When my oldest son was a few weeks old I remember feeling very alone, which was confusing for me at the time. After all, my husband was present and active with our son, and I had friends and family surrounding me. I was doing my best to get some time to myself—going to Target, grabbing a drink at Starbucks or taking a walk around the lake—but it didn’t make the feeling go away. The permanence of becoming a parent was setting in and I felt incredibly lonely.
It made me question why I was feeling this way during what I had always envisioned as a happy time. What was making me feel lonely? Was it that I didn’t have confidence in my parenting skills? Was it that I was actually suffering from post-partum depression? Was it that I was scared? Or a combination of all of the above as well as other things I hadn’t identified yet?
Whenever I speak to parenting groups about this I see a lot of nodding heads in the crowd. People may not talk much about the loneliness, but I believe plenty of new parents experience it. Whether one is parenting as part of a couple or on their own, there’s an uncomfortable newness to becoming a parent and an overwhelming sense of responsibility. The nature of the support you need changes. I, for instance, needed someone to tell me everything was going to be okay, that I was going to figure things out, and that I was going to feel more confident in my parenting capabilities in time. In short, I needed much more reassurance on the day-to-day than I did before my son was born.
I’m six years into my parenting journey now and my husband and I have two sons. When things are going well, I feel great. When things get hard—as they do between managing work, raising the kids and my relationships—that lonely feeling can creep back in. Over the years I’ve learned to seek out the support I need, anywhere and everywhere I can get it. Most helpful during trying times are those relationships I’ve formed with other parents who are in the midst of struggling with similar challenges. Sometimes a simple acknowledgement that my struggle is real and that someone cares is all it takes to make that loneliness disappear–it reminds me that I’m not parenting alone.