Motherhood Is Lonely, And I Need My Friends To Be My Lifeline

by Rachel Garlinghouse
Originally Published: 

I glance down at my phone to see a text from my friend, a mom of eight-year-old twin daughters. She sent the text three hours ago, complaining that her girls were arguing non-stop. I texted back, saying we were having the same battles here. Was it too early for a glass of wine?

As a work-at-home mom with four children ranging from a toddler to a tween, I’m struggling during this season of life. Right now, it’s summer and my four kiddos are at home with me doing what siblings do — bickering, wrestling, and eating all the snacks.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m thankful for the three-month break. We swim every afternoon and watch a movie every night. But the in-between moments involve me playing referee — with no daily downtime for myself. The result? I am tired, anxious, and lonely.

I desperately need to commiserate with other moms. And I’m not talking about a playdate at the local children’s museum or the zoo where we’re surrounded by shrieking, hot, hungry kids. The occasional midday text isn’t cutting it, but what can I do? I don’t have any family nearby who can offer up a few hours of free childcare so I can sneak out for Happy Hour.

During the school year, I make sure to squeeze in a coffee date with a girlfriend every week or two. These coffee dates are my lifeline. Over a steaming cup of caffeinated joy, my friend and I can dish about our kids, gripe about our spouses, and complain about our in-laws.

But I sense these dates will become rare — even non-existent — because I have a toddler who is quickly approaching the dreaded threenager stage. God help me. She’ll hardly make a pleasant coffee date companion.

Perhaps, like me, your day-to-day interactions with friends rarely occur outside of Facebook or texting. I like or comment on videos and photos my friends post, knowing full well that the superficialness isn’t the connectivity we both need. Yet we’re trapped in our daily commitments.

My own mom stayed at home with me and my two younger siblings. She’d fold laundry while chatting on the phone with her best friend, favorite cousin, or one of her three sisters. The phone cord would stretch a full room’s length, giving my mom the freedom to put a chicken in the oven for dinner or change my little brother’s diaper while chatting away.

I remember during the sweltering summer days I would demand my mom’s attention when she was on the phone. I desperately needed to tattle on my sister for stealing my favorite Polly Pocket. Could she please make me a PB&J because I was starving? Watch me do a cartwheel!

She would cover the mouthpiece, glaring at me, and say in her mama-don’t-play voice, “I’m on the phone. Don’t interrupt.” I’d sigh and stomp away, making sure to slam my bedroom door extra hard for emphasis. How dare she not immediately drop her conversation and do what I wanted?

I can appreciate her phone conversations now that I’m a parent. She needed those moments like air. The opportunity to slip into another world and be someone other than mom was just enough of a sanctuary to re-energize her for next sibling argument.

Not much has changed since my 1980s childhood. We are desperate for connection, yet we have little time or energy for it. We’re chasing children, reporting to our bosses, running errands. We drink cold coffee and forget to eat lunch. Taking a shower is a luxury. We do a lot, every day, then collapse into bed at night only to worry about our kids.

We should get props for effort. Truly, we try to stay connected to our friends, but sometimes it feels like one more task on our never-ending to-do list. It’s no wonder a few of my closest girlfriends and I can only respond to each other after 10 p.m. when our children are sound asleep. Our days are so jam-packed, yet so often we feel empty.

I wonder when I will emerge from the fog of isolation. I catch glimpses of some fellow moms’ posts on social media. Their arms draped around each other’s shoulders, grinning with perfectly lipstick-adorned smiles as they sit at a rectangular table sprinkled with appetizers and cocktails. How do they manage to look so put-together, let alone have the time and energy for girls’ night? I yearn for what they have, but I know the truth — it’s not the norm.

Between our parental duties, our job responsibilities, errand-running, and chore-accomplishing, many of us moms are simply trying to keep our heads above water. Oh, and we’re supposed to have sex several times a week, practice self-care, and Marie Kondo our homes. I don’t know who designed this plan, but it’s crap.

I wish my friendships weren’t an afterthought. But because not all of us can easily find a trustworthy and affordable babysitter so we can meet the girls for margaritas on Thursday night, we are left with the reality. Friendships have been moved to the back burner, probably for years.

Right now, all we can do is manage to hang on, riding the wave of waiting. Can our friendships withstand the proverbial test of time? I hope so. Because I need my friends. Their wisdom, their humor, and their loyalty are magical and necessary.

We constantly talk about the importance of socialization, making sure our kids interact with their peers. But in our commitment to raising children who can interact with others and make friends, we have forgotten that we need the same. Yet, how can we take back our friendships and prioritize them? I haven’t figured that out yet.

Until Mary Poppins descends from the sky to care for my kids or I manage to not-so-patiently wait a few more years, I’ll have to stick with the occasional coffee date and late-night texting to keep in touch with my friends. But for now I’ll be over here, knee-deep in motherhood.

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