The loneliness of motherhood
When I was pregnant with my son, I had a lot of lonely evenings. My husband worked a late shift, and after I got home from classes I was always too tired to do anything but stay at home. I would have Netflix playing in the background so it wasn’t too quiet while I did homework and ate dinner. But I was convinced that once my baby arrived I would never be lonely again. I mean, how could I when I had a little human constantly attached to me?
What I didn’t know is that motherhood is a lonely job. Even the most social of mothers can feel lonely. And loneliness can exist despite there always being another human around.
Yes, motherhood makes socializing a heck of a lot harder, but it isn’t always a lack of people that makes you feel lonely. It’s that inner battle of trying to do your best but often feeling like a failure. It’s seeing other moms post perfect family portraits on instagram and wondering if you’ll ever get a picture with your kid even looking at the camera. It’s the movies and shows that make motherhood seem easy or like a side job to a woman’s career or hobbies when you feel like your every moment is consumed by parenting –even if you do have a career and hobbies. These are what cause loneliness.
And mom loneliness is a special kind of loneliness.
I never could have imagined that despite having a baby in my arms I could feel the loneliest I’d ever been. That even with friends coming to visit and see my son I felt completely unconnected and isolated. That even when my husband was home and helping with the baby I felt so utterly alone.
You could go to all the play groups and mommy groups you want and that loneliness will still creep up on you like a fog too thick for sunlight to burn away completely.
Even the moms with lots of kids feel this loneliness.
Because none of those friends and definitely none of your kids really know exactly what it’s like to be you.
Because your struggles and inner conflicts are so private all of a sudden. You scroll through social media and find post after post from your mom friends of smiling babies, food network worthy baked goods, exciting updates on their diets and weight loss successes, and reports of precious and joyful mommy moments.
Oh, and their hair and makeup is always done. And there never seems to be that streak of spit up on the ends of their perfect curls like you always have in your ponytail –which is the most put together hair style you’ve had in a month.
So you decide to only post the best stuff too. If you post at all, it’s going to be the one selfie out of 100 out-takes when your baby’s head covered up the spit up stain on your shirt. It’ll be the picture of the one moment that day that your kid laughed instead of screaming and crying. It’ll be the report of the one night that week you had time and energy to make a “healthy” homemade meal, not the nights you had frozen pizza or Mac n cheese. And especially not the night you and the kids just ate snacks for dinner (you’re not alone moms. I have done this. It is not the end of the world if your kid doesn’t want to eat a full meal 3 times a day every day.)
But what you don’t know is there is another mom out there scrolling through social media, seeing your posts, and wondering how you are so good at all this while they seem to suck at it.
Being completely real and unfiltered on social media means being vulnerable. It means admitting your life is messy. It means the selfie of your messy hair and no makeup will be among a sea of “perfect” looking women. And that’s scary. So what would the point even be? Don’t we want to show our very best to the world?
Well maybe, but the nature of social media changes all that. Gone are the days of just the one perfect family portrait with the annual Christmas card. Gone are the days of catching up with your friends through occasional meet ups when conversation flows easily because you trust each other. Now social media is so daily. It’s like having a preview of someone’s daily existence, and only seeing highlights gives the illusion that everyone’s daily existence is so much less messy than yours.
And that is so incredibly lonely.
But what about the people who are willing to be vulnerable? That post in a sea of optimism that says, “wow… today was crappy…” And you immediately connect. You think, “oh my gosh, I totally relate! You are a kindred spirit momma! I literally had a day like that last week!” You realize for what feels like the first time that someone else understands your battles.
Social media was incredibly lonely until you saw that post. Then that post immediately created a connection, and suddenly you felt a little less lonely in that moment. The highlights are good and wonderful to share, but if they’re all we ever see the illusion is perfection. And perfection isn’t real.
Motherhood is lonely. Seriously lonely. Lonely in a way that’s very difficult to describe to a person who has never felt it. But I believe that the more transparent we’re willing to be, the more imperfections we allow others a glimpse into, the less lonely we will feel. When you open yourself up, you’ll find other moms reaching out and saying, “hey, I’ve been there.”
The loneliness still creeps in. But it’s so much easier to cope with when you increase those moments of true connection. Connection that only comes from a, “hey, I’ve been there.”