It’s a story we don’t often talk about—how many of us, as mothers, are constantly surrounded by affection and people who love them and yet, deep inside, feel completely isolated.
We have our friends, but maybe they don’t understand our personal struggles with parenthood. The other moms we know seem so together as parents that we feel like we’ll be judged for admitting we’re completely overwhelmed. We see a photo of all of our girlfriends together at a restaurant and we start to feel resentful. You might feel very connected to your baby (or maybe you don’t), but you feel completely detached from everyone and everything else.
As a first-time mother, I remember sitting in my dark bedroom bouncing my colicky newborn to sleep on a yoga ball and feeling like I’d never be able to re-enter the world and that no one could possibly understand what I was going through.
You might feel very connected to your baby (or maybe you don’t), but you feel completely detached from everyone and everything else.
I felt alone because no one talked about it. All I ever heard were stories of new motherhood and how incredible and amazing it was. All people said were how in love with their babies they were. I loved my baby, too, but learning how to be his mother was truly tough. I missed my life, and mostly, I missed myself.
It’s something we all experience—either in fleeting little moments of reflection during a chaotic day or later on when everyone is asleep and we’re still wide awake Googling random kid-stuff on our phones late into the night.
I missed my life, and mostly, I missed myself.
We don’t often say it, but what we’re searching for often has nothing to do with “best kids’ shoes” or “how do you know if a baby’s sick?” What we’re really searching for is to feel less alone. What we’re really looking for is the sisterhood of motherhood.
Here’s the important thing: you are not alone. There is an entire community of mothers who have come before us and an entire community of mothers who continue to walk beside us on this journey. What we need to do is start talking about it—all of it, not just the pretty, Pinterest-perfect parts, but the raw, real details of what motherhood can look like.
In the spirit of starting an open and honest conversation, we asked other moms how loneliness has impacted their parenthood—here’s what they said.
Editor’s Note: If you, or someone you know, are experiencing postpartum depression, please seek help from your healthcare provider or reach out to a close friend or loved one. If you are having suicidal thoughts, or thoughts of hurting your baby, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline immediately at 1-800-273-TALK.
“It’s like being at the best party without your best friends. Feeling like Wonder Woman with no boss to give you praise. Having the worst headache post-break-up and no one to talk to. And it also is like you and your best friend are on the greatest secret adventure that no one else will ever get to experience in the exact same way. A totally unique journey built exclusively for two.” —Brooke T.
“Breastfeeding can be so isolating. I always felt like I had to leave family dinners or outings to nurse or pump, and I definitely felt lonely.” —Taylor T.
“Now that I’m back at work, I honestly sometimes feel even more alone because I don’t have people in my life who can relate to my new reality—I don’t have many friends who have kids, and the few that do cannot relate to my ‘working mom’ experience because their jobs are much less demanding and more flexible than mine. It’s really sad sometimes and is a huge part of why I’ve started leaning on social media networks more. Even if it’s not in-person friendships, you at least get rare moments of connection with others facing similar situations. However, it’s a double-edged sword because I certainly don’t live an Insta-worthy life, and it makes me hyper-aware of that.” —Allie Z.
“Loneliness was one of the things that hit me the hardest, and I wasn’t expecting it or prepared for it. Both my parents and my in-laws live around us, and we have a huge village of people, including neighbors, church members, and friends to help out, too. One of the moments I remember most was about two weeks after our son was born and my parents, my twin sister, and my in-laws were over. They brought dinner and everyone was taking turns helping out with the baby, and I literally had to excuse myself and go into our bedroom where I burst into tears. Even with a house full of people, I still felt so lonely and like no one understood. It was hard, and I totally felt like I shouldn’t talk about it. I think I just needed to know that I wasn’t the very first mom ever to feel this way to know that it was OK.” —Brittany I.
“I felt so extremely confused. Why was I sad if I was so filled with love for this tiny human? Those baby blues, man. I was exhausted and sad and happy.” —Sarah K.
“With my first baby, I was positive I would be a breastfeeding mom, but I ended up having an emergency c-section at 35 weeks and a preemie on a ventilator and feeding tube, so I spent many lonely hours pumping for the tiniest bits of milk. I assumed breastfeeding would work itself out once I brought her home, but it didn’t. I felt like my c-section had robbed me of all the immediate baby bonding I was supposed to have, and then the one thing I was determined to do as a ‘good mom’ wasn’t working either. A month later, I met a friend of a friend with a baby boy not much older than my daughter. She told me about her own breastfeeding trials, and that small moment of connection with another mom was a huge turning point in my own postpartum life. It was also when I stopped feeling guilty about bottle feeding. Finding some solidarity in the struggle with another mom was key for me in fighting through the loneliness.” —Kathy S.
“I often feel lonely at work. This is strange as I mainly work with women, but then again, we are hardest on each other. I feel so alienated by my labor and delivery choices like I’m being judged for having unmedicated births. So, now I don’t share any parts of my story. I will walk away from conversations because I do not want to be shamed for my choices. But it feels incredibly lonely.” —Tameka R.
“I didn’t know any other mothers who were similar to me. I was a working mom and went back after four weeks (no paid maternity leave option), nursed on demand, co-slept, and the first of most all of my friends to have a child. All of a sudden, I felt like I was on an island all alone. I found mothers on Instagram with their perfect children and beautiful homes, and I just felt like a mess compared to them. My saving grace was a local mommy group a friend created on Facebook that quickly jumped to over 1,000 members—moms and dads, local practitioners, doctors, and business owners. In the beginning, I was the one asking questions and freaking out about little things, and now, I’m hosting events for the group in my home and helping other new mothers hopefully forego the intense isolation I felt from the get-go. There are connections to be made everywhere.” —Rachel G.
“I tend to be slow to form friendships to begin with, but moving during my third trimester with an almost-one-year-old-old has me feeling rather alone. My nuclear family—husband, baby, two cats—are my world, and while I am content and grateful to an extent, I sure do wish for more and deeper connections.” —Lauren K.