Flashback: It’s the early days of the newborn stage. You are still on maternity leave. Family members fill your house. You’ve only slept in 2.5 hour blocks for the last week. Your newborn is quietly asleep in the bassinet. You are reclining on the couch. Somehow, despite being surrounded by people, you feel a bit lonely.
Flashback: It’s 3 a.m. Your spouse just finished a diaper change and hands off the baby for a middle of the night feeding. You struggle to get baby to latch, but he finally does. You scroll your phone for the latest posts to find nobody awake at 3 a.m. You look over at your spouse fast asleep. And you feel lonely.
Flashback: You just walked in the door from work. Your toddler is screaming and running through the house demanding dinner. You shuffle around the kitchen to prep food while your kid clings to you. Your spouse and other family members try to get your child to let go, but he just screams and cries harder. You look around and feel alone.
Flashback: You’re on family vacation, waiting in a long line for the next table at your favorite restaurant. Your child is overstimulated and hot and tired. He poops his pants. And you have to be the parent to take him for a diaper change because the men’s restroom doesn’t have a changing table. You feel alone.
We’ve all felt lonely on this motherhood journey.
I love being a mom to my boy. I’ve been surprised by how moments of loneliness sneak in to steal my joy. It’s overwhelming, at times, to feel happy, grateful and lonely all at once.
Why do I feel lonely when I’m surrounded by people who love us and want to help us? Why do I feel lonely in this season?
Sometimes, it’s because I am the only person who can meet my son’s needs. Sometimes, it’s because I haven’t taken the time to take care of myself. Sometimes, it’s because I haven’t slept well. Sometimes, it’s because I’m working a full-time job. Sometimes, it’s just the enormity of the responsibility I’ve been given to be a parent.
Being a parent is hard.
If you feel lonely in your season of motherhood, I see you.
I’m trying to navigate it, too. Having “momma magic” is tough work. Give yourself some much needed grace.
Let this be your free pass to talk about it without feeling guilt or shame. The lonely moments I feel are just a snapshot in time. Loneliness is not the major feeling of the my journey. But it is part of my story.
Have you ever felt lonely in your motherhood journey?
There’s a lot of things about motherhood we never talk about. I was surprised by the amount of “hard things” nobody told me before becoming a mom. We tend to wear these things like badges of honor. Like the newborn stage and toddlerhood defines us.
And for a while, it does.
We are Mom. We solve problems, wipe faces, clean up dishes and toys and cups and dirty clothes. We give hugs and kisses and rub backs and rock babies to sleep. We become everything to our littles.
But we don’t talk about how the season of littles is hard. It’s exhausting. It’s draining. It’s all-consuming. And as much as I love my boy, sometimes I just want to be alone in a quiet room where nobody needs anything from me for several hours.
While my circumstances are unique, I decided I needed to speak to someone about all the things swirling around in my head. I had a nine month old at the time, and I was transitioning from breastfeeding to formula. I had no idea I was going to have my biggest hormone shifts since birth when I quit breastfeeding, but there I was in the thick of it. I was working full-time, mostly from home, but planning my transition back to the office.
And I simply couldn’t “hang in there” without help. My postpartum anxiety was at an all-time high. COVID was raging in our community. I just couldn’t get myself under control. I was miserable, and I knew I needed something to give me a push out of the funk I was in. To help me think through who I was and what I wanted.
So I made an appointment, filled out an informational form and went to meet my fate in therapy.
Why do we struggle so much to take steps to help ourselves? I kept thinking I would get over it or bounce back. But I just didn’t.
I sat down across from this stranger, my therapist, and told her things I had never told anyone. I told her my fears, my dreams, my insecurities, my hopes for the future, my past experiences. I told her everything.
It was liberating.
She helped me find freedom and acceptance in myself. She gave me language to help me understand what I was feeling. She helped me work through scenarios. She talked me through one of the toughest seasons of my life.
What if you gave yourself permission let go of your preconceived notions and tried therapy?
It could really help you figure some stuff out. If you go and you don’t have a great vibe with the first therapist you try, ask them for a referral. They won’t be offended. Good therapists want you to get help, even if it’s not from them.
If you are struggling or something feels off or you don’t feel quite like yourself as you settle into motherhood (or anytime), get yourself a therapist. I have a great one, and I gladly give out her information to anyone who asks or who I think would be open to hearing my story.
I still see mine twice a month. I look forward to going, even when it’s emotionally difficult to talk through hard things. It’s become a lifeline in my current season of motherhood, working full-time and trying to “do it all.”
In Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead, she talks about this idea of stories we tell ourselves when we freak out. It’s like we don’t have all the info or the answers to our questions, so our brain fills in the blanks with whatever crazy, scary thing we can think of. Then, these stories usually spiral out of control, making us feel sick and terrible and anxious.
Yesterday, I had a moment where the story I told myself was one where I couldn’t take on a new project at work. It’s too big. I’m at capacity. I’m overwhelmed. I’m on the verge of burnout. I’m not ready. I’m whatever, whatever, whatever. The list went on and on until I realized I was spiraling out of control. I called my work mentor and asked him to talk me off the self-made ledge.
This got me thinking about all the things we tell ourselves as we go through our days, and how much power they can wield over us, if we aren’t careful in reeling our minds in.
Let me elaborate on other stories I’ve been telling myself lately.
This story started creeping in as we prepared for our first family beach trip since we became a family of three. Why do we do this? It’s maddening. Like my body is the only thing about me that is interesting or beautiful or lovable. I hate this story so much. It’s such a power stealer. Just take the wind right out of your sails.
The weekends leading up to our beach trip I would try on my new “mom” bathing suits and judge my postpartum body in my new one pieces. I’d tell myself the story of how I was nowhere near my former size, nowhere near as “cute,” nowhere near as attractive as I was before I had my child. Then, I would take the swim suits off and do it all over again the next weekend.
My company has gone through a lot of change in the last year, and more is coming. It’s coming so fast the story I tell myself is I can’t keep up. I can’t keep up with the pace of this change AND be the version of mom I want to be. I can’t achieve more at work AND be engaged at home. I can’t lead a team at work AND parent my child through toddlerhood. I can’t be the change-maker I want to be AND be home by 6 p.m. every night, make dinner, do bath time and tuck my son into bed.
Both things require so much mental, physical and emotional energy. And it’s impossible to give 100 percent to both work and parenting. And choosing what I give 100 percent to makes me feel miserable sometimes. Why can’t I do it all? Other working moms do.
These stories aren’t constantly on a loop in my head. They just show up sometimes when doubt creeps in or when my pants fit a little tighter than usual.
What happens when you change the story?
Here’s the the takeaway. The one thing I want you to carry with you from this whole thing.
The stories we tell ourselves are bullshit.
They come from a place of fear or shame or self-loathing. AND they aren’t true.
Nothing is wrong with my body. I can still have a career and strive for excellence and lead a team and change the world AND be a good, active, thoughtful mother to my son.
So let’s change the stories.
I grew a person inside my body. She stretched and adapted and grew to bring the most perfect little boy into the world. That is a miracle. I am just as beautiful and lovable in this body I am in today. My body recovered from childbirth. She nursed a baby for nine months. She carried a baby for 9 months in the womb and now 17 months earth-side.
I recently started working out because I want to honor her. I want to be strong. I want my son to see me take care of myself. I want the mental health attributes of working out. I want to know I am doing all I can to keep her healthy since she did so much for me during pregnancy and postpartum.
This notion that women can’t have careers and be a good mom is just totally ridiculous. Please don’t put us in a box where we can only have one or the other. You can be a full-time working mom. You can be a part-time working mom. You can have a side hustle. You can be at stay-at-home mom. You can go to all the field trips. You can be the classroom mom. You can be a homeschool mom. You can be a home-cooked meals mom. You can be a pick-up-dinner-after-work mom.
You are only defined by the limits you draw for yourself.
Let me say that again.
You are only defined by the limits you draw for yourself.
For me, those limits change daily. Depending on my mental capacity, my workload, my home responsibilities, what my spouse can do to help lighten the load at home and childcare, my mom who comes on the weekends to help with my son, my mother-in-law who keeps my son while I work.
Some days, I just “keep the lights on.” I don’t start anything new. I don’t take on big work projects. I make easy foods. I rest during naps. I lean on my team. I read and consume mindlessness. I go to bed early.
Other days, I go for it. I have capacity to take on more work projects. I blaze a new path. I clean my house or do dishes during naps. I read and consume challenging media. I stay up and enjoy another episode or one more page.
Most days, it’s a combination of the two. Keeping the lights on in some areas of life, while going for it in others.
The story I tell myself is that is ok to have both. It is ok to rest and strive. It’s ok to just be.
A whole lot has changed since I went quiet in this space. Since I last wrote, which I’m not even sure when that was, I’ve undergone a significant amount of life change. The most profound being motherhood. But I can also throw in an engagement and marriage before motherhood. Lots of change in two years.
I didn’t mention the craziness of the pandemic. Don’t we all wish that was behind us?
My motherhood journey the past 13 months has been crazy. Add in the 9 months of pregnancy during early pandemic life, and you could say we were insane. I could even argue that we are more insane today than back then. I digress.
Over the course of the coming months, I am going to unpack some unpopular opinions here. Women talking about hard topics related to motherhood is taboo. There are a lot of things nobody tells you until your baby is earth-side, and then you are just lost in a sea of new and ever-changing factors trying to recover from childbirth and keep your newborn alive and thriving.
The vulnerability of sharing all this is scary, but the pros outweigh the cons. If I can help one other person see that their experience is normal and valid, then sharing my story is worth it. It’s super messy, sometimes ugly. It wasn’t the sunshine and rainbows I had pictured in my head. It wasn’t the quintessential family photo hanging over mantels across American living rooms. But it’s real and raw and full of hope for being a better person, a better wife and a better mother.
My son is 13 months old today. He’s the light of my life. The littlest love I never knew I needed until I felt his first kicks and held him in my arms for the first time. There is no better snuggle partner than my sweet boy.
But the journey to get to this place, this perspective was the road of unknown travel. The one you walk alone, yet with many.
The expectation could be this space becomes the typical mommy blog. But I am not the typical mommy because my introduction to motherhood was during a pandemic. This will not be a how-to guide for moms. I plan to unpack the hard things, the beautiful things, the ever-changing things to give perspective to the rollercoaster that is parenthood. Stay along for the ride, if that’s your thing. Exit when you wish. Rude comments about my perspective and experiences will 100 percent not be tolerated.
This is a space to help people. To help women normalize the things that happen to them in motherhood. To help find someone “like you.”