'It felt like I was living with one hand tied behind my back'
Eighty percent of mums surveyed by Mush, the friend-finding app for parents, admitted to feeling lonely and isolated. I felt sad, but not surprised, to hear this.
Why do mothers feel cut off from others? It’s potentially a serious issue, as loneliness can contribute to the development of postnatal depression or anxiety for some women. And even if you are lucky enough to stay well, feeling you’re on your own is just plain miserable. Where's my social life gone? These days, many women have busy and fulfilling careers before having their first baby. You have friends and colleagues at work. Probably you are pretty good at something, and people respect you for that. Your social life revolves around your work life, and you may not know the names of anyone who lives in your street at home.
More and more families are spread across the country or even the world nowadays to find work, so your mother and your sisters may not live anywhere close by. Add to this the fact that many young families now rent their homes and may need to move home quite often, and you have the perfect recipe for isolation.
Facebook - how does it make you feel? Sure there’s social media. You can spend all day scrolling through Facebook and checking out online parenting groups and websites, but sometimes that can make you feel even worse. All those images of smiling perfect parents and your old work mates’ holiday pics from Bali simply underline the fact that you are stuck at home on a wet February afternoon with a screaming baby. Ever felt like throwing your phone across the room? Me too! Long days ... I remember when my first baby was little. The days seemed so, so terribly long. It was just me and this small person, and I didn’t really have enough to do but I didn’t have the freedom to do anything much either. It felt like I was living with one hand tied behind my back. Sure, I loved her to bits, but where had my life gone? In fact, who was I? It was hard. Sometimes I would cry when my husband left for work in the morning because I couldn’t bear the idea that I was going to be alone with the baby for all those hours until he came home again. I had a nice house and a healthy baby, but some days I felt desperate.
What helps? What helped me? Mostly it was just meeting other mums. I joined a local meet-a-mum group. It was scary walking in there the first time, but I made a friend and we started hanging out for coffee at each other’s houses. Gradually I found more mum and baby groups, more friends. Crucially, I realised I wasn’t the only mother feeling a bit rubbish. There were plenty of us out there, doing our best to entertain little people, trying to work out what kind of mums, what kind of people, we actually want to be. So if you’re a mum feeling lonely, you are most definitely not alone! There are other mums feeling the same way. Some of them probably live in your street. Try going along to a local group or a children’s centre. It may be a struggle getting out of the house and it might take all your willpower to make yourself walk into that room the first time. But you may be glad you did it. Try out Mush or another one of the apps or websites that links up local parents. There’s a good chance you might meet a new friend. And you can bet she won’t be a perfect parent either!
Karen Lawrence is a mum of seven, health visitor and yoga teacher based in Billericay, Essex. You can find out more about her pergnancy and postnatal yoga classes at https://www.thecalmspace.co.uk