Motherhood is lonely. What a bizarre thing to say. How is it possible that adding more people to your life, having more people to love, can cause you to feel isolated? How is it possible that the more kids and responsibilities you add to your life, the lonelier you sometimes feel?
“But being a stay-at-home mom was the loneliest kind of lonely, in which she was always and never by herself.” ― Barbara Kingsolver, Flight Behavior
I’m fairly certain that no mom – working or SAHM or WAHM or otherwise – has a monopoly on this loneliness. I remember reading this Kingsolver quote, though, and feeling the breath woosh out of me. Perhaps the reason society spends so much time placing motherhood and homemaking on a pedestal is because of this stark reality.
I felt the weight of it yesterday standing at my kitchen sink. Tears fell unexpectedly as I scrubbed and rinsed, helping me cleanse away some of my frustrations, doubts, and worries. I ached with the age-old push and pull of dreams I have for myself and the needs of my family.
Mothers are often called the center of their family’s world; the keepers of hearth and home. This is a lovely thought, but sometimes I feel like I am getting lost in the center, spinning this way and that to meet everyone’s needs but my own.
How is it possible that motherhood can be lonely? With little ones, life floats by at a steady sameness. I remember nine years ago with my first baby. I would cuddle my girl, clean up, watch ER re-runs, and feel the weight of loneliness. Going out meant diaper bags, bundling up, car seats, strollers, carriers, and working around nap schedules. Getting together with other moms meant all of those things, plus coordinating schedules.
Now I have older kids, filled with questions and conversation, followed by determined silences. Our calendar, which I’m terrible at keeping, is filled with homework, sports, and activities. I’m often at home or in the car, staying in or heading out for someone else. I try to arrange play dates, but it is strangely more difficult with older children.
Kids are fiercely loyal and boldly loving. They are angry, accusing, and thoughtless in equal measure. My kids cause a daily whirlwind of emotions, unexpectedly delightful and terrible in turn. And I adore them. I enjoy them. I’m grateful for them. But sometimes I sit in the midst of them and feel unexpectedly lonely, almost as if I’m not really here as an independent person at all. And I suspect I’m not the only one.
I’ve saved the draft of this post a handful of times, never hitting “publish” because it doesn’t have a hopeful conclusion, wrapped up in tidy words of encouragement. I don’t blog to simply complain or lay out my problems. As I type and delete and type some more on this post, I keep asking myself how it ends.
More than anything, I want to normalize the complexities of motherhood. I want to admit that I feel lonely, uncertain, and lost. But the loneliness is just one part of my rich experience as a mother. Sometimes I just need to talk through the self-doubt, the fears, and the loneliness with my partner. Other days, I need to carve out time for myself. I call a friend. I write a blog post. I make plans for my future that are just for me. I take a deep breath and I try again tomorrow.
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