The Lonely Side of Mothering

playgroundI have been told many times that the best years of my life are when I was a stay-at-home-mom.  The comment came from an older woman who looked at me with envy while I struggled to change a diaper in a restroom with another child tugging on my pants.  Or the comment came from a friend who was driving to work after just having dropped off her child at daycare while I’m at home picking up sticky Cheerios off the sofa.  Or the comment came from my husband who wished he could stay at home instead of going to work every day while I’m wishing desperately for adult conversation about anything other than the kids.  For me, some of the loneliest years of my life came when I “got to” stay home with my kids.

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not being ungrateful for the opportunity to be at home and watch my kids take their first step, play on the playground, pick on their siblings, or have one of their countless accidents that resulted in numerous trips to the emergency room.  I’m extremely grateful for these moments and will treasure them for the rest of my life.  These moments are priceless and I’m looking forward to the days when I can share them at my child’s graduation, their wedding, or with my grandkids.

Admit the loneliness.  I am grateful but I was also extremely lonely.  Many days would go by when my only real adult interaction was yelling at the commentator on the TV over some stupid political decision.  Many more days would go by when I would stop and enjoy a bathroom break without interruption let alone a hot bath or a pedicure.  Still more days would go by when I would sleep for an entire night without being awaken by a frightened child, a hungry child or a sick child.  Worse yet, no one seemed to understand my loneliness.  Not the older woman in the restroom, not my friend going to work, or my husband.

Explain the loneliness.  I don’t blame the older woman, my friend or even my husband for not understanding my loneliness because I never communicated it to them.  I just listened to their comments and instead of interjecting my feelings about the matter, I stuffed it.  On occasion I would try to talk to them about it but it usually was mixed in with frustration and anger because I waited too long.  There are many ways to explain hard topics to another person and I never took the effort to even try because I was too focused on keeping up the image that everything was wonderful.

Embrace the loneliness.  Looking back over many years, I can now see that there will always be periods in my life of loneliness.  This does not define me as a person; I am not depressed, socially awkward, or have a dislike for people.  Rather the opposite is true in every way however I will still get lonely.  The only conclusion I can draw is that loneliness is on the full spectrum of emotions and I was created to experience all of the emotions, not just some of them.  How can joy be felt with suffering, how can peace be understood without strife, and how can communion be embraced without loneliness.

As our children grew, things got much easier.  The parents of my kids became my friends and they helped to bring back sanity and normalcy to a seemingly crazy life.  And now looking back on those years, I can honestly say they were some of the best years of my life but often with the best come some of the worst.

 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

It’s the Most Lonely Time of the Year

As if feeling lonely isn’t bad enough by itself, add the Holidays to the mix and your loneliness becomes magnified.  Excitement is in the air during this time with extra stuff crowded the isles at most stores in all kinds of bright and cheerful colors screaming “buy me”.  The aroma of scented candles and flavored coffee permeates the air while the music is loud and joyful with new versions of familiar lyrics.  The traffic is busy at odd times during the day with more people on the road, in the airports, on the subway and at train stations.  Lights flash, decorations hung, Santa hats appear, and the excess of delicious food and drink dominate the atmosphere.

But no one else seems to be lonely.  One quick glance around you yields abundant laughter, smiles of delight on children’s faces, and embr­­aces of greeting.  Yet you find yourself feeling even more alienated, more alone, and more depressed as even acquaintances treat you more like Scrooge or the Grinch, a person to be avoided rather than included.  And realistically, you don’t even want to be included because then the expectation would be to put on a happy face and you just can’t fake it anymore.  So just how do you then survive the Holidays?

Perspective, perspective, perspective.  Everything is not what it seems.  The reality is that many are struggling this year financially, emotionally, physically, and even spiritually, they just don’t show it.  Your honesty about how you feel reminds them of their struggles which they are trying hard to forget.  But this reality still does not decrease your loneliness; in fact, it increases it because now the avoidance is intentional.  However, by understanding better their perspective, you in turn have the opportunity to be the compassionate person.  So instead of trying to survive yet another party, invite one person out for coffee and just talk.

Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries.  One of the causes of loneliness is a lack of appropriate boundaries.  How you ask?  Examine a playground for a moment.  Several studies have shown that a playground without a fence causes children to hover around the equipment.  In contrast, a playground with a fence frees the children to run away from the equipment yet still within the confines of the fence.  If the fence is too close to the equipment, the fence becomes part of the equipment and is climbed over.  Good boundaries are the same way; they exist but are neither too restrictive nor too distant to be effective.  Examine your boundaries.  Are you too restrictive about trying new friendships?  Do you lack boundaries for new friendships?  Either way, this simple concept could be creating unnecessary loneliness in your life.

Time, time, time.  If the cause of your loneliness is a death, divorce, or other significant life change within the last year, then you are still within the appropriate grieving period.  Anytime you endure a major life change, everything changes especially how you celebrate the Holidays.  This year will be different because your life change is making it different and you are most likely missing the good times of the past.  Even though your life change may have been a welcomed one there will still be things that you will miss.  Don’t try to deny it; rather recognize it and acknowledge it as part of the grieving process.  Then you can begin to look forward to creating a new tradition.

Surviving “the most lonely time of the year” is about keeping your perspective, establishing appropriate boundaries and giving yourself the gift of time to recover from major change.  Your loneliness may be here for a season, but it does not have to last after the season is done.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.