know there’s others going through the same things as me! And in a way, it’s also empowering for me to have had a child earlier than most of those friends because I feel like I’ve already been there, done that and can give them the support I wish I’d had at that important time in my life”.

“I feel lonely and isolated with the girlfriends I’ve had since childhood. I was the first to get pregnant and start a family, and two babies and several years later I am still the only one with kids.  Maintaining those friendships and keeping a common ground to connect on has been incredibly challenging. The more time passes, the more I feel like we have less to connect on. I get sad and down on myself because I keep thinking, “motherhood in and of itself shouldn’t determine your friendships – step it up!”.  But the honest truth is, for me, it does play a big part.  I stay home.  My job is my kids right now.  I wouldn’t trade it for the world, I have plans to go back to work, and I know its a short season of my life, but when my entire day every single day involves my kids right now, I don’t have an extensive list of other things to talk about.  I’m not traveling the world at the moment.  I’m not interviewing and taking new jobs.  I’m not dating. My entire wardrobe is from Target.  And I can’t go out trying all the new restaurants and bars.  My job is very rewarding, just not in a way they can understand or really care about right now.  When they ask how I’m doing (which seems far and few now) I feel like anything I really say won’t be understood, ya know? Motherhood and friendships – there’s no handbook for this thing!”

“As we continue to struggle with me returning to corporate America I continue to feel alone. If I decide to stay home my husband will resent my decision, me putting my child in daycare has my mom itching in her skin. And I’m lost in the middle. I like being mentally challenged but I love my little. I just wish everyone would put their bias and opinions to the side and recognize what a hard time it is for a new mom to find their new identity – and that that identity might push the family outside comfort zone”.

“I miss quality time with friends. In the hustle bustle of caring for a bunch of young kids during an afternoon/evening/weekend together, I often find myself thinking, “Gosh, I didn’t get to talk to Susie (or whoever) for more than two minutes at a time and we didn’t talk about anything ‘real’. I miss the connection uninterrupted time affords. And though I see my friends and love them, I sometimes feel less close to them now”.
“My husband has been on the midnight shift essentially since our baby was born, and it has been really hard. He helps out and is very hands on, but he needs his sleep. He doesn’t have a sleep schedule so he sleeps when he can, but I feel so lonely. I am with both kids during the night (who both wake up), by the time they get up in the morning he’s already back asleep and every day after dinner he needs a nap before work so I am also the one doing bedtime alone. He does help watch the kids some days, but it’s while I am at work so I actually am not the one getting to spend time with him. Needless to say having a newborn and a midnight shift has been quite the adjustment!”

“For the first two weeks my husband was so helpful. We were sharing duties and slowly that faded away. You think you’re going to be this cute little family but then reality hits and I’m the one doing all the baby work. We are the only ones of our friends with a baby. Some days I just feel trapped. I am with little man seven days a week all day everyday and mostly by myself. My friends are not at the same place in life as me. I am by myself all the time. I feel like I go through some days doing what I know I have to do but I am kind of sad on the inside. I see pictures on Facebook of all the fun activities that people do with their kids and I get kind of sad because I don’t have anyone to do it with. No one I know has kids and no one is home during the week. Because we don’t have anyone to babysit I am working weekends. So when people would be home..I am at work”.

“Just having our Momtourage has made a big difference in the isolation factor! Just hearing about others’ experiences/questions can give a temporary break from a monotonous day. I actually think I have a really great balance with a part-time schedule and an awesome, supportive boss, but even those days I’m home can sometimes seem long. From the very start even with just one kid I have felt cooped up when in the house all day, so I almost always get out with a mix of kid-friendly activities and errands. Then of course I sometimes feel like I’m not giving them enough “quality” time at home, but I think keeping myself sane is probably just as important!”

“I feel loneliness in a different way, like I’m missing out on other “mom” activities. Coming from a mom who also works outside of the home, I get kinda bummed when other moms can do play dates together or go to the zoo, etc. during the day. I love what I do and I wouldn’t have it any other way right now, and I know that’s not the reality of every day being a SAHM I just miss the interaction. Or feel like I’m depriving my child of doing these other fun things. And then on the weekends like I’m sure everyone else we have to clean and run errands and just want to spend time with our families all together, so it’s hard to plan stuff on the weekends too – especially in the summer. So I feel loneliness because I don’t get to hang out with other moms”.

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*A special thank you to my Momtourage.  Not only have you combatted my lonelies on so many occasions, but you are so doggone reliably honest. Wonderful and powerful things happen when women support one another, and sharing your experiences so candidly opens the conversation for others.  I love and adore the freaking heck out of you.

2 thoughts on “One is Not Always the Loneliest Number

  1. Thank you for sharing this post. I’m a recent convert to the full-time mommy gig and never anticipated this wave of new feelings. Many have been good. I’m no longer splitting my time between my work and my children, which has done wonders for my stress level. But, I am alsi no longer getting the 8-10 hours of adult conversation, either. It is reassuring to read that these feelings of loneliness are not unique to me. That, in itself, makes it a littke less lonely.

    1. Oh Katie, I feel you! I’m an elementary school teacher and going from constantly talking with colleagues and little ones who could at least talk back to staying home was a huge adjustment for me. Until I really started talking openly with other moms I felt such mom guilt for having those lonely feelings – like I wasn’t enjoying or loving them enough or something. When really, there’s nothing wrong with yearning to be understood and conversed with during the day! I’m so glad you have the opportunity to stay home with your babies, and even more glad you were able to identify with this piece. I’m always here to chat with if needed 🙂

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