‘How can someone who is never alone feel lonely?’
There has been much talk recently about the subject of loneliness amongst mothers, particularly new mothers. It is an important subject and one which is rightfully getting air time. After the initial fuss – the excitement, the visitors, the interest – tails off, reality kicks in. Partners – if there is one – go back to work and the mother embarks on a new normality with her baby. Often, especially in those early weeks, this will be spent in the home trying to make sense of this new world order, trying to interpret those screams, trying to understand baby’s needs, and trying not to feel completely out of one’s depth. It is a scary time, and a lonely one too.
I certainly recall feeling isolated at times during those early months. This was for two reasons. Firstly because of my own – incorrect – perceptions. I believed I wasn’t that good at the job, that everyone else was a better mother than me, that I was an impostor into the role. This was despite the evidence to the contrary – my daughter was thriving, she was happy, healthy and flourishing. Yet I was still hung up on an inferiority complex which made me feel isolated – because, surely every other mum knew exactly what she was doing at all times, right?
The other reason for my sense of isolation was that my husband and I did things slightly differently. After a few months, I returned to work and my other half took Shared Parental Leave. For us, it was the right choice and we both benefitted from building our own bonds with our beautiful daughter. There was though an element of isolation in what we did for each of us. This was due to some of the responses we got from others, and I also had a sense of not quite fitting in: I felt like I was half in the work world, half in the parenting world and at times, I felt isolated.
But what helped me were the kind words of friends who were also mums. When they told me ‘you’re doing a great job’ or ‘your baby’s such a happy baby because of you’ my spirits soared. And with each positive comment, my confidence started to build and those self-imposed perceptions started to crumble until eventually I started to see things differently. I was doing fine. I was a good mother. What I learnt from that experience was the importance of a gentle, thoughtful word for a mother – it can empower, support and inspire self-belief. I purposefully want to encourage other mums with my words.
The other thing that helped, unexpectedly, was feedback I received online. I started to share my thoughts and experiences in a series of posts and some of the supportive opinions shared made me realise: I wasn’t the only one feeling this way. Lots of parents struggle with a sense of being torn between our varying roles and responsibilities – and, however we parent, we are all doing our absolute best.
Isolation and loneliness can really challenge mothers, and indeed, fathers, particularly at a time when they may already be feeling vulnerable and emotional. We can all help to overcome this by supporting each other so we as parents know: I’m not on my own.
This first appeared on www.meetothermums.com