I think I’ve felt this way about every season of motherhood I’ve been in. I feel like I have no real-life friends, like no one understands, and those that understand aren’t in my vicinity.
I’m a full-time working mom. I’m not the mom in the cul-de-sac at 3:30 watching my kids play, I’m the mom getting home at 5:30, walking my dog and cooking dinner. I don’t have time for bullshit or cliques, either you like me or you don’t, but it’s still hard feeling like you’re on the outside looking in.
When you’re a new mom it’s lonely. In the United States you get 6 weeks maternity leave, if you’re lucky. Even then it’s considered a disability and you only get paid 60% of your salary. Let me say that again… it’s considered a disability. Pregnancy in the United States in 2019 is seen as a disability. And if the company you’re working for (like my former employer) has a hidden clause in there about having to be employed with them for a year before your disability pay is approved, you get nothing… zero. Unbeknownst to me, I took nine weeks of UNPAID maternity leave. It took us 18 months to catch up from that.
You get home from the hospital with a newborn that you have no idea how to care for yet. You’re stressed because you’re not contributing financially, while bringing home a baby that takes up even more financial resources to care for. Your husband (or partner, or sister, or mom) goes back to work or their own life, and you’re alone… alone with a baby that doesn’t want to be put down, won’t sleep when their supposed to, and traps you on the couch without your phone. It’s lonely.
It’s lonely going back to work, because no one understands why you’re crying at your desk after leaving your newborn at daycare. No one understands how hard the working-while-pumping life is, and how physically draining it can be. No one understands the pressure of not getting sleep, not being able to consume mass amounts of caffeine, dressing your post-partum body professionally, and dealing with all the hormones while still trying to meet deadlines. I tried talking with other women, and they were either the victims or heroes in their own stories – meanwhile, I just needed a friend that understood how freaking hard the work-life balance had become seemingly overnight. I needed a friend.
You’re lonely with baby… a few months older and that personality is starting to shine through. But your whole life has turned into working and then going home to feed, bathe, and get that baby to sleep – and on the weekends you’re just trying to soak up as much time as you can. You don’t have time for friends or for going out, and you don’t want to invite your friends into a house you haven’t cleaned for 6 months, so what do you do?
Then you have another baby and the cycle starts over… but now you have the never-ending weekend nap cycle. Baby #2 goes down for a nap and then wakes up, you feed both children and then lay #1 down for a nap while you play with #2, #1 wakes up and you feed both children again, and then lay #2 down for their nap. By the time #2 wakes up from their nap you may get a few minutes of play time with both before you need to start dinner. Anyone else’s weekends look like this? Or maybe it’s every day. Either way… it’s lonely. You’re trapped in the house with no adult conversation and only social media to keep you company. Play dates are like that dream you hope for, but never materializes.
I try to relate to the stay at home mom’s in my neighborhood, but it’s hard. Their houses are clean, their yards are perfect, and their kids all play together after school. Meanwhile, my kids play with their friends at daycare while waiting for me to come pick them up, and ask every day if they can play outside… but when we get home, the other kids are already eating dinner. So I think my kids are lonely too.
Please don’t get me wrong… I LOVE my job and the ability I have to write for a living, apart from this blog. I LOVE the company I work for. I’m not built to be a stay at home mom, I just wish I had friends in real life that understood the balance. I just wish I didn’t feel alone.
I don’t have a solution other than to ask you to be friendly to those mom’s outside your group. The mom’s that are busy, the mom’s that are new, the mom’s that are working – we need you. We need your ability to commiserate and laugh, to share a glass of wine and whine. To create space in the mess and leave all judgement at the door. I need a hug.