I was in the middle of writing a list of things that I’ve learned since becoming a mom 6 years ago. After reading it over and over, I decided that I’d heard it all before. If it was old news to me, it’s probably old news to you too. Of course I know (along with every other mom out there) about the sleep deprivation, the conversations about poop and the extreme exhaustion you will feel just in getting dressed every morning. It can be funny to read about it and relate to. List aside, there was one thing that I wanted to say, but couldn’t. It seemed to be trapped. Too shameful to say. I don’t know if it is because we aren’t supposed to talk about it, or if maybe I’m the only one in the world who feels it, but I’m just going to go ahead and say it. Being a mom is extremely isolating and lonely.
Before I had kids I had a job, and friends, and a pretty extensive social network. I had my own life, and although it was nothing like an episode of Sex and the City, it was still much more exciting than my life post-kids. When I was pregnant the first time it didn’t even occur to me that soon my social life would be non-existent. I figured that it would just change. I would do things all the other moms did. Like drink coffee while our kids played together, spend hours at the park and giggle with the other women about how sweet our kids were. Post-baby I realized that in fact, being a mom was the loneliest gig out there. My daughter didn’t like mom/baby groups, and to be honest, neither did I. She cried the whole time, grumpy that we weren’t at home in the rocking chair. I usually sat there red-faced feeling like a failure-mom for not being able to soothe her or make her sweet and smiley like the other babies. There were no great friendships started with other moms or feelings of camaraderie. It was fine and passed the time, but that was it.
Two more kids later, and not much has gotten better. Yes, there are play dates and mom friends that keep me from going completely feral (and I am grateful), but those usually consist of conversation about our kids. These events are not bad in any way, but they hardly replace true uninterrupted adult interaction. All of our mom conversations feels distracted, or rushed. Moms are busy people. Contrary to popular opinion, we aren’t just sipping lattes and doing yoga. We are usually always focused on what our kids are doing, where they are, whether or not they are about to stab another kid with a stick (maybe that’s just me). We don’t have a lot of time to get into detail about the challenges and hardships of being a mother, wife or woman. I know lots about these moms, but not about the women behind the mom-badge. Does that even make sense?
Back in the early years I would plan nights away, without kids. When I did, it always seemed like the odds were stacked against me. Someone would get sick, and then I’d feel guilty for leaving. Plans would change, babysitters would cancel. If on the off chance I actually could escape for a night with a girlfriend, I’d spend the entire time worried about what was happening at home. I knew that when I got back the work would have piled up and I’d have to spend double the amount of time trying to catch up. The dishes would be piled, the kids would be dirty, and the house a total write-off. Eventually I just gave up on going out all together. It seemed easier to just push that aside and tell myself I’d get back to normal once my kids grew up a little bit. I thought it was what I had to do to be a better mom.
I’m only thinking of this now, because I’m sitting in the house with my three kids alone. Tonight is yet another night out for my husband. He doesn’t understand how I feel about this at all. He says that he’s not stopping me from doing the same thing, and he’s right. But what he doesn’t understand is how lucky he is to live in an area where he has friends who want to go out with him. How lucky he is to have a community of people who stop in to see him, and who want to spend time with him. People who talk to him as a man, and not just a father.
I gave up my job, my friends and any resemblance of my old self because that’s what good moms do. Right? My husband is lucky because he doesn’t feel an ounce of guilt when he goes out and has fun. He doesn’t think about what will happen when he has a horrendous hangover and can’t function the next day. He doesn’t worry that he’ll come back from a night away to a pile of work to do. He doesn’t have to. And yes, I’m jealous.
So if I were to write a list of things women need to know about having kids, I’d write this: There will be times when you feel completely isolated and lonely, and that’s normal. There are lots of us women out there who are surrounded by their kids and even other moms, and still feel all alone.
I’m not sure I know this as fact yet, but I’m pretty sure it passes. Our kids grow up, and we start to have time for people over 4 feet tall again. Until then — I’m just hanging in there. I’m looking forward to that scene, like the end of a movie, where the wounded hero emerges from the pile of rubble to claim victory! It’s going to happen for me, for all of us. 6 years down, 16 or more to go!