They say it takes a village to raise a child, but sometimes motherhood can feel like solitary confinement.
Maybe you live in a two bedroom, one and a half bath apartment, or perhaps a 3,000-square-foot, single family home, complete with granite countertops, crown molding and fresh Berber carpeting. You might be at the city’s center in a townhouse with laminate flooring and updated light fixtures, or maybe you reside in a quaint villa off the coast of Southern France.
No matter how big or small, elegant or modest, Pinterestingly decorated or secondhand chic, my guess is you are not currently residing in a tiny cell solely furnished by a sink, bed and toilet neatly bolted to the ground. And that’s good! That’s very, very good. Your home may not always be the tidiest, cleanest or most organized space you would like it to be, but at least it’s not jail. Yet, why oh why, can domestic imprisonment start to creep into our lives?
Naturally, it can be difficult to see friends regularly as we orchestrate our days and nights around nap times and feeding schedules. Since a successful social outing with children in tow requires military maneuvering, hours spent in earnest prayer, and three pairs of lucky socks, we vow to forego a “simple” meet-up at Starbucks and instead invite everyone we know over to our home for the playdate of the century (as soon as the mountain of laundry is tamed, piles of papers filed, and bathrooms sanitized).
Although it may seem impossible to have every room in impeccable order at the exact same time, it must be done. After all, no one in their right mind would dare enter a home with a sink overflowing with breakfast dishes, a crusty kitchen table, and nothing to drink but water. Surely no home other than yours has ever been, you know, lived in.
I clean and organize every day to recover from the tornado of our lives, but I am just not ready to host a social engagement.
So while I wait for the day when my house will be “ready” and my children will be “easy” to take out, I open my computer for a story, a laugh, a message, and familiar faces. If you want to know the cold honest truth, I am also eagerly anticipating a notification. Sadly, a little red number releases a flood of dopamine in my brain because this may be the most adult interaction I will have all day.
Someone wants to be my friend? A stranger liked what I typed? My friends posted nice words under a picture of my haircut? They approved my membership in a secret group? I got an invite to the buy-stuff party? My third-grade classmate laughed out loud?
It wasn’t until I spent a weekend out of town with my brother and his family that I began to realize how starved I am for eye contact and how many thoughts I keep to myself. I didn’t ask them for their Wi-Fi password because I didn’t want to admit I brought along a friend. I wanted to believe I could exist in a world free of virtual interaction.
I promised myself that once I got home I would reach out, invite and live beyond my screen. I could see I was succumbing to the ill effects of domestic solitary confinement. It’s no wonder human rights groups have fought against its use in maximum security prisons. Researchers have found it causes depression, anxiety and a host of other problems. If this is the treatment reserved for the most evil and dangerous members of society, then it’s no wonder that mothers, in their own form of isolation, also suffer.
In an effort to reach out and curb the loneliness of motherhood, I invite a friend and her daughter over to watch a movie. I say “Hello” to the crossing guard on our walk to school. In the time it takes for my items to glide along the conveyer belt, I have a meaningful conversation with a store cashier about the best way to cook fish. I attend book signings to listen to an author speak for a whole hour.
Even though Facebook and I are pretty tight (borderline BFF), you are welcome to come over and help me fold laundry, tame tantrums, snack on whatever is in the pantry, and chat about old boyfriends. It’s going to be awesome! Just don’t tell Facebook I didn’t invite her this time.