Motherhood is a remarkable journey, marked by love, growth, and newfound joy. However, amidst the beauty of raising children, many mothers encounter a silent struggle – the unique challenge of loneliness. Unlike other forms of isolation, the loneliness experienced in motherhood can be complex and deeply rooted. Let's delve into the distinctive aspects of this challenge and explore ways to navigate through it.
The Myth of Perfect Motherhood: The societal expectation of perfect motherhood can contribute to a sense of isolation. Striving to meet unrealistic standards can lead to feelings of inadequacy, as no mother is flawless. Embracing imperfections and acknowledging the shared struggles can alleviate the burden. Consider the concept of “the good enough mother,” a phrase created by pediatrician and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott: instead of trying to be “perfect,” strive to be good enough. The reason? The world isn’t perfect. Empathetically teaching kids emotional resilience by letting them experience frustration, disappointment, and being uncomfortable, is ultimately a more useful tool to grow and mature than protecting them from all negative experiences.
24/7 Nature of Motherhood: Motherhood doesn't come with a time clock. The constant demands of caregiving, coupled with sleepless nights, can create a sense of being tethered to responsibilities. It's crucial to carve out moments for yourself and seek support. There’s no way to “clock out” in motherhood, even when your kids are in someone else’s care, part of a mothering is thinking and worrying and planning for your child. Taking up an activity that can take your mind away from parenting even for just 20 minutes can be beneficial in allowing yourself some downtime.
Identity Shifts: The profound changes in identity that come with motherhood can be isolating. As roles shift and priorities change, connecting with others who understand these transformations can be comforting. Finding a balance between nurturing your identity and embracing your role as a mother is key. You may not feel like the same person you were before you had a child, and that’s both normal and ok. The good news is that other new moms are likely feeling the same way and are looking for mom friends to connect with. Look for baby and child activities in your community to attend where you may meet other moms, or use an online platform like a Facebook mom’s group if leaving the house isn’t possible.
Limited Adult Interaction: Daily routines often revolve around childcare, leaving little room for adult interaction. Being with a three-year-old all day can feel lonely, no matter how cute they are, because it’s not an equal relationship. Actively seeking out adult conversations and maintaining connections beyond the realm of motherhood can provide much-needed balance. Finding even one person that you can talk to about your own feelings and experiences can do a lot to feed the adult part of ourselves that exists beyond motherhood.
Comparison Culture: The era of social media can exacerbate feelings of loneliness through the constant comparison with curated images of seemingly perfect motherhood. It's crucial to remember that social media often showcases highlights, not the full spectrum of reality. Be kind to yourself and focus on your unique journey, and if that means muting or unfollowing someone’s account, by all means do so.
Balancing Act: The delicate balancing act of managing a household, career, and personal well-being can be isolating. Recognizing the need for support, whether through delegating tasks or seeking assistance, is essential for alleviating the weight of this unique challenge. Getting support can look like asking your husband to wash the baby bottles at the end of the day, take a turn with the baby at 2am, or bring you a much needed cup of coffee in the morning. It can look like hiring someone to help you clean the house or do laundry. It can look like stating clear boundaries at work about what you are able to take on during the early years of your child’s life. Find the areas of your life that are causing you stress and see how spreading out the responsibilities among others can help.
Unspoken Struggles: Many mothers hesitate to share their struggles due to fear of judgment or the belief that they should handle everything independently. Creating open dialogues about the challenges of motherhood can break down barriers and foster a supportive community. This is where blogs about motherhood can be such a wonderful tool for support and connection. Moms who are willing to share their dark moments of parenting create light in the lives of moms who may feel too ashamed to share their own struggles. Blogs like scarymommy.com, alphamom.com and pregnantchicke.com are all great places to read about all kinds of different experiences of motherhood–from the glorious to the terrible. They’re also great places to get recommendations on all things parenting related, from pregnancy to arts & craft projects, kid friendly recipes, fashion ideas and more.
Celebrate Small Victories: In the midst of challenges, celebrate the small victories.
Recognize and applaud your efforts, no matter how seemingly insignificant. Our current society doesn’t always applaud and recognize mothers, nor does it give moms the same “status” as other roles people play in society. But the reality is that parenting is one of the most difficult and important jobs a human can do. Pat yourself on the back and give yourself a little treat. You’re doing great, Mama.