Monday, 27 February 2012

The loneliness of motherhood


Some women take to motherhood like ducks to water, but I wasn't one of them.  It doesn't matter how much you long for a child, it doesn't mean you won't feel the sense of loss for your old life. At times, it can seem like you are grieving, like your old life has gone and there is no way to get it back again.  I think that these days, with the perpetual childhood so many people in their twenties and thirties seem to enjoy, it has become particularly difficult to adapt to being a parent. 

One of the things a lot of people recommend, is going to these mum and baby groups. Now, I'm not against them per se, I know plenty of people who have met "friends for life" through these groups. Maybe it's because I'm not much of a joiner, but I have come to loathe those groups. I go to a select number very occasionally for the sake of my children. I always choose ones that are drop in, I never ever commit myself to groups that require a waiting list or where you HAVE to attend every week. I used to take my son to dance and music classes, but found the cost prohibitive, especially when I could attend my local children's centre for £1, he preferred going there anyway. The problem with these groups, as you might guess, is the cliquey-ness of them. The "in crowd" you thought you had left behind in school re-emerge as alpha mummies. That loud and brash breed who just take over wherever they go.

A few months ago I attended a post natal group at my local surgery. There were about 12 mums there with new babies. The idea was that we had a discussion about an issue, for example weaning. On this particular day, one alpha mummy completely took over, clearly loving the sound of her own voice. It got tiresome quickly so I started squeaking my son's sophie giraffe toy every time she piped up, made no difference though.  I sometimes strike up conversation with other mums at these groups, however that is the last time I hear my voice....I then get talked at mercilessly for at least 20 minutes before I make my excuses and escape. Is it me?! 

I guess what it comes down to is loneliness. I'm writing about it flippantly but quite clearly these mothers are horribly lonely. Motherhood IS lonely. Although of course you are never actually alone, the very nature of motherhood is very isolating as it is just so damn difficult to leave the house. And the thing is, these "friends for life" you make, you actually have nothing in common with, aside from giving birth at a similar time.

And I guess as well that this is also one of the reasons for the rise of the Mummy blogger.
As mums we are horribly horribly lonely.

32 comments:

  1. Had to comment as this post really hit home with me. As much as I love my daughter and enjoy being a mummy, it is so hard sometimes and I do feel terribly lonely. I too don't get much out of the mummy groups, more because I find it hard to stick to a regular day and so never meet the same person twice.

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    1. Thanks for your post. I think it is something people find hard to admit - everyone expects you to be really happy when you've had a baby. It IS hard to go to the same groups as I want to take advantage of my son's nap time so try to be in when that happens so I can have some time to myself. The groups are normally in the morning when he sleeps. I find it exhausting having the "about me" conversation over and over again. Motherhood is a lonely job.

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    2. Hello,
      First I wanted to apologise for commenting by hitting reply. I can never find the proper comment button on blogs on blogger.com.

      I found it hard as well, especially with Child 1. I didn't enjoy the mum/baby groups as I found a lot of them clique-y. Also, conversation was mostly centred around baby issues, which I wasn't that interested in. After spending all hours with my newborn, I really wanted to talk about grownup stuff.

      I'm very selective with mum/baby groups I go to. I go to them because the activity's great for baby and not for my socialising. If I meet a mum I do get on with, then it's a bonus.

      But yes, motherhood is lonely. Particularly for first-time mums. But once you have a sound network of mums you can socialise with plus have babies of the same age, then that's where the fun begins.

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  2. I can just picture you furiously squishing that giraffe toy, made me grin :)

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    1. I was! I was very close to saying something but managed to hold it in. Just wanted to shout, "shut up" but realised that would make me look VERY mental.

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  3. You have a fab way of writing it makes you feel what you are feeling.
    I've had better experiences of the mum and baby groups and have met a couple of great people which has been a life saver for me as I got incredibly lonely some days stuck in the house in the early days but now my baby is 10 months I've stopped going as much as I feel the groups have changed with new mums and young babies so I feel we've out grown them.

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    1. Hi kelly, only just noticed these comments, very sorry! I completely now what you mean, I feel that now my children are older everyone has made their friends and doesn't want to make new ones. Another thing is that I don't want to talk about children all the time now either, I want to focus on myself a bit more!

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  4. Reading this was like re-reading my first few posts! I totally agree with you about everything you say, and no it's not just you-I don't go to baby groups for that reason which has not helped the lonliness that shocks the system after having a child-like you say, no matter how much you want and love that child it's still a shock. I also find I don't have fewer friends but I have a smaller number of close friends now (most of whom have children-all but one anyway) because quite simply people without children don't understand this side of parenting. That is why we blog!! Loved reading this, we aren't alone when we have our blog friends! x

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  5. when I had my first child I did it all, NCT, where I made good lasting friends for years & we supported each other for 5 years, then when the kids went to school we started naturally drifting. I did gymbabes, tumbletots, swimming, etc etc & loved every minute back then, I didn't go to make friends, but to do something with my child. This time not doing anything till she's 2 when we will start a couple of things, we do go swimming & are out every day. I'm not bothered about meeting other mummies now, but I do remember what it was like, nothing much has changed in that area it seems. I'm looking forward though to meeting my next alpha-mummy/clique, I am ready for them, older, wiser, savvier, bring it on! I'm far from lonely, if I had time maybe! I see my friends (our first batch of babies are grown up now) twice a month & I love going out to restaurants/shows/London shopping/etc sans baby - do you have any non-mummy friends you could get away with occasionally??

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  6. You've struck a nerve with a lot of regular mums out there - what is it with these cliques? First at school, then with their newborns, then toddler groups and then, God help us, the PTA! If it's any consolation at all, life does come back, by the time it does, you've often lost those 'mummy friends' but then you meet all these other women who feel exactly the same way as you do now...and they're great friends to have around. Hugs xxx

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  7. Thanks for your replies. I'm not really lonely now as I've picked and chosen people I have things in commen with. I suppose I'm talking about when I first had my oldest child. I quite like the classes it's the toddler groups I find more of a drag as they are less structured and really you need someone to talk to. I think the point I'm trying to make is that it is the other mums who are lonely or else why would anyone talk that much!

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  8. Yes, absolutely. I flit between thinking, I should be more like them and thinking no, I shouldn't! It IS lonely but groups like that just make you feel more alone!

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  9. Motherhood especially in the early months can be terribly lonely. I think women are scared to admit this, that it might make them sound less of a mother. I felt very lonely when my husband returned to work and suddenly it's you and the baby and your old life does dissapear before your eyes. Have you family nearby? I ended up moving closer to home when my child turned 1 to help me return to work and get the emotional support I needed. I sometimes wonder though, the women who pipe up might be feeling as lonely as you but talking and hiding it through appearing confident is their way of dealing with it. Not everyone, but sure that applies to some women.

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  10. I completely agree, I think they do talk too much because they usually have no-one to talk to. Thing is, most people are self aware enough to realise when they are going on too much. I suppose we aren't always ourselves after we've had a child.

    I live near my parents, it's ok I'm fine please don't worry!
    As women, we need to stop, listen to and support one another.

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  11. I was so lonely with my first child. I had nobody to rely on. I missed my family and friends in Japan lots. It was hard.

    As time went by, I began to feel more confident and I got used to the situation.

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    1. It must be doubly hard for mums living far from family and friends, I do not know how people managed. I really admired you Mizue and still think you are one of the bravest people I know! Gambatte!

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    2. I moved south to be with my partner. My children changed school, but they were at the age where parents didn't drop them off or wait at the gate anymore, so meeting parents was very difficult. At PTA they all knew each other so didn't introduce themselves to me. I tried to introduce myself, but not much luck.
      I am so lonely, and hope it gets better, soon!!

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    3. That's very hard. I'm kind of in the same boat now my son has started school. All the other mums seem to know each other, and they never even look at me or smile or anything! I find it really rude, I can't understand why people would behave in that way. Just remember that it's not you, it's them! xx

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  12. Completely agree with your post. It is very isolated and as most of your acquaintances are likely to be new it's difficult to actually discuss it with people you don't know and understand yet, despite all being in the same boat. Even worse for those with PND, quite the vicious circle. I also really noticed that the usual social cues are largely removed when you are just a group of women with a baby. Usually you're brought together by mutual friends, interests or work, and when you're not it does make you realise that there are more conventions around how we behave and judge people than we realise. It's a very unsettling time. As you say, chuck tiredness into the mix and it's suprising more of us don't decide to walk around with squeaky giraffe :)

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  13. ha ha!! Love it. Yes I agree it is all very unnatural and we actually have little in common besides the ages of our children. Despite this I have met some lovely women at groups I just don't like being tied to a particular group. What gets me is how people go on and on and on and don't let others get a word in!

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  14. I really identified with this. It can be lonely. I did the NCT classes before I had my son, but whilst it was nice to know a group of other mum's with babies the same age, I felt we were just thrown together because of that, other than our babies I didn't feel we had that much in common. Possibly because quite alot of them are alpha's -and I'm so not.

    Being a mother is much more self sacrificing than I ever imagined. I wrote a post last week about routine and how it gets to me sometimes, the same thing, day in day out. I guess though the reason I live like that a bit is to help myself not feel isolated or lonely. Keeping us busy hides it.

    Great thought provoking post.

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    1. I know what you mean. Your life is defined by routine, same old same old. Mealtimes really get me down. I find it really stressful and I always end up with heartburn as there is so much screaming and general impatience. It gets to the stage as well where everything becomes too much of a faff to warrant bothering - do you just don't bother. Then you stay in all the time which is also depressing. Vicious cycle!

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  15. I loved this post, it's so very true. I also struggle with the mum and toddler group thing but as you said we do it for the sake of the children.
    Thanks for sharing this.
    xgx

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    1. Sometime I go to stay and play groups and feel like shouting, "someone talk to me!" However on the other hand I don't want to be stuck with someone who talks at me non stop for 20 mins!

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  16. It was trying to make conversation with other mums only to be ignored that used to be the problem for me at these mum and toddler groups. I'd wander along and say hello only to be ignored. It's a horrible experience and really makes you doubt yourself.
    Now I have found a lovely group and I am happy to say have struck the right balance.
    Motherhood is so lonely though - my poor husband complained once that I did nothing but talk non stop for 20 minutes when he came home from work. I pointed out that he had been surrounded by adults all day whereas I had only a baby for conversation!

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    1. I know that feeling! I find myself telling hubby about the most boring mundane things too, before I stop myself and think, "this is very dull". Maybe I need to shop around a bit and find a group, I just hate the idea of always having to go to the same group each week. Esp as Son 2 is still not sleeping through.

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  17. I'm totally with you on the mummy groups. Everyone told me having a baby would make everyone my friend. Everyone would talk to me. My baby would be a great conversation-opener. Instead, I moved to a new area and found myself sitting in these groups or at soft plays or in cafes - alone.
    I turned to the 'meet a mum' section on my local Netmums to actually advertise to meet other mums. It helped me make 3 good friends who I've kept in touch with to this day.
    And being on my child's playgroup committee got me in touch with other mums who became friends.
    But it's an uphill struggle, and motherhood is one of the loneliest jobs you can do.
    Thanks for linking this up to #Parentonomy by the way x

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    1. It's a shame people don't make the effort more. If it was a work colleague sitting all on their own someone would (I hope!) come over to say hello. If I'm at our local children's centre I always make a point of talking to some of the more "vulnerable" mums (if that's the right word) to encourage them to come back the following week.

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  18. Hi I feel like the odd one out because baby group has been a life saver for me. I have made friends that i genuinely have things in common with and are always there when I am having a low day. I must just be one of the lucky ones there. It doesn't mean I don't get lonely and I completely know how you feel. Really hoping I am not one of those annoying mums now!

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    1. Hi Bex - I think some of it is a state of mind. If a person is already feeling down I think people pick up on it and stay away, understandable really. You are lucky to have found people you really get on with - am sure you are not an annoying mum!

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  19. Being painfully shy, and moving to a new area just before I had my first child has made the whole mummy experience very isolating for me. I would stand outside the mummy groups and sometimes not even have the courage to go in! And when I did I was faced with the cliques of mums not bothering to talk to me. I always wondered how they got into these cliques in the first place - did they know each other before they had babies? Otherwise how had they formed such a tight knit group in such a short space of time that I wasn't allowed to join?
    I have met a few mums who are lovely and friendly, but I still always seem to be on the outside, and not really a part of their social circle. Probably a lot to do with me and my shyness, but also as others have mentioned, it's really hard to actually get out of the house sometimes, especially now I have another daughter!

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    1. Hi and thanks for commenting. I often wonder that too, how do they all know each other so well, when did that happen? But I've started to think that people perhaps only meet once and then just stick together. Thing is, I still don't really see myself as a proper "mummy" so I don't really want to hang around with people who have aligned themselves so strongly with motherhood, as I see myself as so much more.

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