I have struggled with loneliness off and on over the years. Before I had children I struggled some, but more so since having them. The truth is I don’t admit to many people that I struggle with loneliness because my experience has been they usually look at me and make some snarky remark about how I “know so many people” or “have so many friends.” This ends up making me feel misunderstood and ungrateful, and thus, more lonely. You see the vicious cycle. It’s true, I do know a lot of people and yes, I have several truly amazing friends.
But my loneliness is not their fault.
We moms are busy from sunup to sundown. We have 187 conversations a day about topics that may only carry value with us because they carry value with our favorite people or our employer. We see people at work or in carpool, we smile and chit-chat. We catch up with our spouse when they get home. We browse social media before bed and feel like we know everyone just a little bit better. So, where did we go wrong? If the average woman speaks over 20,000 words a day … How are we possibly lonely?!
Loneliness typically has nothing to do with being alone; it has everything to do with feeling alone.
As an introvert, I love alone time. I can be all alone for way too long before I even notice! The thing about loneliness is it has little to do with how many people are in your life or how many friends you have willing to meet you for coffee.
Loneliness stems from a lack of connection.
When we need connection, especially when we don’t realize it, that’s when the loneliness creeps in. Being a mom, it’s easy to to fake connection. Yet when we feel different from those around us, when we feel too busy to spend time with people who fill us up, or when we miss out on things we value because we are just so busy being a mom … that feeling of isolation begins to make itself at home in our minds.
I have felt lonely over the silliest things.
I have felt lonely because my kids picked the one sport that no one else plays. So while all the other moms get to be soccer moms together, I’m supporting my children in their own endeavors on the other side of town. I have felt lonely because I was so busy getting my children to bed on time, so that my youngest can stay awake in school, that I missed out on a girls night. I have felt lonely because my work hours mean I miss out on some of the best play dates, and I have sometimes felt lonely because I felt like no one understood what I was going through, or worse, misunderstood it.
Loneliness is a state of mind more than a state of being.
We desire connection, yet we feel disconnected, empty, and isolated. So then we feel crazy and frustrated, which of course just creates more disconnection. We feel that disconnection when we feel awkward, misunderstood, judged, dismissed, ignored, different, I could go on and on … The worst part of it for me has always been that I feel lonely when I am doing the things that mean the most to me. Like taking care of my children or doing the work I love and feel called to, or sticking to my personal values when everyone else is taking a different path.
So what is the the cure for loneliness?
Being grateful and intentional has helped me. When I stop and focus on the people and the opportunities that I have in life, I can begin to escape the awkward and lonely island I find myself on. Counting my many blessings and scheduling some intentional time with my friends or spouse remind me that I am not alone. We are so used to connection happening organically that when it hasn’t, sometimes we don’t recognize the lack. In these times we need to reach out to a friend and be real, say “hey, i know it may not seem like i could be lonely but I am; I need to connect. Lets hang out!”
So, hey there momma, the one with all the friends … who is doing all the things and absolutely killing it along the way, but still somehow feels lonely: I see you and I get you.