Your sleep, your body shape, your routine, your ability to go to the bathroom alone or simply just make it to the bathroom without an almost accident aren’t the only things that change in your life. What I found most interesting was the change in my relationships. Maybe they didn’t change at all, maybe it was me who changed.
Channel Mum is a great site to follow if you like to watch Mummy videos. They did a survey recently of over 2000 UK mums, finding that 90% of new mums feel lonely since having children and 54% felt friendless after giving birth. That is a huge number and does not make reference to people who may have struggled with perinatal mental health difficulties. The UK government reports that loneliness can be as harmful to your health as having 15 cigarettes per day. The government appear to be so concerned about these stats that they appointed a Minister for Loneliness in February 2018.
On my IG stories this week, I asked my followers the same question, “since having children, do you feel lonely?”, with an identical result of 90% followers reporting they have. Of those who don’t have children, 74% also reported feeling lonely. This indicates that there may be something new that occurs in parenthood which makes us feel increasingly isolated.
Funnily enough, when becoming a mum, you’re probably the least physically lonely you’ve ever been. My husband and I often comment that our little one is attached to me at all time, either to my breast or stuck under my arm like glue because he just can’t get enough of Mummy. We spend all our time together. Samraj accompanies me to the shops, to our baby classes and cafés for lunch. He even accompanies me to the toilet whilst I do the fastest wee of all time before he finds the toilet brush. (This grosses me out everytime!)
The loneliness comes from lack of adult conversation. I can “goo goo” all day every day but the mental stimulation we get from other adults, even if it’s to talk about the weather, is a different kettle of fish. I have had many conversations about nothing with supermarket staff and feel like I’ve just discussed how to implement world peace.
This is the time that we need to lean on our social network. Yet so many people feel friendless. I wonder whether that comes from. Is it that a lot of first time mums are sometimes the first of their social circle to have a baby. I have one friend who had had a baby before me, and she is still my go to Mummy in any situation. Who do mums without a “Designated Mummy” turn to when the baby hasn’t slept all night and/ or they don’t latch correctly so their nipples are bleeding and / or there’s a ton of laundry to do because the baby has been sick all over all their clothes. That’s not a worst case scenario Future Mothers, that’s a general day in the life of New Mum. Overwhelming right?
Truthfully speaking, before Samraj I didn’t understand fully. My Designated Mummy put on such a great front, and told me all the great parts of being a mum that she easily became my Goals. (She still is, her baby has the most amazing Momma.) Anytime she did disclose some difficulties like sleepless nights, I would give advice like “I’m sure it will be over soon. Look at him, he’s gorgeous”. Yep. Not helpful at all. Or the time I couldn’t understand why a baby needed to leave the party in time for bedtime when she had just got there an hour ago. Sorry mate, I sucked.
Being on the receiving end of similar comments, it makes it really difficult to disclose the difficult times because just like I didn’t understand, I made a huge assumption that my friends and family wouldn’t either. So I smiled and got on with it, which is where the isolation began/ can begin.
I also feel like I am the most boring person in the world. I divide my life into BS (Before Samraj) and PS (Post Samraj). I have very limited memory of what I would talk about before I became a Mum. All I currently talk about is my baby. So when calling my BS friends, and they speak about all these terribly exciting things they have been up, travelling, partying, climbing mountains, I often feel like I don’t have much to add, other than there was a lot of poo today. Some may find that this leads to less catch ups with their friends, contributing to further isolation.
Making plans becomes a landmine when you become a new parent. Parents have to navigate around planned milk feeds, naps and time of day to allow optimum conversation without huge interruptions if they are taking their bubba with them, and all that plus childcare, if they are going without them. Plans are necessary for your sanity. You need to have a space to let off steam but you have to be seriously motivated for them to come to fruition. Some plans require weeks of planning, as it might be the first time you leave your baby with a childminder or relative, or you might need to prepare a few expressed feeds to ensure the baby is fed in the time you are away. For people who are struggling with motivation, you can see how plans fall through very often and they may not leave the house for days at a time.
I put forward another question on my IG story. “How do you cope with loneliness?” I love my followers, they came up with such great recommendations and tips I hadn’t considered:
- Build a routine for yourself and baby as best and early as you can. Usually around Week 6, the baby emerges out of the newborn phase and life becomes a little more predictable. Add helpful items to your daily routine like walks and cafe meets with mummy mates, which allows socialising.
- If you feel lonely, find someone to contact. Anyone. My go to people are my sisters, my mum and Whatsapp group chats. Someone will always reply to “Hi, I’m bored”.
- Lean on your partner for support. They’re in this as much as you, and they might be feeling similar emotions.
- Friends who don’t have children offer you conversation away from the routine of milk, poo, sleep, repeat. Bask in adult conversation that you don’t have access for the rest of the day.
- If your friends aren’t very understanding (so many people have told me that their London friends expect them to travel into the City with baby in tow at the drop of a hat- what?!) find a way to explain it to them, and if it falls on deaf ears, be patient. If they choose to take similar steps of parenthood in their future, they will get it eventually. And when they do, they’ll be very lucky to have you as their Mummy Guide 😉
- Set yourself goals to achieve in your week. If you can’t leave the house or don’t have friends to talk to, make a list of things that you would like to be doing. Do something creative with your time.
- Follow Mummy blogs like mine online. Parents share their postpartum experiences online and I have never felt more “normal” in my life. These profiles are so relatable and leave me smiling and ready for whatever poostorm comes my way. I had no idea there were so many Instagram profiles dedicated to the postpartum experience up until I started my own. My favourites include: @thepsychologymum @sketchymuma @scummymummies @manversusbaby @babybrainmemoirs
- Remember “THIS IS A PHASE”. The loneliness does not last forever. It comes and goes, just like the rest of parenting experience.
This blog post has taken a while to write as I wanted to incorporate the feedback I received from my followers. The resounding feedback I got was the need for friends who are in the same stage of life as you. My next post will be an Ode to my Mummy Friends, and how they helped me stay Mentally Healthy this year.
Hope you found the post helpful. Any feedback will be greatly appreciated!
Lots of love