I’ve found myself googling “loneliness in motherhood” a lot in the past few months, desperately wanting to connect with someone who feels the same way. “Is it just me? Is every other new mom getting 100% of their emotional needs met from their baby and partner while they live at home this summer?” Because I’m not. This loneliness isn’t a normal feeling for me. I’m highly introverted and definitely love being at home, but I also have some really deep and longterm friendships in my life. Connecting with other people in a similar walk of life isn’t something I typically struggle with. So why do I feel so embarrassed to admit this? It seems like making friends as a new mom in the pandemic is something that shouldn’t be quite this hard. But the truth is, I’ve been really lonely as a new mom since social distancing orders happened in March.
I gave birth to Milo at the end of October, about 4 months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the States. I was extra cautious to guard my mental and physical health in the first 40 days after childbirth, and I gently eased into new motherhood. The cozy days at home with my newborn and the husband were sweet and sacred. “I’ve got this,” I thought.
Once he was three months old, we started venturing out into the world. Lots of moms had told me how important it is to connect to other moms, and I took that advice to heart. I took him on restaurant visits with me; he was so tiny and quiet, and he’d just sit there and look around while I photographed the food and chatted with my friends. I enrolled in swim lessons, which was a big scary step to go to a place where I knew no one, put my postpartum body in a swim suit, and splash around with a bunch of other parents and their teeny babies. But Milo loved it, after a few weeks we learned the names and faces of all the other parents and babies. I learned that the small, weekly connection with other new parents was good for me. So I made it my goal to keep connecting. Since most of my friends don’t have babies, I literally made a list of the steps I was going to intentionally take to make some new friends who were in the same boat as me: new moms who were figuring it all out. Nate and I went to the UK when Milo was 4 months old. I decided that when we came back, I was going to pursue friendships (with purpose!) and make sure I stayed connected with other new moms.
This was in March. And then…we all know what happened. The country shut down, and gathering with other new moms and forming new friendships became impossible. A few weeks later, my husband had his car accident and was hospitalized alone for three weeks, followed by four months in a wheelchair. My world turned upside-down, yet motherhood kept going.
Loneliness in motherhood is a very real thing. If you feel lonely as a new mom, I see you. I feel lonely, too. It’s a hard, solitary journey, and the “new mom” feeling lasts a lot longer than I ever imagined it would. I’m 9 months in, and I still consider myself a new mom.
As soon as I admit this feeling to any other mom, I get a response of “oh my goodness, me too! I feel the exact same way.” (Phew…what a relief to admit how we’re feeling, right?) Why is new motherhood so lonely? I think that it’s just hard to find friends as a new mom. It’s different than other stages of life, like high school, college, or early 20s in a new city. There’s a common theme in those situations (when you hang out with fellow school majors or co-workers) and freedom and energy to go out and meet people. Becoming a new mom stripped me of my free time and excess energy, yet gave me the urge to connect to other similar people. These two things contradict each other; I want and need to connect to people, yet my baby takes all my resources.
Being a new mom in the pandemic is even lonelier. The world took a tricky situation (making friends as a new mom, which already requires a huge amount of willpower and effort) and made it even harder: there’s a pandemic now, and meeting up in-person is nearly impossible.
Should I initiate a stroller walk? What about a play date? Will another mom scoff at me for inviting her into my home while everyone is trying to socially distance? There aren’t any hard and fast rules. Everyone has a different approach to how they’re handling social distancing, which makes reaching out to friends as a new mom especially tricky. We all want to connect, and we’re all terrified to do it.
If you gave birth to your first baby in March 2020 or later, you might have an even strong grasp on this feeling than I do. You had an idea of what new motherhood would look like (coffee dates with other moms and stroller walks and music lessons) and the universe was like, “nope, scratch that idea.” There’s something so sacred about sitting with another new mom, sharing a few moments over a cup of coffee and a breakfast taco, and talking about feeding schedules and sleep training. If you’re feeling alone and desperately craving that connection, I understand. I crave it too.
Being a new mom is a lot harder than I thought it would be. The work load instantly doubles: now, instead of being in charge of my own sleep, fuel, hygiene, and emotions, I’m also in charge of another human’s sleep, fuel, hygiene, brain, and emotions. Don’t take motherhood lightly: it’s a HUGE undertaking, and there’s no time off. I’m a fairly educated, accomplished adult. I’ve earned my Masters degree, played on stage with Yo-Yo Ma, started two businesses from the ground up, authored a book, qualified as an Academic All-American, memorized the Tchaikovsky violin concerto…and being a mom is still the hardest thing I’ve done. But it doesn’t sound very impressive. People are more impressed with the fact that I’ve run a marathon than the fact that I’ve made it through the first 9 months of being a mom. But training for and running a marathon is 100X easier than being a mom. No one really gets this except other moms, and I find myself exhausted from trying to explain it to my journal or to others. I’d just like someone to connect with daily, someone who has been through it too and knows how tiring it all is. Does anyone get it?
And then…I share a quick text with another mom, with something like: “So sorry I forgot to respond to that text from 3 weeks ago! I read it and then blanked,” which is responded with “I get it and I do the same thing. You’re doing SO much right now mama! Keep up the good work!” Ahh. Bliss. Just feeling that tiny spark of connection with another mom is what I’ve been craving. That lonely feeling starts to dissipate.
At the beginning of summer 2020, I recognized how lonely I was feeling, so I decided to start going on weekly stroller walks with other new moms. Just for the record, this is a “quick fix.” The main thing I’m craving is to be known and understood – a one hour stroller walk each week is a very slow way to form a friendship. But it’s better than nothing, and in 2020 that’s kind of what I’m going for.
I’m writing all this, wishing I had a nice way to wrap it up. I’d love to start the final paragraph with “…and then I figured out the solution!!” Haha. Or something like that. But the truth is, I don’t have a perfect solution. I’m still doing my very best to connect to other new moms, to form friendships, and to be vulnerable. Everyone has their own struggles during the COVID-19 pandemic, and for new moms, loneliness is a big part of it. My best advice to myself and others: don’t pretend to be ok if you’re not. If you feel really lonely, you’re allowed to text another mom and tell her how you’re feeling. 100% of the times that I’ve done this, the other mom has said she feels the same way.
And also, finally, this: you are so much stronger than you know. You are steadfast, firm, and you persist. These lonely days of transitioning into motherhood, having your world ripped out from under your feet during a pandemic while you simultaneously navigate the new responsibilities of motherhood that were heaped on your shoulders? This is tough. But you’re tougher, sis. This is not forever…