Parenting can feel lonely.
And it is almost amazing to me that a person can feel alone when they are actually surrounded by, at minimum, one extremely talkative toddler. I took my four year old son to the gym the other day and was surrounded by at least 30 toddlers, but I felt desperate to connect. I wanted to talk to someone and was considering pulling the ultimate ‘bad mommy move’ and busting out my phone while I was supposed to be doting over my son. Because I am a stay-at-home mom, we have days and days and weeks of precious time together. But they don’t fill the gap of female adult connection, conversation, and mindlessness that I crave so often. Parenting is anything but mindless. And spending time with my son is a way different bag than hitting Nordstrom with the girls and catching an R-rated movie that doesn’t involve Elsa belting “Let it go.”
People have told me that childhood goes so fast, you’ll miss it if you blink. That is too much pressure for me. I see the parents that don’t pause, breathe, and take time for themselves. They give up their social life altogether and wake to their children and sleep with them at night. It’s not a disrespect when I say that yes, that is one way to parent. I know that those mamas are doing what they feel is very best for their children, and any decision made from love is a good one. Maybe, even, it makes them happy and fulfilled. Maybe they do love their lives consumed with nose wiping, finger painting, and potty training. I love those things too, in smaller doses. I need breaks and I’m not ashamed of that. I had my son at 33 and I was established as an adult. At that point in my life I had grown accustomed to a certain way of living. I spent my free time mediating, hanging with friends and family, and just generally coming and going as I pleased.
And then, my son was born. And he was beautiful and courageous and chunky. He was very loved. And he was needy. Like, 24/7 needy. He was a baby, and as much as I may have thought I knew what all it entailed to keep a baby happy, fed, diapered, safe, and sleeping, I instantaneously knew nothing. I became consumed with motherhood to the point of almost obsession. I lost the ability to make a phone call, take a real shower, and interact socially without bringing up what a huge disservice front loaders are to cloth diapers or how I hadn’t slept well enough in three months to even have a dream. I was a sinking ship and I couldn’t see my way to shore through all of the new laundry and dishes and sleeplessness. So, instead of turning to my tribe and reaching out for help, I became lonely. Painfully lonely. I felt alone in my home. I felt alone in public spaces like parks and malls (which is a lie for emphasis. We never went to a mall when my son was that small. I couldn’t figure it out). I even felt alone at dinner with my entire family.
And perhaps the cruelest joke of all was that when I actually had a little time to myself, I panicked.
My mind was so consumed with diapers and cleaning and my child that I couldn’t function in my meditation anymore. I fell apart. I realized that for the first time in my life I really did not like to be alone. I finally went to Barnes and Nobles in search of other women that were also trying to not be alone. And luckily for me, I found some. And boy did we grab tight to each other. We became our own little mommy group, and it was amazing and wonderful and loving. But it was a band-aid to my illness. I still hated being alone and I still felt lonely, and I still couldn’t do anything on my own or for myself.
As time passed and my son became less dependent on me, this sorted itself out to some degree. I was able to leave my son with the sitter to have dinner with my husband or hang with some friends. We even went to the mall. But the truth is, even now, four years into this mommy gig, I still have that need for connection after long days with my son. I love staying home with him and learning who he is and what he’s all about. He’s a funny person, witty even, if I can brag for a second. He’s sweet and sensitive and rough sometimes, too. But he’s a child, and I’m an adult. I need my time to breathe in some fresh air and remind myself that he really is growing up on me and this really will be over and I really will miss it. I’m not telling you not to blink. I think that’s an unfair expectation to put on a parent. I think you should blink, maybe even more than once. But also be sure to spend time with other adults because it reminds us that we still matter, as a human, not just as a mom.