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Loneliness and the New Mother
Are you surprised to hear how many new mothers experience crippling loneliness? In fact recent figures (published by Mumsnet and ChannelMum.com) show that over 90% of mums admit to feeling lonely after the birth of their children. You could be forgiven for thinking that with so many of us choosing to have children later in life, it would be a time of contentment, fulfillment, joy and gratitude. We planned our lives, our careers, our homes and chose the optimal time for the growth of our family.
Sure, we are bombarded with enough images of perfect happy families on social media, in magazines and on TV. The reality, however, is often very different and rarely refers to the extent of loneliness and the new mother.
In fact 60% of women try to hide their low mood and feelings of loneliness. Feeling weak, lonely, or vulnerable can make us feel conflicted and determined not to reveal how bad we feel, especially if everyone we know seems to be living the dream.
In addition, a quarter of families with young children, approximately 2 million, are raised by only one parent, usually the mother. Being alone, perhaps away from family, without a partner for support, can further exacerbate the feeling of isolation. Or moving away from home can result in loneliness after childbirth. 35% feel the loss of close relationships and an immediate social network, often not knowing their new neighbors.
Of course, there are also many additional factors to consider.
– The effect of hormones is often forgotten, but pregnancy damages a woman’s hormonal balance, sometimes long after the baby is born. Moreover, a newborn child brings a lot of additional responsibility, often compounded after the first weeks of support have waned.
– When you were a professional, in control business woman it is disconcerting to find oneself overwhelmed and hopeless, lost and unable to cope, helplessly feeling ‘I can’t do this’. Remember that even if it feels like it, you are not alone in experiencing these emotions. Be gentle with yourself, allow others to help, get professional support and give yourself time to heal.
– It can be difficult to realize how much your life has completely changed. Yes, you may have really wanted a child, thought about the implications and impact a child would have on your life, but the reality is, living it 24/7, every day of the week, it’s often very different. Regularly getting up in the middle of the night because your baby is crying or needs feeding can be assumed to be your responsibility. There can be guilt or a sense of obligation to do everything and do it well because you are now not carrying the main financial burden and going out to work every day. Motherhood is your role now.
– Appreciate that the baby has brought a sudden and massive change to your identity and role in life. Instead of following your career, making decisions, solving challenges and enjoying stimulating conversations, your life is now more ambiguous, dictated mostly by a small, demanding person. Allow yourself to grieve a little for your former life. This whole transformation may have been an unforeseen revelation, leaving you in limbo, drifting without warning of what was really involved.
– Once the incessant fatigue, lack of stimulation and frequency of being on your own has set in you may be facing a harsh, lonely reality. 26% of young mums report leaving the house once a week or less, with some only leaving once a month (Young Women’s Trust). This can greatly affect your confidence and self-esteem. Concern about knowing how to be a good parent, as well as the noticeable changes to your body, your appearance, the impact on your financial freedom, the very different conversations you now have with your partner, can all be a lot to reconcile. post-baby
– The thought of leaving the house scares many new mothers. The logistics alone can be daunting. Carrying a baby requires many things. Loading and unloading a car or using public transport can be a slow process and if the baby is fussy, it is even worse, becoming annoying and embarrassing. 73% of mothers report experiencing rude or unpleasant behavior and changing facilities in public rest rooms or feeding their child can be fraught with difficulty.
– Financial concerns is an important factor in the world of a new mother. Even when money has been discussed and budgets agreed upon, many new mothers are loathe to spend money on non-essentials, such as coffees, lunches or personal items like a new lipstick. Lack of cash is a factor in 40% of mothers feeling lonely. Babies don’t come cheap and worrying that three people are now living on one salary, albeit temporarily, can further strengthen a new mother’s decision not to socialize when it involves spending money, pushing her into further isolation.
– Invite other moms simply for coffee, may not feel comfortable because home is unlikely to be as tidy as it was pre-baby. Wanting to be a good hostess while maintaining quality standards can get in the way of issuing invitations. Being too tired, feeling like it’s too much effort and having little interesting conversation to offer can discourage feeling sociable, thus resulting in further isolation and loneliness.
Softly, softly can be the way to move into your new role. Common places where other new moms go; the park, soft playgrounds, leisure centers and gradually making friends with those who are alone. Smile and find some initial common ground. Exchange phone numbers so you can keep in touch, chat and maybe meet for coffee. Source a local “open house” baby or toddler group. Negotiate some time each week to spend with people your own age; it may be key to leave your baby first, but it’s important to keep some of your own identity. Find ways to reduce your loneliness.
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