When I first became a mother, I never would have imagined being lonely. After all, once you birth a human, you’ve always got a companion, right? But sometimes motherhood can be the loneliest job on the planet.
When my kids were babies, I was starved for adult human interaction. There is only so much cooing and peek-a-boo you can do in one day without losing your mind. So, I’d turn to Facebook or blog posts to fill the hours spent on the couch nursing a baby. Or I’d try to text a friend for solidarity when the baby pooped through her fourth outfit of the day. But even with that adult interaction, sometimes, you can still feel frighteningly alone.
As my kids have gotten older, I’ve felt a different kind of loneliness. Oddly, I have more time for adult interaction. I can go to lunch with a friend while my kids are at school, or have a girls’ night out. But, as I see my kids getting older, the more and more I want to hang out with them (even as they’ve entered their annoying tween-phase). The truth is, now that my children are older and tend to do their own thing, I’ve started to feel left out.
There are times I’m elated to have those quiet, peaceful moments to myself. When my kids are at school, I can accomplish a ton. But, other times I find myself picking up my phone to stare at pictures of my kids on Instagram or wishing that they would walk through the door sooner and fill my house with noise, so I didn’t have to hear my own thoughts so loudly. It’s a paradox for mothers. We crave alone time, but when we get it, we miss our kids.
My kids are old enough that they are content playing outside with friends or with each other. They want to read a book alone or watch a movie. They can even immerse themselves in a craft without me. A few years ago the promise of independent kids sounded tantalizingly out of reach. But, now it feels, well, lonely. I suspect it won’t get easier as they enter the teen years and learn to drive. And please don’t remind me that one day they will actually move out.
The strangest thing about the loneliness of motherhood is that while it can feel isolating, we’re not actually alone. In many ways, we’re all going through the same struggles. We just don’t speak up about them, for fear we’ll be judged. We keep this loneliness buried within the deepest parts of ourselves. Motherhood can be a gut-wrenching, soul-searching experience, and it’s difficult to articulate, even to fellow mothers.
How do we put into words our fears that our kids will one day grow up and leave us and never look back? Or any of the other worries that gnaw at us on a daily basis?
It’s hard to walk around with our hearts beating outside of our chests. Our kids mean the world to us. We constantly think about them. We cry at night for our mistakes. We want the best for them, and it’s all on us. That’s a lonely burden to carry.
Here’s the thing though: I don’t think motherhood has to be so lonely. I believe if we would just reach out and speak up and share those hidden parts of ourselves with someone we trust, we’d all feel a little less alone. Because I struggle too. And I worry too. And, believe it or not, I might just know what you’re going through.
So let’s stop being afraid. Let’s open up to each other. Then maybe, just maybe, we will be a little less lonely as we do the hardest job on earth.