While I am a social creature, I tend to gravitate toward isolated work. I am a writer. For 8 years, I also owned a cleaning business and spent most of my days alone. I like the solitude. I like being lost in thoughts and words typed or spoken through my earbuds. I would spend up to 6 hours each day listening to Howard Stern, NPR, and ESPN Radio streamed through my smart phone. I was entertained and informed, yet my mind was free to float in and out of creative thoughts and story ideas. I never felt lonely while being alone.
Several months ago I closed my business to become a stay-at-home mom. With three kids, my partner and I decided that it made the most financial sense for me to stay home with our twin boys while our daughter remains in preschool. My early morning writing sessions are now the only alone time I have, and even though I am surrounded by our family dog and two boisterous 2-year-olds, I am lonely for at least a portion of each day.
My boys and I have developed a bit of a routine. We attend playgroups and hit the library. We go to Costco and the park. We see other people, but not long enough for me to grasp social fulfillment. Or I miss the mark when it comes to my ability to connect with the people we see. We share the bond of parenthood, but not all parents are going to be friends. I respect the non-drinking, not sarcastic, overprotective moms, but I don’t have much in common with them. Sometimes I have a drink at noon. Sometimes I call my kids d-bags under my breath. And sometimes I ignore them while they are playing in another room. Not all moms understand my approach.
But I love my boys, and even though some days I wish we spent more time apart from each other, every night I worry that time is moving too fast. I worry that the frustration and work of being with two of my three kids full-time is overshadowing my ability to enjoy this stretch of parenting. The joy they give me is mixed with guilt for my inability to be more patient with them. I feel sadness knowing I have missed opportunities to soak in hugs, giggles and the weight of boys on my lap.
Most of the people in my life who I call family are at work all day, or too far away for a playdate, so I look for solace in my online village living inside my phone. I can still listen to radio programs, but it’s not really enjoyable to be interrupted every 15–30 seconds by 2-year-olds calling for me or yelling at each other, or by my own voice calling for or yelling at them. For better or for worse, every activity of our day is interrupted by their inability to focus or sit still. I accept that and know that this is par for the course right now, but it’s hard to enjoy adult-like things when my kids are around.
So I play with my boys and read to them. I do the dishes and prep dinner. I hope to all things kind that they take a decent nap. And I spend the several lulls in each hour, which only last a few minutes at a time, on my phone. It’s not like I can paint the room I have been wanting to paint for the last year or get into a good book during those few moments. I can barely leave the room or unload the dishwasher without two shadows always ready to help.
I scroll through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I skim articles and news headlines. I post pictures of my kids, share articles, and write statuses or tweets to keep my witty edge, which probably was never all that witty or edgy to start with. I distract myself from the boredom and loneliness that comes with being home all day with kids. In those moments when my boys don’t need or want me and when there isn’t enough time to do much of anything else, I distract myself from the desire to do all of the things I can’t.
I also find other parents who understand the madness of negotiating with toddlers all day long and who understand how hard it is to give all of yourself to your kids, with little left for anyone else. I read articles that validate my feelings. I laugh at relatable photos and their captions that sum up the ridiculousness of parenting. And I read beautifully written articles that remind me that I am doing just fine, yet inspire me to be better.
While I am scrolling, I also feel supported. I feel cheered on by the men and women—most of whom I have never met—who understand me and my unspoken thoughts and my need to be connected. I am a parent, and I would never change that for anything or anyone, but I am also human. I use my phone to stay tethered to sanity and to the highlights of all that goes on outside of my young family’s house.
I am a social creature, yet once again I have gravitated toward isolated work. The people in my phone tell me this is temporary, and that I should enjoy or not enjoy all of the moments because this season will pass quickly. The number of likes and retweets tell me I am not alone. So each time I feel alone, I reach for my phone to feel a little less lonely.