The ineffable moments of pure love, joy, pride, and awe that come with motherhood come with dark moments. Moments that people don’t like to talk or hear about, and until you’re in it, you don’t really understand what it means to be in those shadows. I’m talking about isolation and loneliness.
The isolation sets in very quickly. With a newborn in your arms, it’s assumed you won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. People may stop inviting you to events out of courtesy and respect to your new baby. And though that’s sweet, in a way, please don’t forget about your friends who just had a baby. They are still social creatures, who, though they’ll most likely decline plans time and time again, do love to be included and remembered.
It’s the loneliness that threw me for a loop. I’ve never really felt lonely before. I have always had a lot of friends who I could call up and make plans with. But suddenly I found myself in a position where my daily schedule was dictated by my son’s nap schedule and, living at least 45 mins outside of the city, friends were reluctant to come visit. I get it. It’s not convenient. When Sawyer isn’t asleep, my attention is split between the conversation at hand, and making sure he isn’t putting something in his mouth he shouldn’t be. Over time some friendships unfurled all together – these friendships weren’t strong to begin with. And some friendships became harder to stay on top of. I remember there were days when I would just pray and hope someone would reach out and suggest that they’d come for a visit. I’d jump for joy the handful of times this happened. I’d offer to make lunch, have tea and coffee available, ensure that Sawyer will nap well, all in the hopes that I’d be able to have a friend keep me company.
There were days I felt so pathetic. I mean, I wanted this. I wanted to be a mother. I wanted to start my family. I chose to move away to a family-friend suburb. And yet I longed so badly for my friends and the ability to make plans without having to preplan the rest of the day. I would try to explain it to my non-parent friends, but I bit my tongue a lot out of fear of being judged for being ungrateful for what I have, or painting too miserable of a picture (because, truthfully, I did love my life, it was the loneliness I didn’t love). I was met with optimistic and naïve remarks like how happy I should feel that I have this little family of mine. A mother is still a person, a social person who needs her friends.
I knew this would be an uphill battle. I knew that my friendships were going to change and it would be selfish of me to expect them to stay the same. How could they when I’ve changed too? So I started putting myself out there and making new friends. Mom friends.
I’ve been fortunate enough to make a small handful of new friends within the city I live in. These friendships are new, but they are all built on the same understanding: We need each other. We need each other to make plans to get out of the house and interact with other adults. We need each other to bitch about our rough nights all the while feel sentimental about the fact that one day our babies won’t need us to sooth them to sleep. We need each other to know that we are not alone in this journey. I’ve met a lot of moms, and though we all have different approaches to parenting, one thing always rings true, and it’s that this job is fucking hard on so many levels, we can’t even describe them.
When I talk to a mom friend and I say I’ve had a hard day, I know she will understand the true depth of how hard it was. The feeling of hearing constant whining verging on tantrums; the annoyance of having your house look like a hurricane passed through it; the despair of slaving over a nourishing meal only to have 75% of it end up on the floor. And just knowing that she gets it, is enough to feel less lonely.
Friendships are important. I love my old friends. I love our history. I love that we can still burst into a fit of laughter over something dumb that happened years ago. History takes time, and the friends that have stuck by me through this transition in my life are my people!!! As for my new friends, I’m so thankful that life has brought us together to get through this chapter of our lives together. After all, misery loves company. I kid. Motherhood is also sunshine and rainbows, after those storm clouds pass. I guess what I’m trying to say is this: Don’t forget about your friends. We’re all walking our own life path and even if yours looks different now than hers, don’t forget that at one point you were on the same one. And she still needs you, and your history.
If you’re a mom struggling with loneliness, I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and meet one new person this week. That one connection could be all you need to feel like yourself again. I promise you that mom is probably feeling the same way.