When my first child was born nine years ago, I learned something that surprised me. It’s possible to feel lonely as a mom – and not just on the occasional day or two. In fact, I’ve experienced three distinct lonely seasons (months or more) as a mother.
The first happened right away. I transitioned from being a working woman with no kids to being a stay at home mom of a newborn. We were one of the first families in our circle to have a baby, so I didn’t have many people to call when I was craving company. Hello, Target! I haunted the aisles in the hopes of adult conversation. Fortunately, our church had a small Bible study for moms. I signed up, and I was the only one with a baby … for a month or two. Then more moms of babies started showing up. And I could see the light at the end of the lonely tunnel! Over the next few years, those women became my family. We did park playdates together, shared meals and recipes, and commiserated over potty training. I was set.
Until … we moved across the country to the Rio Grande Valley. By that time, I was a stay at home mom to a 4 year old boy and an 18 month old girl, and I knew myself better. I immediately signed my son up for preschool in the hopes that I would meet moms there, and I found a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group. Even so, it took a while to feel comfortable. After MOPS registration, I sat in my car and cried. I missed my friends from Chicago and I wondered if I would ever find the same kind of friendships here. It took a while, but eventually I found my people.
The third season took me by surprise. When my third child was born, he was diagnosed with Down syndrome. Ben is mostly healthy, but he had a lot of additional doctor’s appointments as a baby, and although we tried hard, breastfeeding didn’t work out for us. Instead, I pumped. My time was full with a newborn, therapy and medical appointments, a preschooler and a first grader – and pumping. I was busy and lonely – and scared. The Down syndrome diagnosis rocked my world. MOPS moms loved me, but I wasn’t sure how to talk to them about what I was feeling. My best support and community at that time was online. I could access encouragement and information at all hours of the day or night. Later, I met some other moms of kids with Down syndrome who live in the RGV, and it felt so good to know that I wasn’t alone.
If you are in a lonely season right now, let me encourage you. You are not alone. There are other moms who are overwhelmed (or if they aren’t right NOW, they have been or they will be), who have moved to an unfamiliar place, who are trying to figure out the newest season of motherhood – whether that’s starting preschool or high school or dealing with an unexpected diagnosis.
I have realized that when I feel lonely, I stay home more. It’s hard to make the effort to connect with others when I feel unnoticed or unwanted. But the best connections I have made have happened when I put myself out there.
Be brave! Sign up for MOPS. Take a Kindermusik or Little Gym class. Check out meetup.com and join the local Attachment Parenting group. Join a book club or take Zumba at a gym. Look for an Autism parents group, the South Texas Juvenile Diabetes Association, the RGV Down Syndrome Association, or another interest group.
And then … Smile at the other moms and kids. Ask questions. Say yes to library outings or playdates. Invite other moms and kids to join you.
If you are in the position where you just can’t get out, then find a community online. Babycenter.com has wonderful forums for moms in all sorts of situations – single parents, children with disabilities, etc. Facebook has private groups for similar issues. Recognize the season of motherhood that you are in, and know that it is not going to last forever. Mothering is hard, but you don’t have to do it by yourself.