The loneliness of motherhood
There is a loneliness of motherhood because having young children is not all about coffee shops and idle chatter. It is not a holiday. It can be one of the toughest times in a woman’s life. The loneliness of motherhood can be torture.
With your first child, the learning curve is steep – learning to keep a baby settled, soothed and alive while recovering from pregnancy, birth and unrealistic expectations of how motherhood should be. You might be sleep deprived, in need of supportive mum friends and it could feel like you are on our own with the day-to-day responsibilities of looking after your baby.
As a mother, you might feel judged, with unreal expectations stacked against you and your baby. It can be a hard slog.
When you become a mother it doesn’t matter what job you do, how old you are or how much you spent preparing for your baby’s arrival. You have a baby to look after and it can knock your confidence when they cry, struggle to poo, won’t sleep or won’t settle anywhere but in your arms. There might be feeding challenges, as well as worried about your baby’s weight gain. It’s normal to question everything you do and for your instincts to kick in. And this is when the loneliness can start to creep in.
There are lots of magical moments – the intense love you can feel, the cuddles, the smiles and the laughs are all worth it – but it can still be a lonely place to be. Motherhood doesn’t carry a lot of worth and when you are tired, hungry and maybe a bit overwhelmed it is hard to stay positive and focused and see the benefit in what you are doing – especially if all you see around you is jobs to be done.
The loneliness of motherhood can be about making comparisons and what you feel you have failed to do rather than seeing everything you have done, especially if it is ‘just’ hold and comfort your baby all day.
Eventually you will have more days when you feel like you have got this. And then your baby turns into a toddler – a fantastic creature of exploration and curiosity and fury like you have never seen before. And you need more patience than you thought possible because your child wants more control of their little world – food, sleep and behaviour can all become issues to deal with and, once again, you might feel in the spotlight of everyone’s judgement.
There will be days where you have wanted to call your partner back from work, days where you dream of bedtime and days where all you want to do is cry because of exhaustion, challenging behaviour, a crushing loneliness and lack of worth.
Being a mother can be a lonely place because you are coping with the tears, the tantrums and the ever changing needs of your child. And no matter how normal these things are, the buck stops with you – you are the one who is handling it all and you are usually pretty tired from doing it.
This is why I do what I do because sometimes you just need some reassuring words, a warm welcome and a place where you can offload, to talk things through and get more one-to-one support. I’m not about quick fixes and empty promises but I am here to listen, to help you focus on you and to ease some of the isolation of motherhood.
It can be important to take it each day at a time and to develop your individual coping strategies because it is going to be tough at times. Being a parent can also be about a change in identity and working out your needs and how they fit in with the demands of work and family. Looking after you is crucial.
And whether you have a new baby or you have a teenager, take a deep breath and remember the mantra “it’s just a phase”. But do reach out, talk, share and get support to look after you.
Janine, working with parents since 2002