It's Not Just You: Loneliness In Parenting

When I was anticipating becoming a mum for the first time, loneliness was the last thing I expected. If anything, the addition of an extra person in my life that I would spend most of my time with, would surely mean I'd have all the company I could ever want. I pictured happy trips to coffee shops, my baby sleepy and content by my side, walks in the park as we chatted away and lazy mornings snuggled in our pyjamas enjoying each other's company. In reality it wasn't like this. Our first trip to a coffee shop was quite eventful as I couldn't make his bottle up fast enough and he screamed blue murder. It was a small coffee shop and so his little wails filled the whole room. Everyone seemed to have stopped talking and was waiting for me to feed him. I became all fingers and thumbs and so it took twice as long. When I finally placed the bottle in his mouth he instantly stopped and everyone burst out laughing. It was all so dramatic that it WAS funny in hindsight but at the time I was so flustered I just wanted to leave! Baby groups filled me with horror (in a strange twist of fate I actually run my own now) as I felt like the only one that hadn't managed to get out the door on time, that hadn't managed to breastfeed and that had ventured out of the house styling a baby sick stain! In reality I wasn't the only one but this was my perception of it. And the result of that perception is that it made me feel lonely. As the years went on, this feeling didn't go. Whereas others can appear to have parenting down to a T, I still feel like I'm just winging it. I think the truth is that this is how many, if not all, people feel but on the surface it's not always evident.

baby, parenting

Loneliness is not exclusive to parenting of course. Loneliness is a feeling of isolation; from either physically not having people around you or from having people around but feeling like you don't always connect with them. You can feel lonely when you're surrounded by people and when you have friends. I'm a bit of an introvert and sometimes I fold into myself and shy away from social interaction and other times I'm so worried I will say the wrong thing that I try not to say much at all.

So what can you do?
Be kind to yourself- If you take one thing and one thing only from this post, know that it's not just you. It's really not. The seemingly happiest, most sociable person in the room might be feeling just as you do. Don't struggle alone, talk it through with a therapist or reach out to family members and friends. 

Reach out- Contact an old friend, pop a card through the door of a neighbour, smile at a mum on the school run, just initiate that first step. You never know where it might lead.

Don't compare- I might do myself out of a job here but don't be afraid to take a social media break. Social media is an odd phenomenon. You're only going to see a polished, edited version of people's lives which will never seem to compare to your unedited reality. If it doesn't help to look at it, look away.

Do something a little bit scary- Baby groups did fill me with horror BUT I met some wonderful people through them. My children are past the baby group stage now so my scary things are to go to events or social things that I would usually shy away from. 

Hang on in there- This feeling will pass. You'll see. 


For more information about loneliness and the ways it can be combated, visit the Jo Cox Loneliness website.