Hello from the depths of a sleep regression! I apologize for the lack of correspondence for the past few weeks, but that four month milestone has rolled around and we are running head-on into some major sleep road-blocks! So, in lieu of feeling a little down in the dumps this week, I thought I’d pick a topic that I’ve personally had a hard time tackling.
It’s hard to imagine that as a new mother, one of the most unexpected and pervasive feelings I’ve experienced is loneliness and isolation. How is it that having a tiny person with you 24/7 can leave you feeling like the world has left you behind?
I think I felt the first few pangs of isolation within the first few days of arriving home from the hospital. Despite both my mom and my husband being home with me (and a huge help in so many ways), I couldn’t help but feel alone as I battled internally and externally with a difficult first few weeks of breastfeeding. The experience of being the only source of nutrients to this living being simultaneously bonded me to that being and separated me from every other being that had previously felt so close. Simply the fact that the other people in my life could not feel or understand my physical pain and my emotional unsteadiness created a barrier that I was incapable of overcoming – especially in those first few blurry weeks.
As time has gone on, although some parts of that barrier have crumbled, new ones appear as new challenges present themselves- my husband returning to work as I stay at home, coming to terms with being a “stay-at-home mom,” dealing with a continued lack of sleep, overcoming the doubts and uncertainties of everyday life with a newborn. Sometimes I feel like the only person standing still on a busy street… or maybe more accurately, I’m spinning around in a circle as everyone bustles past.
So, in order to prevent myself from spinning into oblivion, I’ve decided to compile a small list of things to help me lessen the erosion of motherhood that can lead to loneliness. Hopefully they prove helpful to you as well. I understand that all these suggestions take some time- a luxury that not all parents have (especially working parents, or ones with multiple children, or one less parent to help carry the load). But, my best advise is to try your best to find even a few moments to break out of your parenting bubble- it can get overwhelming and very lonely.
All of these activities can be done with baby in tow, although it is highly recommended that from time to time, you find some time to tackle your loneliness without having to worry about your little one. These are meant to get you out of your day-to-day mind games and rabbit holes that may lead you to those dark and lonely places.
1. Go to a mommy and me-type class or group.
As far as I’m concerned, this is a life saver! These classes are usually organized by age group, so it automatically places you in a group of parents that are very likely experiencing the same things you are, or have gone through it very recently. There’s nothing like sitting in a circle of other sleep-deprived moms talking about your ups and downs of the week without judgement.
The Parent Center is the place you want to check out for this type of class. (There is also The Parent Place in Pacific Grove if you don’t mind the drive.) Check out my related post here.
The local libraries also have some really awesome story/play times for little ones. Even babies are welcome to a couple of them! It’s a great way to tire out the kiddos and maybe get a quick chat in with the regular moms and grandparents. Added bonus: pick up a book or two for yourself and the kids! Here is a link to their calendar of events.
2. Join an app that connects you with other moms.
There are TONS of apps out there designed to connect parents (not just mommies!). Just try searching for “parent/mommy meet-up apps” or “play date apps” or anything else related and you’re sure to find something. The trick is finding an app that enough people in our area also use- otherwise what’s the point?! I’ve had some small success with an app called Peanut. It’s Tinder-esque in that you swipe up or down on each mom’s profile and you are matched with other moms that have shown interest in meeting you. It’s a little weird that it’s so similar to a dating app, but it works! I’ve gotten into contact with a few moms in our area this way.
3. Contact a family member or friend at least once a day
Although this may not be a challenge for some, it definitely is for me. I dislike talking on the phone- add to that a fussy baby that is now only napping for a half hour at a time and that makes for very little time to chat. But, really, this can be texting, emailing, talking to the neighbor across the street when you decide to brave the great outdoors. One text a day… at least- that’s where I’m at. And I’ll admit, it usually leads me to a much longer conversation.
4. Get out and people watch or enjoy some sunshine.
Pick one of those times between naps (preferably at a happier time of the day) and go to the store, or go get some coffee or go for a walk. Even if it’s just you and baby I can almost guarantee someone will stop to say hello and smile at your little one. It doesn’t seem like much, but there have been a few days where my only interaction with anyone other than my baby and my husband has been a kind old lady who was just waiting for someone to talk to about her grandson who “is just about the same age as your baby.” That’s one more social interaction than my baby and I would have had if we had stayed in the house all day.
Downtown Salinas is a fantastic place to just walk around and people watch. Here are some potential places to take a break and hopefully run into some friendly people:
In the new Taylor Farms building downtown you find yourself right on Main Street, prime seating for people watching. They have tasty brunch and lunch options too!
Also in the new Taylor Farms building, it has nice outdoor seating where you can enjoy some sunshine now and then.
- First Awakenings
Nothing wrong with going on a breakfast date, just you and baby, and chowing down on a huge stack of pancakes!
- Rollick’s Specialty Coffee and Cherry Bean Gourmet Coffeehouse & Roastery
More great coffee shops where you can just sit and watch the world go by.
- A non-downtown option: Toro Park or any of the Salinas neighborhood parks
Grab a blanket, some toys and some snacks and sit out in the grass instead of your living room floor.
5. Plan a date night with your SO or a close friend
This one doesn’t need much explaining. Your relationship with your significant other is incredibly important and needs to be fed with the same care and attention that you give your baby. My suggestion would be to plan out date nights ahead of time, the same time every month, or two months, or every week if need be! Then you have childcare set up and ready to go.
Date nights with friends are important too. You need your girls night or guys night out. OR kill two birds with one stone and go out on a double date with some friends.
I know, these are pretty simple things… but I guess that gives me even less of an excuse not to do them.
There’s definitely something that feels safe about keeping to yourself- not reaching out when you’re tired, frustrated, worried, in pain. It’s just easier to stay inside and not interact with the world that seems to be moving on without you as you try and figure out this crazy new life. But ultimately, we need to refill ourselves with words of encouragement, love and inspiration- even if those words come from a complete stranger we meet at a coffee shop.
What are some of the ways you beat loneliness?