The Loneliness of Motherhood

I’ve written this post over 100 times in my head, but I always stop myself from sitting down and writing it because motherhood is something that I’m so thankful for. Even when it challenges me in ways that hurt. I never want anyone to take away from reading my posts that I don’t appreciate the honor of raising my littles or that I don’t see the beauty in having healthy kids and the privilege to choose to stay home with them. On paper I don’t have a lot to complain about, so I don’t want to come across as ungrateful. 

The truth is, though, that motherhood is lonely. I can only speak from my own perspective of being a full-time stay at home mom to two toddlers, and I have to say that some seasons are lonelier than others. If you’re one of those people is irritated by moms complaining about anything this is where I would stop reading if I were you. 

When I first had Savannah I was a part of this amazing moms group. I’m still a part of it, it’s a Facebook group, and they’re still amazing and supportive, but in the beginning it was essential to my mental health. We all had babies around the same time, some of the ladies were having their second kid while several of us were having our first. We had regular playdates and laughed and complained about how hard parenting is, talked about how adding a baby to the mix made our marriages different and harder. We breastfed our babies together, laughed at exploding poop diapers, empathized with the lack of sleep most of us were surviving on. We weren’t all on the same page on anything when it came to parenting styles, but we respected each other and we had each others backs. I couldn’t be more thankful almost five years later because I realize now what a gift this was, it’s very hard to find. 

When Savannah turned 8 months old we moved from the suburbs of Dallas into Dallas proper and suddenly all those women were a 30-45 minute drive away from me. I made the drive as often as possible, sometimes driving over an hour to make it to a playdate. Then slowly all those friends started going back to work, or started putting their kids in childcare or nap times didn’t line up well enough to go on a playdate. Having another baby made this more complicated and since I didn’t put in the time to build relationships with moms in Oak Cliff I suddenly found myself spending almost all day, every day, alone. 

Right before Geny was born I started going to therapy. Mine and Kyle’s relationship felt the weight of having kids really heavily. It brought a lot of issues to the surface that we hadn’t been forced to deal with in our first eight years of marriage. I was going once a week and working on issues from my childhood that took a lot out of me emotionally. Between therapy and working on my marriage and pouring into my kids on a daily basis I was spent. Friendship took a back seat. This maybe wouldn’t have had such an impact, but I am the initiator in 90% of my friendships. If I go to dinner with a friend it’s most likely because I’ve texted or called and invited them out. Without the energy to pursue those friendships I lost a few of them. The ones I didn’t lose took a hit - we just weren’t as close anymore. Suddenly I came up to take a breath and I was alone most of the time.

Let me walk you through a typical day in the life here. I wake up with my kiddos most mornings after Kyle and our roommate leave for work. I get up, drink coffee and make them something for breakfast that they almost always don’t actually consume. They will pick at it and on the rare mornings that they eat their breakfast it’s a huge win. We normally start the day out with some TV time and I drink my coffee while the girls don’t eat their breakfast and I wonder if I’m ruining their brains by starting their day off with TV every day, but I also know that I cannot handle their insanity without distraction for 8 hours straight so here we are. Sometimes I’ll try to pull one of the girls into my lap to snuggle and a lot of the time these efforts are pushed away because they want to stand in their semi yoga poses while eating their cereal and watching TV.

The rest of the day looks like me trying desperately to clean my house to just keep it at a base line livable while my children play together. Them playing together sounds lovely except that their best playing together involves destroying all my hard work - spilling liquids on clean floors, dropping playdoh onto rugs, unmaking the bed to play hide and seek, throwing the freshly folded laundry on the floor and laughing together hysterically at how hilarious it is that they have undone my work. Just kidding, they’re laughing because they’re two and four and it’s fun, I get that, and it’s still exhausting. What it comes down to is that my “job” is basically pretty boring, mundane stuff, and throughout the day I have challenges thrown at me that are neither stimulating nor rewarding to solve. 

Now some people may say, “just leave the mess, enjoy your kids!” While these people are well intended they clearly don’t understand the anxiety that takes over when not only are your kids out of control but so is your environment - having a clean house gives me a clear mind and I need as clear a mind as possible to parent well.

If I interrupt their togetherness, or when it inevitably breaks down into crying, I spend a lot of the rest of my day talking to toddlers. And all the internet memes say to make sure you listen now so that they’ll still talk later so I’m banking on this being true and I really do listen and talk to them. This is fun and cute for about 30 minutes a day but toddlers are very boring when they’re the only people you’re talking to. The other day Savannah told the same story 5 times in a row. It went like this. “One time there was a man named blibbity bop and he went to someones house that he didn’t know and he pooped. Then he went to his own house and pooped some more.” 

Yep. That was the whole story. And she told it over and over again. It was hilarious, we laughed and laughed and then I fake laughed because that story isn’t that funny the fifth time. Half of all conversations with my kid have to do with some bodily function, I hate to break it to you boy moms but you don’t hold the monopoly on poop and fart jokes - girls are gross too!

I live with two other adults who leave for work every day and then come back in the afternoon, but despite their proximity they surprisingly aren’t very interested in having conversations about toddler behavior for longer than about 15 minutes each. So I end each day listening to a podcast or music while cooking dinner and telling one of my kids over and over again that no, I can’t hold them and chop vegetables or sauté onions at the same time.

Add to the pile that when I go to work I am writing and, generally speaking, not engaging with other adults. Since I only have around 12-14 hours a week to get work done I have to be very careful how I choose to use my time and while coffee or wine dates are much more life giving than sitting and researching and writing alone, they don’t move me forward in my work. I still take time out for friendship during work hours, but it comes at a price and sometimes I can’t justify the cost.

I have an amazing group of girlfriends here in Dallas, but our schedules are so all over the place that it’s difficult for us to get together. Most of my oldest and closest friends are not in Dallas, but scattered all over the country, so conversations that feed my soul are had over the phone between my house and the Target parking lot. I would most likely lose my sanity without these conversations, they keep me grounded and give me a good sounding board. 

At the end of the day, though, my life can get pretty lonely. When I first started writing this I wasn’t working at all, so the loneliness was even heavier. I always wished that someone would just say it: being a mom is lonely. Perhaps being a human is lonely and we are all just lonely in our own way, but I’ve been a human for 33 years and the most lonely I’ve ever felt was being home all day every day constantly with two humans I was tasked with keeping alive. 

I wanted to write this for a couple of reasons. One being to offer some perspective to those of you who do not stay home with kiddos all day on what’s maybe behind all those instagram filters of your friends hanging out with their kids. I wish that I’d had the energy at the time to tell my friends, “this is really hard and I need you to check in on me,” but that’s a very humbling thing to say and I didn’t have it in me at the time. The other reason is to say to my fellow mamas that I see you and you’re not alone, even when you are alone. Dig deep and find the vulnerability to tell someone that you need them to carry more weight in the friendship for a while. Get out of your comfort zone and find a playdate with women who are different than you and take the risk that it may or may not work out. Mostly, don’t despair, because this time is difficult but it’s also temporary. I hear that one day these kids grow up and go to school or at least start learning to have more meaningful conversations than a man named blibbity bop who shits in other peoples houses. Form community where you can and hang on, life doesn’t stop moving.