The Holiday Aftermath

As the last lid was placed on the last plastic ornament tub, my husband and I paused and looked around. “I can’t believe it’s already over,” he said. “I know”, I replied. “Did it even really happen?”  Last Christmas was our first with a baby. He was almost 4 months old, and we were just beginning to feel comfortable in our parenting skin. Everything was a blur. While the holiday season was exceptionally busy, it came with unspoken gifts: people who bent over backwards to help us with holiday preparations, arms that cradled our little one so we could rest, words of encouragement telling us that we were doing a marvelous job as parents. While we are fortunate to have these gifts in our lives beyond the holiday season, they get turned to 11 this time of year.

And then it happens: the holidays come to an end. The decorations go back to their attic home, festive music no longer permeates the air and life as usual resumes. We stand in the quiet aftermath of hustle and bustle and can begin to feel the weight of a mother’s greatest foe: loneliness.

Motherhood, with all its beauty and marvel, can be incredibly lonely. The bodily acts of carrying a child for months, delivering that child through sweat and strain and more can only be truly understood by other mothers. Spending years praying for a child to adopt can lead a mother or a partnership on a solitary journey. The innate reactions we have when our children cry, when they are in need and when they wrap their arms around us are singularly organic. From single mothers to mamas with sizable villages, there is no denying that loneliness constantly tries to wedge itself between us and the joys of simple mothering moments.

So many of these simple joys present themselves during the holidays, but does our internal loneliness allow us to see them? Or do we single-handedly try to carry the weight of making ornate costumes for school programs, magazine-worthy cookies for parties and ensuring appearances at any and every invitation that comes our way? Inevitably we will do these things, because mothers are servants. We will frazzle ourselves to ensure that the holidays are as wonderful as they can be for everyone in our lives, and then they’ll be over. And we might be left lonely or reminded of the loneliness that lingered before we were too busy to temporarily forget about it. So what can be done?

In the thick of holiday madness, find a moment, any moment, to breathe. Whether it be during a quick shower that you had to fight to be able to take, standing in the middle of some hellish holiday line at the store or on the drive to family merriment, feel yourself inhale and exhale while silently declaring, “I am here, and I am not alone”. Sometimes all it takes is allowing ourselves to hear our own still, small voice to shatter the orb of loneliness that constantly hovers over us. Look around and cling to the smiles, to bright-eyed expectant glances and the realization that there are other mothers feeling just as we do. No man is an island, but we often try to operate as if we are one. This holiday season, may you find respite and freedom in knowing that there are mothers the world wide who believe in you and in the understood community that comes with parenting. We see you, mama. You are not alone.