The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Mother
I don’t want to go all semi-serious on you all, but there’s something I wanted to bring up now that we’re all pals and you won’t think I’m a friendless loser….Being a Mum can be incredibly lonely.
It was something I had heard mentioned in vaguely hushed tones, but as someone who has always spent a lot of time alone — both working and living — I never thought it would affect me. Also, I thought having a baby would be the opposite of lonely. I wouldn’t be physically “alone” for years to come; heck, I can barely go to the loo alone and he’s not even walking yet.
But guess what; it is lonely.
Tiredness in itself is an isolator. When you are so exhausted that you can barely dress yourself, you’d often rather not go anywhere at all, even if you had the option.
If you worked before having kids, the lack of daily adult conversation and company can be jarring (you may even miss the dull chats you previously tried to avoid with creepy Barry from HR at the water cooler). You could find the connection you had with your partner isn’t quite the same, or you might resent them for going back to work when you can’t, or sleeping soundly whilst you breastfeed for the fourth time during the night or get up for the sick toddler.
You may find that some days your only interaction with people is the half an hour you grab to scroll through your Facebook feed — oh you have hundreds of friends there, but a hashtag doesn’t replace a hug.
In my case it was made doubly hard by moving to a new country at the same time as having a baby, compounded with a husband who was away a lot.
There was one week in particular when I didn’t speak to anyone in nearly four days. On day four, I met our elderly neighbour on the doorstep, and when she said good morning, the reply that fell out of my mouth made no sense whatsoever. It was only then I realised that I hadn’t spoken to anyone for days — bar baby speak and singing A-B-C slightly out of tune. I closed the door and burst into tears.
But I know I’m not alone.
I see other Mums pushing prams and buggies — some with their heads down, striding purposefully, others trying to make eye contact. I never saw them before, but I do now and I always smile back.
Occasionally they look at me like I’m a cartoon lunatic, but sometimes we stop and chat. Two strangers knowing that a five-minute exchange might make all the difference to us both.
I don’t feel ashamed to admit it now. I have lots of great friends; it’s just we’re all busy at different times, and our jobs/ families/ lives aren’t always in synch.
Blink and a month goes by and you never did meet up for that coffee.
We have to remind ourselves that this time is so precious and very short. Mum friends are important. Either existing ones or new ones. The few Mum and Baby groups I initially went to turned up no one I wanted to see again (and vice versa I’m sure).
But you have to keep trying and maybe for every ten Mums you meet, one might be a potential pal. But even the other nine might just be what you need to get you through a lonely day.
Or at least fodder for Facebook the next day