I have three children, some really good girlfriends, and family who lives close by that I can count on. Yet I am still taken aback by the lonely feelings that live inside me since I became a mother. It was something I tried to push away when my kids were small. After all, I had these precious creatures I so desperately wanted and I was never physically alone — so why was I so lonely? Why did I get a lump in my throat some days when on the surface my life seemed so full?
After over 15 years of motherhood, those feelings are still there (more than ever as I’m knee-deep in teen years), and I think I know why:
1. It’s hard to find friends.
It’s so much easier to make friends when we are younger and all going through many of the same life situations. From elementary school to college, this is our way of life. Then we all break off into different directions, and our lives move at different speeds.
Some of us have kids earlier than all our friends do. This can leave us feeling like they don’t understand our new life. They no longer understand why we can’t just get a sitter to be with our child so we can continue our 2-hour boozy lunch dates. They feel hurt when we can’t join them on that cruise for their engagement party because we have a newborn we don’t want to leave.
Before we know it, our group of friends fades away and it’s work to get out there and meet new mom friends. And if there is a group of women who have already found each other and you are the new kid on the block trying to work your way in, that can be excruciating. You want to bring up every insecurity you ever had in your adolescent years? Try making new friends as a mom.
2. It’s hard to get quality time with friends once you do find them.
Sure, you might get together for play dates, but how much quality time do you get to talk without being interrupted? Kids need to be tended to every few minutes, Tommy is climbing into your shirt because he wants to be fed, then your daughter hits another child who took she shovel as she was digging in the sand.
Before you know it, the time that you looked so forward to, which was meant to vent about your mother-in-law or figure out the best place to buy cardigans, is over and both got about 2 words in. And when you do have a free night…
3. You don’t have much left to offer during your free time.
There’s not a lot of steam running through your veins at the end of the day. It’s hard to get ready for a girls’ night because you are tired as shit and the guilt about leaving your family is pouring in. You’ve been groped all day, have crusty banana running through your hair, and the sofa is calling you because you know you need the energy to make it all happen again tomorrow. It’s hard to tap into your energy reserves for bonding time with friends.
4. You are surrounded by people who need something from you, which takes away from true connection.
Let’s be clear, most days our primary job is making sure everyone is okay, has what they need, and the house stays in one piece. Our children and our partners always seem to need something from us. This comes in the form of tying a shoe, wiping a butt, cutting an apple, helping with homework, or dropping something off at the office. Mothers are the most needed creatures on the planet. After all is said and done and you’ve tried your damnedest to meet every one’s needs, there is exactly zero energy left for true connection and you feel depleted, which equals feelings of resentment.
You have established this role because it’s how you show your love, yet you feel invisible. And there’s nothing lonelier than feeling invisible.
5. Connecting with your partner can feel impossible some days.
There are bills to pay and schedules to hammer out. There are reminders about the PTA meeting and the hope that each of you will take the time to plan a date night — yet it keeps slipping through the cracks because you are both slammed and want the other to take the initiative without having to push for it. You’re both exhausted.
Even if you’re planning on having a night of cuddling, going out, or have scheduled time to talk, there are so many logistics that have to fall into place before that can happen. During the evenings when we try to force quality time together, we are interrupted 10 times and have the business of our family and work in the back of our minds. We juggle so much that it takes a lot of practice to truly focus on each other and be present in the moment, like we were when we first fell in love.
6. Most of the time, you are only seen as a mother.
Let’s face it: This is your primary role to your family, even if you are following your dreams, working outside the home, or taking what you feel is necessary time away from your family to remain autonomous. As mothers, we disappear into the wallpaper of life. We aren’t really seen or noticed as beings who need caring for or nurturing — that’s our job now.
7. Motherhood can be isolating.
When your kids are young, chances are you’re probably strict with their nap and bedtime routine, which takes up at least half of the day. Going to the park to meet friends for lunch or to watch the seagulls sounds appealing, but you know all too well if you miss the “window” it’s going to be hell for the next two days. It’s just not worth it, so you decide to stay in.
There are also days when simply getting out of the house takes such a mental and physical toll on you (and your kids). Even if you desperately want to attend story hour, go to a play date, or enjoy a friend’s dinner party, the ends don’t quite justify the means and you decide against it.
8. Finding good childcare isn’t that easy.
We don’t all have families who live close enough to babysit so we can go out with our partners sans kids. It is hard to find a good sitter you trust with your children so you can actually enjoy yourself while you’re away. And if you’re a single parent, leaving your children to go out on a date, or out with friends, can leave you with feelings of guilt … so you pass on it altogether.
You can know you’re loved, but still feel lonely. You can look around the grocery store and see other women who are living similar lives (as they try to keep their toddler happy while still remembering to get their partner’s favorite yogurt) and still feel lonely. You can have a best friend who is there for a good vent session on the regular and still feel lonely.
Yes, these things help. There are days when all I need to hear is a “yep, same here,” or read about a fellow mom’s struggle with her own kids, to feel less alone.
The reality is, motherhood is lonely. You can have six children, always be with another soul, and still have times when you are sinking so low into your own loneliness you wonder how you got here.
And in this, ironically enough, you are not alone.