I feel lonely...
And not just because we're in lock down.... Research by the Co-op and Red Cross in 2018 showed that 82% of mothers under 30 reported feeling lonely at least some of the time and 43% said they often or always felt that way.
One of the strangest things about motherhood is how all of a sudden we spend so much time without adult company and so much time alone with our thoughts and our emotions. It can feel like no one understands what we are dealing with day to day - the external struggles and the internal ones. It can feel like everyone else is sorted and that our struggles need to be coped with alone.
And right now, in this crazy situation, it can be truer than ever.
The lack of a real life community. The lack of contact with friends. The simple touch and reassuring hug from someone who hears you and can lend a hand when you need it. The chance to make new bonds, especially in those early days of motherhood when the need for a village can feel like a lifeline in the sea of chaos and overwhelm. These interactions beyond home life have suddenly shrunk and we are left with video calls and text messages that never quite soothe the soul as much as face to face contact.
And then there's the relationship strains where you can feel alone even in a busy house. For single mums, the possible lack of adult contact & conversation can make everything harder. There really is a lot of chance to feel lonely right now.
You are not alone. So many other mums are feeling the same way. Go gently. Open up to someone about how you feel. Send that message you've been thinking of sending asking how someone else is doing. You might just hit that moment when they are ready to talk and a whole world of honest conversations can open up from that one message.
Bloody hell, relationships are hard. They can be absolutely wonderful, but they also have their down moments and when you throw life changes (new job, new house, health issues, family dramas) into the mix, they're even harder. Then add babies and kids…
I'm naturally fiery, and my husband avoids conflict. We have plenty in common and when we were young, free and uncommitted, none of our differences mattered. But when parenthood hit us like a train, and further down the line we became a bit anxious here, a bit depressed there, and stressed all round and gagging for sleep, our relationship seemed to implode. Conflicting emotions are at the heart of relationship issues, so of course it made us both even more stressed and anxious, angry, sad and confrontational or withdrawn. Not a good combo!
Learning to face and talk about our marriage was the key. It really is important to acknowledge the problem before you can face it. I'm not a great talker about personal emotions, but my husband is better and gradually I've come to recognise that it really is helpful! If only just to make sure the other knows what you're going through. I love to fume, but it's probably not fair to fume if your other half doesn't know what you're fuming about so they can change it if needed... We're also big fans of therapy - both as a couple and on our own. I can't tell you the difference it makes.
Solo therapy is brilliant for working out why you're angry or unhappy in the first place and the impact it has on your relationship. Couples therapy is fab for working it through together - and with a neutral third party in the room.
Every year Jessica from @thenofiltermum runs the #hereforher campaign. And it feels so apt for me now as we're been talking all about how #itsrealtofeellonely.
There is so much shame associated with loneliness isn't there? It really plays to that voice of "I'm not good enough" And yet we ALL feel it from time to time - and oh so acutely in motherhood when our circumstances change so significantly and everyone's individual experiences from day to day are so different. But we are all at different stages of the same journey.
For me loneliness is not so much a physical thing as an emotional thing. I can be in a room full of people - at a toddler group, at dinner with friends or family and still feel intense loneliness. And vice versa I can be all alone and not feel lonely at all.
That feeling of loneliness can feel most acute when I feel misunderstood and unsupported emotionally. When no one seems to relate or understand the turmoil in my mind.
Obviously social connection is still a key mood booster - especially for those extroverts among us. Even a smile from a stranger can be enough to lift the mood a little. But it is meaningful connection that really feeds the soul. Being heard and understood.
The problem is, when we're feeling intense loneliness, we tend to withdraw inside ourselves even more. And in lockdown right now, it might feel like an easy place to hide away. But reaching out is everything. And even if we don't feel like we can reach out to friends or family - there are so many other communities that we can reach out to - places where we are maybe anonymous, but might actually feel more held and understood. If you're struggling right now check out @mumologist 's brilliant Facebook group 'The Village - parenting community' as well and the amazing peer support groups run by @cocoon_family_support and those run by @jessicawarne.
I absolutely love the support and friendship I have found on these squares and in real life over the years. There are so many people I've connected with who feed my soul daily and have been there for me. And hopefully they know I'm there for them too.