When my son was born, I felt a slew of emotions. I was excited but I was exhausted; I loved him but I was absolutely terrified of him; I felt completed and I felt strangely empty; I felt rejuvenated and I felt defeated. I also felt, well, alone, and that feeling of loneliness hasn't completely gone away. Honestly, motherhood can actually be really lonely, which is somewhat surprising considering you have a tiny human needing you at every hour of every day.
I didn't realize that loneliness and motherhood would go hand-in-hand. Because I was able to successfully breastfeed my son, and chose to do so, I spent many a night and morning and afternoon and evening, alone with my baby. Because I worked-from-home for the first year and a half of his life, I spent the majority of my days with my son, and just my son. I have felt isolated from the outside world, sometimes never really going outside or talking to another adult for an extended period of time, and in those moments I realized that I needed to reach out and connect with others (whether it was my partner or my friends or my family members) in order to combat the very real, very relentless and very palpable feelings of loneliness. I was forced to remember that taking care of myself and my mental health was just as important, if not more so, than taking care of my son.
Feeling lonely as a mother is honestly just another one of those strange, juxtaposing emotions that only parenthood provides. You have a little human that relies on you and wants you and needs you; but you still feel like you're the only person on the planet. It doesn't make sense (but so much of motherhood doesn't, so I guess it's par for the course) and it comes and goes in waves. Here are just a few reasons why motherhood can be a lonely experience.
If You're Breastfeeding, Feeding Can Be A Solo Act
If you choose and/or are successful at breastfeeding, the times when your kid is eating can feel somewhat lonely. I mean, yes they can be blissful and all things cuddly and adorable, but when it's 2 am and you're exhausted and you just want to sleep but you can't because you're committed to exclusively breastfeeding and you turn around to see your partner sleeping and you kind of hate them, motherhood can feel like a solo experience.
That's not to say, of course, that there aren't things a partner can do to help their breastfeeding partner through the difficult, isolating times. It's just to say that, yes, those difficult and isolating times do exist.
You Spend A Lot Of Time With Someone Who Can't Talk
If you're a stay-at-home mother or a work-from-home mother or, honestly, any mother who spends a semi-significant amount of time with their kid who can't talk just yet, there will be plenty of moments when you have no one to talk to. Sometimes the silence is welcomed, while other times you would do unspeakable things to be able to talk to someone. Anyone.
Your Personal Experiences Can Feel Strangely Isolating
I would argue that there isn't a single parenting experience at least one other person in the world hasn't experienced, too. That's the cool thing about motherhood; it really can be universal and it can be bonding. At the same time, as we navigate our own, personal and customizable motherhood journey, we can feel like whatever we're experiencing is unique to us, and us alone. I, for one, have had plenty of "mom moments" when I felt like I was the only mother in the history of motherhood to go through what I was going through or feeling the way I was feeling. Is it rational? Not necessarily. Is it a pretty normal feeling that can make you feel alone? Absolutely.
You Might Feel Alone In Your Parenting Decisions
With so many varying parenting choices and an endless list of parenting decisions, how you choose to parent can feel isolating. I mean, if you are doing something completely different than any of the other mothers you know, you can be made to feel alone in your decisions. Obviously, we all like to be validated in our mothering techniques, and know that what we're doing (while definitely not the only way to do something) is still an acceptable, great way that will benefit our children.
Your Life Is Busy, So Time With Others Can Be Limited (Or Non-Existent)
When you welcome a newborn into your life, time can seem to suddenly and relentlessly stop, while simultaneously moving ridiculously fast. You can be made to feel like you don't have a single moment to devote to anyone other than your baby. It's sad and it's a lonely experience; when you realize that you haven't seen your friends in a while or gone to a movie or just been around other people. Life happens, and sometimes you can get swept up into it.
You Can Go Months Without Talking Or Seeing Your Friends
Those first few postpartum months are (usually) just you recovering with your baby. I, personally, didn't leave my house for a few months, and I felt myself starting to go crazy with loneliness. I needed to be around my friends; to laugh with them and relax with them and just connect with them in all the ways I used to before I became a mother. But, at first, I was so sore and really tired and, honestly, a little afraid to leave my baby.
Hormones Are Relentless
Hormones are a crazy mess of emotional daggers perfectly aimed at your soul. I mean, that's not a scientific definition, but it might as well be. Hormones can throw you into so many juxtaposing mindsets, and mine definitely made me feel alone (even when I wasn't). I started to think that there wasn't a single person in the world who knew how I was feeling (there are) and that there wasn't anyone who could help me crawl out of the hole that was my postpartum mindset (there were) and, well, my hormones made my first few months of motherhood a pretty lonely experience.
Postpartum Depression Is Real And It's Segregating
I quietly suffered from postpartum depression for months after my kid was born, afraid to reach out or say something because of the stigma attached to mental health issues. Looking back, I so very wish I would have had the courage to say something to someone. I was made to feel like I was alone, when I really didn't have to.
Sometimes, You're Afraid To Talk About Your Experiences For Fear You'll Be Judged
I don't know about you, but I have made the personal decision to keep the majority of my parenting choices to myself and my parenting partner. Honestly, I don't need the unsolicited commentary when it comes to how I choose to raise my child. Still, because I don't share many of my motherhood experiences, I can feel alone in them. I wish the collective "we" created an environment in which mothers wouldn't judge one another so harshly, so we could all feel comfortable sharing our stories and talking about our unique choices. A girl can dream, right?
Your Relationships Can (And Sometimes Do) Change
Not every relationship you've ever had in your life is going to suddenly change once you become a mother. However, many do. Maybe you can't be friends with someone who parents their kid differently than you do; maybe you just don't see people as often as you used to, and your friendship fades; maybe bringing a kid in the world has inspired you to cut a toxic parent out of your life. Sometimes, whether it's just the course our lives take or parenthood in general, our relationships change, but with that change can come a wave of loneliness, when we realize that person is no longer in our lives.
You Depend More On Yourself Than (Arguably) Ever Before
Make no mistake about it: motherhood is not synonymous with martyrdom. You don't have to kill yourself or do everything on your own or sacrifice every single thing about yourself, in order to be a good mother. However, you do start to depend on yourself more than ever, so that you can, in turn, take care of someone else. This can be a pretty empowering feeling. I mean, you carried another human being in your body and you birthed that human being and you're providing for that human being. It can also be lonely, which is why you need to take care of yourself, do things for yourself and yourself only, and rely on others.
Trust me, motherhood might be lonely from time to time, but you're never alone.