The Lonely Side of Mothering
I 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.