Mom Is The Loneliest Number

I love my kids more than molten chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. But it’s amazing how lonely motherhood can be. I also have a relatively small social appetite (I like dinner parties and movie nights and having a few girlfriends over to watch bad TV), so you’d think I wouldn’t mind all the alone time. But being alone and feeling alone are two fundamentally different things.

I have two kids under the age of three and a husband who spends roughly four months of the year on the road for his job. I have a couple of babysitters in my iPhone rolodex who apparently have a much more lively social calendar than I, which all adds up to me spending A LOT of time at home with our children. I suppose there are those moms who would say, “I’m with my kids all the time so I could never be lonely!” Those moms are either crazy or lying. Because as exciting and amazing and fulfilling as motherhood can be, it’s also one of the most isolating choices a woman can make.

To be honest, the feeling of separate-ness starts creeping up during pregnancy. Women are advised not to tell a bunch of people until about the 12-week mark because the chances of something terrible happening are highest during the first trimester. This sets us up for that weird feeling that comes with keeping a secret – it can be the teeny tiny crack in the bond of friendship that, later on down the road, becomes a canyon between you and the people you used to rely on.

This can be especially true in the workplace, where you usually have those few trusted compatriots who cover for you when you’re hungover or feeling blue. I remember very well the bummed out feeling I had when I lied to those favorite co-workers during my first few weeks of pregnancy. I was so ridiculously tired I could barely think straight and their genuine inquiries into my well-being were met with my disingenuous response: “Nothing. Just tired. Not sure why…”

Some friends (probably from the never-been-pregnant category) fall away over the course of a wee one’s incubation – perhaps annoyed with the constant mood swings, unable to understand the claims of true fatigue or just due to irritation that you’re not drinking. (It should be noted here that these people were never really your friends. Still, their disappearance from your life does not feel good.)

And then the baby arrives! Cards! Gifts! Three hundred and eight posts on your Facebook wall! All followed by the most intensely intense six weeks of your life, during which you survive only by some miracle of biology that’s designed to support the other miracle of biology that you just brought forth unto the Earth. Even if you had the desire at this point to interact with your friends, it’s unlikely that you’d have the energy.

That was exactly the case just a few days after our daughter was born. Our best friends were having a party and there was very little discussion as to whether I’d be going or not. My husband, of course, was ready to get out of the house and away from babyville for a few hours. So there I sat with a tiny baby on my boob, knowing that all of my closest friends were just a few blocks away, but feeling thousands of miles apart.

Fast-forward several months. Things between your baby and you are pretty well sorted out. Routines are in place and every little bit of independence gained by this tiny human translates to the same for you. But you still can’t dart away for an afternoon yoga class, you can’t say “yes” to girls’ night until you find a sitter and you can’t even really talk to your husband about it because you’re feeling further and further away from him, too.

Which leads me to what may be at the root of this profound sense of isolation; the sad fact that you’re not even feeling connected to your partner anymore. In the beginning, maternal preoccupation is necessary for your baby’s survival. Unfortunately, it also has a tendency to make your husband or partner feel left out and less important. These feelings are likely unconscious but nonetheless can easily lead to resentment. So you find yourself feeling cut-off from your friends, disconnected from the person you thought would always “get” you and ultimately unsure if you even know who YOU are anymore. It’s a real shit storm of loneliness.

As I said at the beginning of this tale, I love my children madly. But they are not capable of being my best friends. Playdates are helpful, though I often spend more time chasing after my kids than I do getting down to the nitty gritty with my mommy pals. Date nights can certainly help you stay in touch with your partner, but I only know two or three couples who are able to stick to their “couple time” with any regularity. Of course, things will change – in the blink of an eye, as they say. Until they do, it’s a daily struggle between the many true joys of motherhood (there are a million) and the sense that I’m the only person in the world who knows how I feel.

(Photo: D Sharon Pruitt)

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    • Brooke

      I really disagree with this article. I think that the writer is correct — being a mom can be lonesome at times — but it doesn’t have to be. My baby and I are out nearly every day meeting up with other women. If you stay in too much, if you always put yourself last, if you allow distance to grow between you and your partner or your gal pals, sure — it would be really tough and isolating and lonesome.

      But you can’t let yourself go down that road. You need to do one thing every day for your partner and yourself, even if it’s something small like go for a run. I appreciate the writer’s honesty, but I think she’s blaming her kids for her isolation. We all create our own destinies. If you’re lonely, get out more. I do think too many women mistake their babies as their friends. I wrote about it recently here: http://bit.ly/jwctWP

      Anyway, thanks for the article.

      • Kellie

        I think it is quite ignorant of you to make such large assumptions about the author. A run, date night or hanging out with girlfriends may not cure the loneliness of a past freedom and joy. Children certainly bring a massive amount of happiness to a family but with this also comes a loss of ones self as an independent person. Each persons needs and circumstances are different and for you to assume that the things you do in your life would cure someone else’s loneliness is ridiculous.

      • EmeraldEya

        I don’t get Brooke. How can someone ‘disagree’ with someone’s feelings? That is their experience of something and you can’t disagree with someone’s feelings! I think the isolation and loneliness is something that does creep up over time and often after several children as well. Brooke strikes me as someone who probably only has one young child and hasn’t really been a mother for that long to know how worn down one can get after many, MANY years of looking after children. People seem to drop out of your life as time goes by especially the more children you have hence the loneliness starts to creep in.

    • ChiMomWriter @ It Builds Character

      I posted about this on MommyWords.com as well – http://bit.ly/mmJGdC

      It’s something that people don’t tell you about or prepare you for when you have kids. The isolation builds upon itself because these aren’t the feelings readily shared – You’re expected to be happy and thrilled and beaming.

      I’m in a similar boat with my parenting – 2 kids under 3, a husband with a crazy work schedule, and very little babysitter support. Love my kids and wouldn’t trade ‘em, but it hasn’t quite been the experience I expected. Kudos for being able to own that.

    • betsy

      i don’t really think there’s anything to disagree with — this is one woman’s experience. i imagine, there are quite a few of us who can relate. (i certainly do.) hanging out in the park with other moms isn’t all that satisfying. half the time you’re chasing a kid and the other half of the time you’re talking about lame stuff, like sippy cups or some shit like that. i wish i had the mental space for all the stuff i was interested in before there were kids. and i certainly miss being by myself.

    • kathryn

      Great article – you really struck a cord with me even though I have got out and joined moms groups and made some mom friends I still feel a bit disconnected. Thank you for sharing your thoughts – it certainly helps others to not feel so alone!

      http://becomingyou.co.za

    • Fran

      I can definitely relate to this article. I realize that some might not agree with it, but I wonder if those who commented are still relatively “young mothers” in the sense that they have very young children. I have five children, ages 1 1/2 to 11 years old, and I definitely frequently feel this loneliness. In the beginning, I had good intentions of finding time for myself and also time to be with my husband, but “life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans”.

      I especially like the comment that “half the time you’re chasing a kid and the other half of the time you’re talking about lame stuff”, which describes my entire life! I feel that even my husband won’t want to hear what I have to say because I can no longer string together a coherent sentence. As a nursing mother, I have long taken along the baby even on “Mom’s Night Out’ events, so even then I don’t get to have my own time.

      While I love my kids and I love being a mom – the one thing I had “always wanted” – I sometimes miss the freedom to do what I want when I want. Now, I can only go out if I arrange a sitter and make sure everyone is fed before I go.

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    • PAmommy09

      Everyone has different experiences and different situations with their children and their life in general. I think disagreeing with this article isn’t really the point. You don’t have to agree or feel the same either, you just have to understand that we’re all different and go through different things. This is one woman, telling other women, how she feels and I applaud her for that. She’s letting us know that we’re not the only ones who go through this.

      I myself have felt that loneliness quite a bit. As for getting out every day and meeting new people, well, that’s not always feasible. I’m a mother of a 2 year old, a wife of a husband with an insane work schedule, and I own my own business and work from home. I try to fit work in any second I can throughout the day so I can’t really just ‘go out and about’ whenever the desire strikes. Those date nights that we always talk about never happen and my friends don’t understand that I can’t really drop everything and hang out because babysitters are very hard to come by. Of course, these are the ones who don’t have kids themselves. I don’t blame my kid for how my life has turned out but I do miss how some things were before he came along. So, I say thank you for sharing your feelings and emotions with us and letting women out there know that we’re not alone with our loneliness.

    • Melanie

      I’m really proud of my sister for writing about one of the harder things about being a Mom. I think it is important to the sisterhood that all mothers share to talk openly about the unglamorous-side. I would love to see an article on how infuriating it is when Mom’s judge other Mom’s (like saying they “disagree” with someone’s experience- and thank you to those women saying an individual expereince is not something to agree or disagree with but only to try to understand!). We deal with so much on a daily basis that we really don’t need judgement (especially from other Mom’s). What we need is empathy, kindness, support and sometimes a few simple words such as “I hear you,” “I’ve totally been there,” or… “you’re not alone”.
      Really, you’re not.

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    • nancy arsenault

      YOU GO GIRLS, ALSO UNDERSTAND OTHERS OPINION TOO!

    • Anna Palmer

      The loneliness fades. I was just remarking that these past few months (boys 6/4) my kids have for sure brought more joy than isolation into my life. So it takes a WHILE. The beauty and sweet sadness of it though is that we don’t remember. Like the pain of childbirth that isolation becomes a fact we know whose feeling we forget. I recall my husband arriving home 5 minutes later than I expected when I had my collicy refluxing, baby that seemed to come with a built in altimeter, and me yelling so loudly that I hurt my own throat. So my son and I had that in common. I also have a most beloved memory that I stole from someone else. A blog post about a mom who put scrap notes into a box. They weren’t sorted by child or by time, she would just pull out a slip and read. She found one when her kids were old that simply read “holding hands while nursing” Her four words have stuck with me more tightly than most of my own memories. My boys did that. Held my hand while nursing. They still reach for my hand sometimes. But for how much longer? It becomes a new kind of loneliness.

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    • Alex

      I have never read an article that I can relate to more. This is exactly how I’ve felt since I had my daughter…actually since I’ve been pregnant. And my boyfriend, however great of a dad and partner he is, just will never understand.

    • hovtwo

      This really sums up how I have been feeling. I feel better knowing I’m not alone.

    • SHERI FREEMAN

      NEED FRIENDS, VERY LONELY.

      • dorothy

        I’m here??? r u still there?

      • Rose

        Had friends, they have disappeared. The ones that don’t have kids are fine and dandy, but live on a totally different planet than I. The friends I know that do have kids, already have best friends (or people close to them they depend on) which basically makes me “fluff” to their lives. They like me, enjoy my company every so often…but don’t need me like I need a friend. Other “friends” have simply become people I used to know…Boo hoo!

      • Grace

        That’s my life. I feel like the only moms who bother with me, and they are very nice, but I know them because our kids are friends. No invites to coffee, or anything resembling friendship. I get invited to mom parties where moms are peddling goods. I am not interested in those parties.

      • southern utah hick

        Rose, Grace and the author have pretty much explained my current situation. I feel your pain.

    • Exhausted Cancer Survivor

      EVERYONES situation is different…I understand the writer Completely. I HAD cancer when my daughter was 2. I HAD inlaws constantly judging me from the day she was born. My spouse did not help me take care of the baby during my chemo treatments..nor take care of me. I STRUGGLED. I HAVE NO family close by except now on my 5th year of remission my handicape aging mom has moved in my home and I get some help from her… but she needs help too…so we try to help one another. I LIVE IN A big city with friends that have a no kids or whose kids are grow. I AM AN OLDER Mom…Yes it is my own fault for having kids late in life. I AM TIRED..IF NOT FROM being an old Mom…but from surving cancer..or vice versus. I DONT know. BUT IT HELPS ME to know that I am not alone in my feelings. I LOVE MY DAUGHTER dearly. I SPEND all my time after work hours with her and weekend. I PROB OVERCOMPENSATE WITH MY playtime with her because I almost feel that my remission will end.p and I may die. I dont want her to forget me. BUT even I have those moments when I feel alone and I miss and physically need that time to myself. I UNDERSTAND COMPLETELY.

    • Amy

      Thank you so much for writing this article. I am a work-from-home new mom and I totally feel alone. I can’t remember ever feeling so lonely in my life. Things with my husband are not what they once were, I feel like we barely talk anymore. And when you have to work and are working from home, it isn’t like you can just leave the house anytime you want. When I am not taking care of every little need my son has, I have to try to get hours in for work. I am often up long after my husband and son have gone to bed trying to finish work for the day. I love my little boy and would not trade him for the world, but I definitely miss the idea of having “me” time. It is nice to know that other people have this same issue. While reading this article I felt like someone was writitng about my life.

    • Sara

      Great article and very reassuring to read! Even after half a year of being a mom the loneliness continues. As others I have joined groups and try to get out as much as possible, but as my husbands works late often I am condemned to being the one at home every night. Had to give up sports and dinners with girl friends. I love my little chickie but I miss my independence!

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    • Lonely 1

      Girl, I feel the same or even worse than you. I was always a loner and had VERY few friends. During my very difficult pregnancy, I had no-one there and my husband was very busy working. My baby is now a year but she is still not very independent, she still wakes five times a night (I breastfeed), my husband works every day, including weekends and comes home around 10 pm at night. Then he hides out in the bathroom or the den or in front of the TV until 2 am. My baby still isn’t walking or eating enough to sleep through the night. And I’m just having to tough it out on my own. Motherhood is very lonely, but I think this is the fault of bad husbands and selfish families (my sister and mother who I used to support financially for over 12 years have both refused to come and help me). The baby is not to blame although they can end up taking soiome of the brunt of your frustration.

      • Summer1

        I have no family support either, I have 3 children under 4 and EXTREMLY lonly, I can’t get out much and feel so unloved. It’s a horrible feeling. My husband and I use use to get long so well and now things have changed. He yells and swears at me a lot which makes life even harder.
        Today’s a bad day .. Tomorrow I hope to feel better.

    • smurfy26

      Such a relief to see that there are people that feel the same way I do! Sometimes I feel guilty for letting myself feel ‘lonely’ when I have the most amazing kids and a pretty darn good partner who works hard to support us. I’m perfectly happy spending family time at the cinema, playgroups, bowling etc but it’s when my partner meets with his work buddies for a football match or a quick catch up that I start to miss that side of life too. Sometimes he doesn’t get back util 8pm then will spend 1hr on his laptop-which makes me feel :/ deflated to say the least especially when I’ve unintentionally waited for his return. I have never been very lucky with the ‘friends’ I’ve accumulated through life, one by one they’ve let me down (mostly due to the fact that they don’t/or didn’t have children themselves and so didn’t understand my commitment). At the minute I’m looking for some part-time work, not for monetary reasons, purely for my mental sanity-BUT even this has to fit around my kids!! It’s hard to have ‘the perfect balance’ but I will keep trying :) if only because I can’t stand this empty feeling that I know shouldn’t be there!!

    • CandyLove

      summed up really well!!!!thank God someone gets it! Solution: we need to do things for ourselves that belongs only to us. God gives us all kinds of gifts as women and motherhood is one of them, we have to seek what our individual talents and gifts are make some things just for us (mommies)

    • Geneva

      My son will be 3 soon as I still feel this way. I have held off having another child longer than I had planned because I’m afraid the feelings of lonliness will just grow. I want to be ok with staying in on a saturday night all the time and often alone with my little guy. I love him and we have fun all the time but I feel like all my friends have forgotten about me :/

    • Andrea

      This article did me a lot of good. I was searching on the internet for anyone who could sympathize with me. I am happy to hear that this loneliness will disappear. I have been afraid to talk to anyone about it. I don’t want to seem selfish and weak. The only thing that is getting me through this time is knowing that my baby needs me to be strong for her. I know this will pass and when Mat leave is over I will probably regret wishing that I could go back to work. How do you fix the relationship with your husband? We argue over baby issues,we don’t have sex because the baby is always awake when we even have the energy to do anything and I seriously resent his freedom to go out whenever he wants to….

    • Angel

      Thank you thank you thank you for writing this. I sob now as I type for these are all the things I am struggling with so much. There is no easy solution but it really helps just knowing that not alone.

      • Molly

        I feel the same! I’m madly in love with my little boy, but it sometimes feels as though the world continues to spin while I stand still. Definitely felt the divide of friendship during pregnancy. Few close, real friends remain. The loneliness, too, shall pass. But right now it’s very present.

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    • Jess

      I know this post is two years old, but I just found it. I am in tears at how dead-on this describes me right at this moment. Thank you. (This too shall pass… I guess.)

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    • Matt M

      There are apps that have tried to tackle the problem of stay-at-home mom loneliness. I think the most promising one is http://www.familygroups.org . They match you to other parents nearby based on common interests.

    • zaluis

      I just read this article, after feeling the same if not worse (adding my tears into it)for more than a year now almost 15 months. I though i was the only one, but I am not thank God. Its just nobody ever tells you about all the things to expect when having a baby, may be its for better. I am away from my family both mine and my husbands. Left my work to look after baby, decided to stay longer with him. I can say the hardest thing in having a baby is LONELINESS!!! I don’t have any motivation, or willingness to do anything, just waiting for my husband all day and it is depressing me. I meet up with friends from time to time, but as soon as I am home I feel the same again. Just tell me please those who have bigger kids, will this feeling end?Nothing is making me happy either just sadness. My baby is so lovely though and I do not want him to pick up on my Loneliness as kids feel their mother. Will try to stay strong, Oh and forgot to add that since I feel as lonely my appetite is gone and hard to sleep either:(((.
      But thank you so much for the article it is really helpful. I wish they had a weekly meeting for mothers to discuss the issues to make it easier for us MUMs, we are the greatest in the World.

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    • Sarah

      Yes, yes, and yes again!

    • elele

      Go to work and then you’ll miss your baby. There’s pretty much no happy medium.

    • john

      theres no such a thing as a lonely woman. All women get dates and bf’s. Its men who are lonely.

    • D

      GLAD SOMEONE GETS IT! THANKS FOR WRITING THIS GLAD IM NOT ALONE IN HOW I FEEL

    • Stace

      This is a great article!