One of the challenges that many new mums face is a feeling of isolation and loneliness. For many, this feeling is unexpected as it is often not discussed in the lead up to birth.
Loneliness in new motherhood can arise for a number of reasons.
The lead up to birth and the first few weeks after birth are often filled with build-up, preparation and focus. Once things quiet down and you settle into life with a baby, that focus disappears and this can be when a feeling of loneliness can begin.
In the early weeks (after birth) it was busy. Everything was new and I was constantly learning and adapting. But weeks into my maternity leave I found myself feeling quite lonely.
For many new mums, there is also a large contrast between what pre-baby life looks like compared to what post-baby life looks like in terms of mental and emotional stimulation.
Prior to having a baby, many women today lead busy lives filled with work, friends, hobbies and more. Once baby arrives, the opportunities for stimulation and interaction with others often decreases significantly. Many new mums find themselves at home for extended periods of time, especially in the first few months. Having long stretches of time at home without adult company can certainly increase a sense of loneliness.
I would watch the clock then listen closely for the key in the door later in the day to know that my partner was home. At last – someone to talk to, some connection with the world, someone who could take the baby and give me some time to myself.
Another reason why many mums feel alone at this time of life may be associated with the ongoing responsibility that comes with parenthood. When you become a mum, you see just how dependent your baby is on you and you are always considering their needs. You are constantly giving to this small person who never once can ask you in return about yourself or do something for you. That’s a lot of giving, and it is not uncommon for a new mums needs to go unmet for a large part of the day.
I feel alone because by deciding to have a child I took on ultimate responsibility for another human being, and that means I no longer have the luxury (or was it the illusion?) of letting somebody else be in charge — my parents, my husband, a group of good friends on a girls’ weekend away.
Furthermore, as your priorities shift and lifestyle adapts, your own sense of independence and freedom changes too. You may feel less a part of a group – be it at work or friends – than ever before. This too can contribute to a sense of isolation and loneliness.
If you are the first of your friends to have a baby, this can also increase a sense of being alone. As your friends continue on with the lives that they always had, your schedules and priorities may not align as much as they did before. It can feel like you are living in a totally different world from your closest friends.
Whilst there was a flurry of activity when my baby was born, soon enough everyone got on with their busy lives, whilst I remained home. This left me feeling alone and lonely.
There are a number of ways that you can put things in place to help combat the loneliness and feelings of isolation that can come with motherhood.
Whilst loneliness can be hard there are steps you can take to increase your sense of connection to others and your community, and reduce the feelings of loneliness that can come with becoming a parent.