Are you talked at all day, but starved for conversation?
Are you in a constant state of conflict between wanting to be alone, but feeling so lonely.
If you answered yes to either of these, you might be a stay at home parent.
Working in childbirth for a year before having my own children, I felt as prepared as one could feel to grow and birth my baby, and confident in the early stages of parenting. Now, years into parenting, there are a couple of areas I will admit naivete in, and I will share these with you to hopefully lessen the potential shock if it happens to you too. (For the purposes of this post, I will be using “mother”, and “motherhood” as that is my personal experience and how I identify. I understand that fathers and non binary parents may share many of the feelings I have as a parent, and am not intending to discount their experiences).
Firstly, motherhood is lonely. You can go for a dozen walks, and pass hundreds of people (and I smile and say hello to whomever makes eye contact with me) and feel so isolated from everyone. There is something about being a parent that is so alienating. Even other moms can feel so distant. There is so much comparison, judgement, one-uppance that even other moms will make you feel alienated and alone. I have been straight up ignored while trying to make conversation with other moms at the park. Eventually I stopped trying and the cliquey moms (I don’t even know how the cliques start, someone please tell me so I can join one?!) talk to each other and the rest of us just interact with our kids. My saving grace has been the nannies. Talk to the nannies! I find them friendly, more approachable, and less armed with judgement.
Second (and sort of attached to my first point) I was naive about how much time my friends would want to spend with my kids. Specific friends. My kids and I are incredibly lucky to have a very dedicated and loyal village of people who make time for us and are very involved in our lives. My mental health would not have survived the first few years of parenting without them. But there are some who have completely fallen off the planet, who I really thought would be excited to hang out with my kids and be a big part of their lives. My sister with older children told me these people come back when your social life doesn’t revolve around nap schedules anymore, but I’m not holding my breath. My advice in regards to this, is to not beg anyone for their time. It’ll make you bitter and push them further away. Guilt is not a constructive motivator. Be honest about your feelings, but understand that people have their own lives and responsibilities and if they don’t have kids, they have no idea what you’re going through.
Third, I thought I talked a lot, until I lived with a toddler. My kid never. stops. talking. I also thought I would never tire of her little voice saying “mama”, but after hearing it a hundred times an hour, I’m over it. I’m not quite sure why this all contributes to my loneliness, but it does. I rarely get to pee alone, finish a meal myself, or walk out of my door without packing and planning, and in my loneliness I crave being alone. I’m a social person, but I always cherished my alone time and now my alone time takes great planning and comes with a heavy dose of guilt that there are many more productive things I could be doing with my childless time. The remedies I have found for this is to bring solace to your productive moments. I vacuum with headphones on and sing at the top of my lungs. I walk home from work to have some time to myself.
We’ve all heard some version of the advice to keep your cup full or you can’t give to others from it. Mothers are always running on empty and we suck at following this advice. A wise person told me we actually need our cups to be overflowing, because that is what we should be giving other people so our cup is always full for ourselves. I suck even worse at that. Fill your cup mama. If you have to turn on the tv to poop with the door closed, do it. If you can afford childcare, for work or personal activities, book it an hour earlier or later so you have a bit of time to yourself to drink a hot coffee or walk through a park. If you miss being alone, schedule time where you get to be by yourself without anyone talking to you! If you miss your pre-kids social life, call a friend you haven’t seen since before babies and make a date to do something you did before kids (and make it happen!).
Learn the secret of the new mom cliques, and when you do, share with the rest of us. Better yet, don’t be cliquey. Talk to the mom who is trying to small talk you at the park. You might be the only grown up conversation she’s had in days.