I Have Never Felt More Alone
Do you remember being lost inside those snuggly baby holding days? Glued to the couch, afraid to disturb that sweet softness beneath your chin. Each tiny breath felt so new, each sigh a moment to cherish. You never wanted to let go.
Time raced by.
Do you remember the times you just wanted to put the baby down? Your back and chest ached from the pressure of the baby’s head resting on you, always. You heard phantom wails as you frantically showered to scrub multiple days of grime away, and real cries when you finally touched your head to your pillow, fingertips on the bedside lamp.
The second year with my son was full of confusion. I became a stay at home mom right before his first birthday and at the time I was overjoyed. All those moments I felt I was missing would be mine now, nothing would steal my time away from constant admiration of his rosy cheeks and soulful eyes. Pure joy.
Within months I was clawing the walls. He wouldn’t nap. He wouldn’t stop crying or fussing. He wouldn’t stop throwing things. He wouldn’t stop.
He was with me, all the time, and I had never felt more alone. Well meaning friends and family would not ask me but tell me how happy I was, how lucky I was that I could stay home with my baby. Every time I heard more heartfelt expressions of just how blissed out I should be I retreated a little bit further into myself. I felt guilty. I felt like a failure, like something was wrong with me. After all, I was living the dream...right?
As moms, we know the stay at home mom (SAHM) gig is kind of a big deal when relating to other people. It’s how you have to identify yourself when you get the question “So, what do you do?”
What do you say to that? Um, I clean up jelly a lot and wish Curious George would not be such a destructive shit? I can’t stand being disingenuous but I’m not sure everyone really wants to hear the entire truth. There are the working moms who wish they could stay home (that was me) and the SAHM’s that want some type of identity outside of “mama”. There are the work at home moms who are some kind of special and deserve all the awards. We are all moms 24/7, there is no denying that. No matter where you are, you are a mom. As a SAHM with no tie to a career or workplace it starts to feel like that is ALL you are. That feeling is very lonely.
I had fair warning. Women who knew me well kindly suggested the SAHM gig was not exactly all coffee, cupcakes and sunlit snuggles. They suggested leaving work for the SAHM world was a very different experience and full of its own difficulties. Of course I shrugged them off because I, never having been a SAHM in my life, knew better!
I didn’t know better. I was completely lost in a sea of multiplying toys and cries I could not console. I was with my child, just as I wanted to be, but I was in a different place, a state of mind I did not recognize. I was so tired I would drink a cup of coffee and promptly pass out on the couch, my baby jumping himself to sleep in his bouncy toy. The damn bouncer was a better parent than my loving arms. I was wandering in the deep space between happy relief and utter devastation. It’s a place I’ve only encountered when I finally got the thing I wanted most of all, only to find out it was all a lie.
My creative spirit started to dwindle and I went through a time where my art work repulsed me. Out of all the well meaning things said to me the worst one had to be “oh great, now you will have so much time to work on your art!” When I didn’t find the time I retreated even further into my loneliness, feeling utterly worthless. I gave away many of my paintings because it hurt me to look at them. In some darker moments I painted over old work or destroyed art work with sharpies and scissors. I cut my paintings into pieces. They were a constant reminder of the success I never achieved. And the weight of regret dragged me to the ground. I despised myself for being so unhappy being with my child all the time, for not being a good mom or a good artist or good anything. But do you know what my worst mistake was?
Not saying anything.
I didn’t say anything until I was suffocating in my self loathing. I didn’t say anything until all of a sudden I was screaming and felt like I would never stop. I was home with my child but I was not there for him in a healthy way. When I got to that point, with some gentle but insistent guidance from a few close to me, I finally opened up and let the help flow in.
Sweet mama, please remember to take care of yourself, in whatever way that means to you. These are a few of the things I did to take care of myself and in turn it has made me less lonely and feel more successful as a mom, an artist and a person.
Say something. If you’re hurting, say something to your significant other, your parent, a good friend, a fellow mom. Sometimes just getting the words out there will help you realize you are absolutely not alone.
Find a great online mom group. The SAHM world can be isolating. It’s not always easy to get out in the world. It might take a few tries but I bet you will find a wonderful group of fellow non-judgy moms to commiserate and celebrate with. Especially at 2am.
Take care of your mind/body/spirit. Each aspect of you is important. Your child is important and so are you. Moms tend to worry and focus so much on our bodies before our baby is born but it goes downhill quickly when you are so focused on taking care of another human. For my own self-care I strive to blog once a week, do a yoga workout or walk around my neighborhood, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and do a face mask at home. I also work on my own art now when my son is doing an art project. We create together and it is enjoyable again.
Talk to your doctor. If you are doing all these things and it’s not getting any better, talk to your doctor. I know it feels embarrassing but take a deep breath and do it anyway. I talked to my obgyn and she was very helpful in figuring out a plan that worked for me. They talk to women and mothers every day, they get it.
Hug that baby. Sometimes our children just need a hug and so do we. When I am at my most stressed I pause for a moment and hug my son. It is soothing to the soul. Hugging my child does not erase the loneliness and stress I feel, but it does bring me back to that central reason I chose to stay home with him. It reminds me of how lucky I am and sometimes I need that reminder.
We all hear how our children grow so fast and will not need us forever. That is absolutely true but does not take away from the lonely and isolating feelings surrounding these younger years. Time can feel infinite when you are stuck in a cycle of frustration and loneliness that rarely lets up. If you’re feeling anything less than joy right now, know you are not alone. I’m here to tell you it’s totally okay. Say something, please. You don’t have to be alone.
I can certainly relate to Allison's experience through my own transitions of motherhood and career changes. Did you find something unexpected in your experience? What do you do when loneliness comes knocking on your door? Please share in the comments below! And better yet, join our Facebook support group here to find some fellow mommas to help when you need it most!