As a new mom, I have learned how to sing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” a hundred times in a row with the same intense enthusiasm. I can balance nursing with one arm and putting a child on the potty with the other. And I know how to pretend those peas I am feeding my son do, in fact, taste better than they look.
I’ve also learned loneliness on a level I haven’t experienced before.
It was a week ago today that I remember being out with the littles. I noticed that among the disciplining, comforting, and my constant watchful eye, I hadn’t made eye contact with one single person while I was out.
A few days later on two separate occasions, I had been with family and a couple friends without making eye contact at all. I was changing diapers, kissing owies, and listening all at once. I walked away feeling like the connection didn’t reflect the effort.
I sat across from my husband on a date a couple weekends ago. We hadn’t been alone together for six months. For the first time since my son was born, I turned my focus onto this handsome man sitting before me. I looked at him; not in a rushed “I have fifty things to do” sort of way but in an “I miss you” way. We had been side by side working tirelessly, but we hadn’t stopped long enough to stand face to face with our eyes locked onto one another.
Through this lack of eye contact and my longing to connect, I have determined that although there are lots of joys in parenting, there is also unexpected isolation. It creeps in slowly. We stop calling because the crying in the background makes those intimate conversations difficult. Our support system thinks we’ve got it under control and doesn’t want to interfere without being asked. And we feel like we are the only ones who are feeling this way.
This is nobody’s fault, it’s simply a new chapter that we have yet to understand and navigate through.
There used to be a time when women joined forces and parented as a community. When one mother was tired and at her wits end, another mother would step in to care for her child and offer rest. This gesture would be returned all working together using strengths where others were weak. They learned together, laughed together, and made mistakes together. Through the good or bad, one thing remained the same: they were not alone.
Society has stripped us of a motherhood community in a lot of ways. We are confined to our own homes and look at motherhood through social media perspectives. We play the comparison game over and over in our heads. Media has sent us messages on how we “should be” and real-life is photoshopped to be a beautiful picture we see but don’t actually experience.
We put so much pressure on ourselves to live up to a standard that no one has actually defined. We need a clean house, well-behaved children, happy husband, and more. If we aren’t reaching that standard, we feel like crawling into a hole where no one can find us. A hole of shame and guilt where comparison wreaks havoc.
We go on dates but feel guilty for leaving the kids. We choose alone time over coffee dates but feel like a bad friend. We are criticized over choices we make that are centered around the best interest of our children. This leads to us isolating ourselves. If we can’t be supported and cared for, if we can’t overcome the guilt, we stay away.
When there is loneliness, we often replace truth.
“No one understands.”
“No one cares.”
“I’m a bad friend.”
“It’s not okay to struggle this much.”
We need to replace false beliefs with phrases that drag us out of our isolation and into the arms of a community who loves us. A community of women who understands and feels our loneliness. Women who don’t claim to have the answers but will walk together to find them.
I want to embrace you. I want to tell you that you are not alone. Your choices to bottle-feed, co-sleep, discipline, or whatever else you believe is okay! I want to tell you that no one knows your child better than YOU and cannot decide what is best. I want you to know that “what’s best” is relative. I want to tell you that you are worthy of love, a break, and some pampering. And most of all, I want to tell you that isolation can be overcome.
Take some time to connect. Find your tribe. Create a community that supports you and notice those other mamas who are afraid to look up. Offer to clean that spilled milk, fold those towels, and give the eye contact you and her desire.
What can we do for the mothers around us who share in this loneliness? What steps can we take to move toward community making intentional eye contact and connection? What do YOU need on this journey of motherhood?
Amanda is a wife, mother, writer, and life coach. Pen and paper make her spirit come alive. She spends her creative time reading, decorating, and handwriting fonts. Her world is better with an assortment of chocolate and a stack of books packed and ready for travel. Read more at www.downsupsteacups.com