I wanted to write. To say hello. To see how you’re doing. To let you know that I KNOW.
I know what it feels like to be lonely. To find this motherhood lark isolating and confusing. To wonder if you’ve made a horrible mistake and if you’ll ever feel like yourself again. To love your baby but still want to press the rewind button.
I write now because today I have a few more answers than I did yesterday. And I want to share them with you. So you can perhaps feel a little less lonely tomorrow. So you can tap into the courage that is already there, deep in the pit of your stomach beneath all the butterflies and the sinking feeling that pops up out of nowhere. And stops you in your tracks.
Would you believe me if I said you’re not the only one who feels like this? That all mums feel this sense of loneliness regardless of how popular they are? I’ve had three babies. And now I look back, loneliness has been there each time, waiting in the wings. To trip me up. Play tricks on me. And knock my confidence.
It wasn’t that I didn’t have friends. It was just that looking after a baby, then a baby and a toddler, then a baby, a preschooler and a schooler was sometimes so relentless, I didn’t have the time or the energy to connect with those around me. All my energies were needed elsewhere. Some days there was nothing left for me. I had nothing more to give. Loneliness preys on that in order to survive.
You know this first-hand, I know. There are days where you don’t see another adult between the hours of 7 and 7. Where your only company is the sound of your baby crying. Or are those tears coming from you? Those days are tough. They cripple you. They stop you from being part of the outside world. A world it seems you long since left. A world that carries on without you and cruelly shuts you out.
Because when you have a baby, everything changes. Suddenly, everything you did so easily and without thought, that you took for granted now takes effort and consideration. You can’t leave the house without a three-pronged attack. Can you be bothered? Maybe you’ll just stay in.
But please don’t stay in. Please don’t. I know you’re tired and you don’t have anywhere in particular to go. But that world is still there. It doesn’t matter where you go. It only matters that you go. To the park. For a coffee. Chat to the barista. Strike up a conversation with that other mum in the park. A mum who is probably in the park for the same reason that you are. Because she feels a bit lonely. A bit lost.
It will feel awkward. You will question what you’ll get out of it, really. You already have enough friends, you don’t need any more. But you know what? You do need more. At this stage in your life. You need other mum friends. People like you. You need people that live locally to you, so you feel connected. So it’s easy to meet up. So you feel part of something.
If you can face it, go somewhere where you know there’ll be other mums. A baby class. Or a playgroup. They aren’t clichy, I promise you. It will feel strange to start with. Forced even. And like everyone knows one another. But they are probably all going through the motions, just as you are. Feeling as uncomfortable. And if it turns out that everyone does know each other, remember this. They once stood where you stand now.
I once stood where you stand now. I’d never been to a playgroup until baby no. 3. Imagine! But then it saved my soul. Having a regular place to go is so important. But having a cup of tea made for you? A fleeting chat with someone who just gets it? You can’t put a value on that.
I now help run that playgroup that saved me. Alongside mums who, one short year ago, I didn’t even know. I always try to talk to someone new. To spot the mum in the room that’s sitting on her own. To offer her a cup of tea. A listening ear. But I’m ashamed to say I don’t always manage it. Sometimes I get caught up in conversation elsewhere. Or one of my kids needs the toilet and pulls me away.
I’m so sorry when that happens. But please know, I noticed you. Please don’t go away feeling that the class or the playgroup you made so much effort to attend was clichy or exclusive. They’re just busy places. Come back next week. I hope you managed to speak to someone. Anyone. Because that mum or dad you talked to? They’ll be so glad you did. You made a difference to their day. You made them feel less alone.
YOU. Who almost didn’t leave the house this morning.
How amazing are you?
Sending love and understanding (and a huge slice of cake).