The Loneliness Epidemic: Motherhood

loneliness-epidemic-motherhood

There are approximately 2 billion mothers in the world. 

You would think with billions of women sharing an experience, there would be an overwhelming opportunity to connect and bond with one another.

According to one study completed in 2018 by channelmum.com, over 90% of women admitted to feeling lonely in their motherhood journey. 80% expressed that they would be interested in making “mom friends”.

What seems like a “loneliness epidemic” amongst the motherhood community is an obviously common, but rarely discussed, side effect of parenting. While logically it makes sense that a mom might face challenges in motherhood, the image portrayed on social media of perfect parents and families directly contradicts the above-shared statistics.

For the first few years of my motherhood journey, my husband and I lived in the basement suite of my childhood family’s home. This meant constant access to my parents and siblings, anytime I needed to vent, discuss my struggles in parenting, or take a break.

Eventually, my husband and I decided it was time to move elsewhere. When we did, I was shocked at how my life changed. I went from being someone who always had a sore throat from too much story-telling to someone who went days without an adult conversation. While my home was always loud with the sound of children laughing, music playing, and toys buzzing, I felt silenced and invisible to the outside world. 

Loneliness doesn’t mean that you are physically alone; it means that there is a part of you that feels alone. While I am constantly surrounded by children and toys, there is a part of me that continues to feel unstimulated and unseen.

I have always been a social person, yet I continue to struggle to find a good connection with other mothers. It’s not that I haven’t tried, either. I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that it’s part of the journey. 

As normal as loneliness is, sometimes feelings of loneliness can be overwhelming or debilitating. This is common in cases of postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression

Postpartum depression is a clinically diagnosable disorder that entails the following symptoms (list borrowed from depressionhurts.ca).

  • Experiencing strong feelings of sadness, emptiness, loneliness
  • Restlessness, irritability, or anxiety
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Less interest or participation in activities normally enjoyed
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Repeated thoughts of death or suicide
  • Low energy and feeling tired all the time
  • Changes in appetite or weight (eating more or less)
  • Change in sleep pattern (sleeping more or less)
  • Increased use of drugs or alcohol
  • Self-destructive behavior, loss of control, or uncontrolled rage
  • May include headaches, aches, pains, digestive problems, dizziness, or lightheadedness.

If you feel that you are experiencing these symptoms, you need to connect with your family doctor. Postpartum depression is not something to be taken lightly, and it can be managed and treated with prescription medication and/or counseling.

Single Parenting

Although I haven’t experienced it myself, I have watched and heard experiences from close friends and family members who are single parents. 

Even as some communities in the world become more progressive in accepting families that don’t fit into the “nuclear family” mold, single parents’ feelings of loneliness are often discredited due to their “life choices”. This is both inaccurate and uncalled for. 

The loneliness experienced by a single parent is on a level of its own. It can feel like you don’t quite belong in any motherhood group, yet you still feel the same desire to connect.

If you are a single parent reading this, please know that your struggles are seen, felt, and appreciated. You are doing an amazing job seeking out help and resources to parent to the best of your ability. Thank you!

What things make feelings of loneliness more intense?

While loneliness is common, some factors escalate feelings of isolation. Avoiding these things will do your mental health a huge favor. 

Social Media

Our generation is the first to have a window from the outside world into our homes accessible at all times. Social media is wonderful for connecting with family and loved ones, and for sharing precious memories to be looked back on later.

With the rise of social media influencers and aesthetically pleasing content, networking is no longer the innocent, joy-sharing place that it once was. It is now a place full of judgment, comparison, opinions, and unwanted advice. 

When it comes to social media, I have two tried and true suggestions that have made all the difference in my life.

  1. Go through your friend and following lists critically. Unfollow every person or account that causes you to feel bad about yourself, or like you are not doing enough.
  2. Take a monthly social media break. If this sounds difficult for you, try just going an afternoon without social media, slowly increasing it as much as you want.

Comparison is truly a thief of joy, and social media makes it way too easy. By taking back control over your network experience, you will feel less lonely and more present in your day-to-day life.

Self Isolation

If you are already in a rut of feeling lonely or unwanted, it can make it more difficult to gather the muster to dress yourself, dress the kids, and go out. 

As best as you can, try to leave the house and venture outside and into the community. Not only will this alone help you to feel refreshed, but it opens up your chances of meeting friends. 

Some great places to start with are your local library, playgrounds and parks, hikes, community events, and parenting groups.

Mental Health Issues

Loneliness will be intensified if you are trying to manage mental health issues. If accessible, reach out to your family doctor if you believe you might be struggling with your mental health.

Coping with Loneliness

Thankfully, in most cases, there are ways to take control of your loneliness and change it. These ways include, but are not limited to:

Join a support group!

Does it sound exciting? Not necessarily, but it MIGHT be just what you need to recognize that you are not alone and THAT is powerful! Remember, this is your life, and that means it’s ultimately up to you to decide what you are going to do to make the best you can out of it.

Support groups can be in-person, over a video call, or in chat rooms. There are so many different options available, with the most important factor being that you feel comfortable to engage and share your experiences.

Be Yourself!

There’s no point in building a friendship with someone when you are not being your genuine self. As tempting as it is to change your personality to what you might think is more attractive in friendship, don’t do it! It’s never worth it to be inauthentic, and it will hurt both you and your “friend” in the end.

And besides- you are amazing just the way you are! You will attract the people who are meant to be in your life as long as you stay true to your values and participate in the things that are important to you.

Be Genuine in Sharing Your Experiences

I speak from experience when I say that there is nothing more uncomfortable than listening to somebody share a story that you know has been changed and exaggerated in hopes of it being more interesting. I can guarantee that the original story is always better!

Besides, as moms, we aren’t looking to make friends with the funniest or wildest person in the room. We want to be friends with the mom that we relate to and can imagine as being part of our lives.

Reconnect With Old Friends

There’s no need to venture out into the world of the unknown to make a connection. Sometimes the best futures are hidden in the past!

My top tip on reconnecting with old friends? Don’t write people off! Whether it’s been 15 years, whether they live locally or not, whether they have children or not… what you need right now is connection- and you never know where that will be found!

Loneliness is NORMAL. If and when you experience it, don’t feel that it is a negative reflection of your self-worth or of how you are doing as a parent. Take your time in spending time with your children and then, when you feel ready, reach out into your community and see what you can find. Happy friendship finding!

 

By Julianna

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