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.