The loneliness of new motherhood is commonplace, though it can be deeply disheartening to those experiencing it. It presents an ironic situation where a mother spends almost no time alone, but is filled with a sense of profound loneliness. In new motherhood, a new identity is born; the identity of Mother threatens the old self that was centered on ambition, friendship, and personal growth. It is not unusual for new mothers to long for and miss their old self. These feelings, coupled with the day-to-day isolation of caring for a new baby or young children, can lead to loneliness.
I went into new motherhood equipped with the knowledge that it could feel isolating, owing to the stories shared by friends and women on social media. This in and of itself was helpful because I wasn’t shocked when the feeling of loneliness came. Living away from family, working from home, having friends in different seasons of life, and having a husband who travels for work, all heightened the void I felt in my relationships with others.
I’m pretty self-aware and tuned into my mental and emotional health, so I took steps to protect myself from loneliness. Since I work from home, I joined a gym so I could guarantee myself a rush of endorphins and face-to-face interaction with real human beings, at least a few times a week. I invited two mom-friends to walk regularly, sharing the experience of new motherhood with them. I joined a group of women at church (though admittedly, I have only attended one event in eight months). My husband and I prioritize date night and pay a sitter so we can have time together. We make an effort to have family visit regularly or we make the long trip to see them.
Even doing all the things to protect myself from loneliness, I still feel lonely and that’s OK.
I’ve come to the realization that not every season is for goal chasing, friendship building, and social activity. Some seasons of life are meant to be slow and mundane. Instead of looking at new motherhood as a lonely time, I’ve begun to look at it as a time to be alone.
Being alone can be enriching…and also scary.
Our society hasn’t encouraged us to be comfortable with ourselves and our own company. We don’t know how to be bored. We are always doing, watching, listening, or posting. We can’t go ten minutes without picking up our phones and checking the news or scrolling Tik-Tok.
A friend told me about a study where participants were put in a room and could either sit alone with their thoughts or shock themselves with electricity. A good portion of participants chose to shock themselves. What does that say about us?
I’m a product of my generation, so I struggle too. When my baby goes to bed, I’m tempted to scroll or tune out to Netflix. I am uncomfortable with the quiet, with the time to do nothing. But knowing and admitting this gives me the power to experience something different. So when my baby goes to bed, I make a point to savor the quiet. I’ve come to know the hum of the air conditioner and the whooshing sound of the dishwasher. Like music to my ears, these are the sounds of being alone in my home. I’m trying to read more — books that challenge me intellectually and spiritually. Sometimes I cook or bake something new, which is my attempt to be creative. And if I’m tired, I go to bed at 8:30pm, because I can and rest is good for me.
I know it won’t always be like this. There will be sports and school functions and days of living out of my car. There will be plenty of mom-friends and social activities to come. But for now, I’m practicing being alone. I’m getting acquainted with this new version of myself. I’m learning who I am.