being a mommy · changes · life is messy · SAHM stuff · schedule

The Isolation of Motherhood

I originally intended to call this post the “loneliness of motherhood,” but I realized that isn’t quite right. Although there are certainly days that are lonely, it is not the pervading feeling of my life. Isolation, however, is.

I used to be a middle school teacher. I would go to work and interact with a minimum of 150 people each day. And though there were exhausting days, overall I loved that part of my job. I love people. But I am an introvert, which does not mean “shy,” but means that I regain strength (energy, patience, etc.) by myself rather than by a group of people. So, when I am overwhelmed or tired, a party is the very last thing I want to attend. I’d rather curl up at home in some glorious silence. That’s why for about 6 years the hour commute at the end of the day didn’t really bother me. It was time alone… time to decompress… time to enjoy soothing (to me) music or some even more soothing silence.

I thought, before becoming a stay-at-home mom, that being home all day with my ultra-beloved child would be soothing to my soul. And some days, it is. Today, for example, is a rainy gloomy day. PBS is accompanying the rumble of the thunder and the sloshing of the washing machine. Nathanael is grinding a pile of salt and pepper from the grinders on the kitchen table. The birds on our covered porch are singing. It is soothing.

But many days I feel isolated. Obviously I am not alone, but I am alone with a fledglingly-verbal human who communicates mostly through signs, one words phrases, grunts, cries and screams. There is no “meaningful” interaction a lot of the time. There are the same songs… the same books… the same refrain of “no” and cries when he gets “hurt” doing the same things over and over that I have explained will hurt him or his feelings (example: our ancient cat does not like him, she is not interested in playing, and she hisses at him whenever he comes near. Sometimes that hurts his feelings and he cries. I get it, but he doesn’t yet, because he’s so young).

I had heard all sorts of wonderful things about being home. Just Saturday two older ladies – grandmothers and greatgrandmothers – praised me up and down for being home (and I needed that, I’m not gonna lie. I, and other SAHMs, need older women to tell us that, we crave hearing from those that have gone before that what we are doing is valuable and life-changing to our children). I have read blog after blog and article after article about how important it is to be home, how it does wonderful things to marriages and families. I have had wonderful women in my life talk about what a blessing it has been for them to stay home, women who have more than one child and homeschool and have strong marriages and families.

On the flip side, I have read about post-partum depression and post-adoption depression/adjustment disorder. I have read how the first few weeks and months can be difficult and depressing while you adjust to this new thing called motherhood and family of three.

However, what no one told me about was the isolation that you feel about 18 months into it. And I’m sure my situation is exacerbated by my husband’s 12-14 hour work days (and I know I’m not alone in that, my ABB friends!). It is also true that I am a fairly structured person, so Nathanael is on a schedule. Now, we do not live or die by the schedule, but there is certainly a structure to his life that makes him a happier kiddo.

We do have things we do that get us out with other people: MOPS meetings (and now steering-team meetings), MOPS mommy & me events, playdates with friends, membership at the local zoo and children’s museum. I am also looking into Kindermusik and swim “lessons.”  So mornings are usually not when I feel it.

But we have to be home for nap time. Nap time starts anytime between 12:30 and 2:30, depending on the day, and lasts for at least 2 hours (hopefully!).  Then when he wakes up (anytime between 2:30 and 4:30), I know that we have, at minimum, 4 or 5 more hours before Keith gets home. And most “normal” families within my sphere are not waiting for daddy to get home. Husbands/fathers arrive home between 3:30 and 6:00. So most of our friends are having family time: dinner, baths, movies, walks, trips for ice cream.

And I am home with my kiddo, who is constantly saying, “Dada? Dada?”

That’s when I feel the most isolated.

And yes, we can still go to the park in the afternoons (when it isn’t 90* and there’s no shade), and we go to my parents’ house for a change of toys and scenery, frequently. There is still a rhythm to our afternoons/evenings: wake up, drink milk, change diaper, have a snack, play outside (or watch Word World, depending on what he asks for and the weather), make & eat dinner, bath, watch “Wheel of Fortune” and hopefully Keith is home for bedtime between 7:30 and 8:30.

But there are many days where I just feel… apart from the world. Isolated. Meaningless, even, on the very worst of days.

And I am working on that. I now have a Bible Study on Monday evenings, and Nathanael alternates between grandmothers for his care. It’s a win-win, as far as I can see, and every other Monday I get to drop him off right after nap and snack, so I actually get a few hours *GASP* alone (although to be honest, something has prevented that every time so far. Here’s hoping it works next time!). I do call friends, and I do try to make afternoon/evening plans.

And I do hope that as he gets older and a little more communicative, and as this season passes, I’ll feel better.

But if you feel alone or isolated as a stay at home mom, I want you to know that you are not alone.

Not at all.

6 thoughts on “The Isolation of Motherhood

  1. Rachel, I am with you some days too. I have almost broken down into tears from bordem/frusteration…18 months is a rough time. They aren't quite ready to be unsupervised yet..and I am starting to remember how that feels with Kaia again as she is crawling now. It's a CONSTANT supervision that doesn't end until they go to sleep, and even though you feel like you some days you get nothing accomplished, you are exhausted when it's over. I feel you…and I also have a zoo membership if you ever feel like meeting up :).

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  2. You won't see many people brave enough to be honest about staying at home with our little bitties. I totally understand your heart cries. We wouldn't trade the blessing to be SAHMs for anything, yet, it is so isolating.

    I live on a farm, far away from civilization. It takes 30 minutes to drive anywhere (gas station, grocery store, etc.) I have a 7 year old, 5 year old, and 8 mo. old twins. My 5 year old talks my ear off all day long, and I still feel isolated at times.

    I remember that when my oldest was the age of your son (and was an only child then) he spent hours in the sandbox. I asked my husband to build it where it would be in the shade during those hours when we would be WAITING for Daddy to come home.

    Another thing that would really fill up time was pulling a chair to the kitchen sink and filling it up with bubbles. I would give him measuring cups and funnels and he would play daily for about 30 -45 minutes. I would just play classical music for him to listen to while I cooked right beside him.

    Keep your chin up. It's hard, but we'll so miss our babies when they're grown and we're all alone in our houses, won't we?

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  3. I get it. Even though I'm not a SAHM, I do get this post and I have had some days that just seem soooo long, despite the fact that my baby's childhood is flying by in an eye-blink. It almost doesn't make sense, how time can seem to crawl and fly by all at once.

    I will say, at least in our house, things have continually gotten better and more interesting as he becomes more capable of doing things and talking. Just when I think he can't get any cooler, he learns something else that amazes me. 🙂

    Melba

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  4. I applaud you! I wish I could stay at home with my little ones!
    I just stumbled on you from Stirrup Queens and wanted to let you know that I am having a cute adoption book giveaway (http://stressfreeinfertilityblog.com/2011/06/30/book-giveaway/) in honor of the National Adoption Conference that I think your little one would love! I would love it if you spread the word! (If you do it on your blog that counts as extra entries!!)
    Also, I would love it if you would share your success story! I haven't had many adoption stories and I know many readers are persuing it! Here's a link to my Q & A format: http://stressfreeinfertilityblog.com/2010/01/17/calling-all-success-stories/
    Thanks so much in advance!

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  5. Wow, this is like reading my own blog from when I had my first, Maggie. I felt soooo isolated AND lonely. I had not other SAHM's around. For real! As much as I wanted to be a SAHM, I didn't lvoe it and didn't feel like I was very good at it! It got better though and I hope it does for you too.

    And I would love to get some praise for being a sAHM. My parents kind of support it but my in laws….yeah. I am the only SAHM on that side of the family of the 4 women. And homeschooling too? I'm just a nut to them!

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