An overwhelming loneliness brought on by having children. The sense that nobody understands despite vehement evidence others have, indeed, raised children. That moment in the middle of the day when all the "successful" women are busy at work or shuffling their children to the museum or creating another beautiful art picture with muffins baking in the oven and you are standing in front of a window, glassy-eyed, contemplating jumping through the ground-level pane of glass just for giggles because seemingly every miniature being in your care cries, poops, and hurts themselves all the same time.
Your child-free friends have plans every. Single. Weekend. Which makes saying no more frequent than saying yes. Which makes your friends think you're an asshole. Which makes you feel pretty friendless and alone. Your friends with children are only marginally better, gently reminding you of overdue playdates that you never seem to find the time for, when in reality you get so freaked out about adding yet another thing to your to-do list that you stutter out excuses before you even have a chance to really think about what you're saying. A self-sabotage that makes you doubt yourself and feel like you probably just shouldn't have friends since you suck so bad at putting in the effort to keep them.
You're at the point where screw it all, who needs extra stress? I'll stick with my family. Blood ties forever. But then your family has their own troubles, their own opinions on how you should do things, and you start to realize you couldn't possibly ask them to take your kids when you feel like drowning because they, themselves, are barely floating on the waves and you're not even sure you row the same ocean as they do. And so you do your best to continue wading water even though what you really need is for some Great Aunt Beverly who thinks and looks just like you to randomly jump out of the woodwork like Mary Freaking Poppins and decide to take your kids so you can breathe again and figure out what it is you are these days.
So you say the heck with all of it, stop depending on others and make this about the kids! Your beautiful children! Think of how precious these moments are and how much you longed for them when you were working outside the home! Take them out! Go have fun! And so you get up early so you can still sneak a workout and then start to pack for the fun day ahead when the little one gets up, screams violently, and pukes all over her bed and then the older one starts sneezing uncontrollably and then crying about the sneezing while pushing her younger sister and saying "she ran into my arm!" And so your day begins with the kids, the loves of your life, who can't possibly understand how much pressure is on them to make mommy's day.
I've read articles on prevention. Get active. Get social. Get out. Hire a babysitter. Take time away from the kids. Spend more quality time with the kids. Have a date night. Ask for help when you need it. Take up a new hobby.
These are good tips.
But what if you're like me? What if the thought of meeting other moms with their kids in tow makes you want to run into oncoming traffic? What if going out at night with your friends makes you so anxious and self-conscious that you need to down a couple glasses of wine before even heading out the door? What if you try and spend time with your kids and it backfires in your face? What if you have a hard time justifying the money spent on a good babysitter, let alone the effort of finding and trusting one? What if the thought of asking for help makes you feel so ashamed and burdensome that you'd rather just deal with it yourself?
Like I said, those were good, generic tips. And I've tried each and every one of them. And I will continue to try them....in moderation. Because despite my suspicion-laced attempts at doing what my therapists and friends and family tell me (be more social! get out of the house! ask me for help!), I still fall deep into my own little hole of isolation. Even when I'm standing with a group of my friends. Even when I'm surrounded by my family. When I'm with other moms.
When push comes to shove, we're all different. What soothes me doesn't soothe everyone. What constitutes life and living for me doesn't mean the same to everyone else. And these differences, while beautiful, act as barriers to understanding. She may love eating somewhere fancy. I prefer a home-cooked meal any day. He may be perfectly fine with his kids staying out with him until the stars come out. I can't fully relax until my kids are warm and snug in their beds. She may use Crest. I make my own toothpaste. Differences. It doesn't mean we can't all get along. But when a person starts to feel like those around her are on totally separate playing fields, the game definitely gets lonely. And scary. What if nobody comes back to play on your team. What if they start to play against you. What if your team consists of only you. What should you do?
The answer isn't to change yourself. This blog is all about self-acceptance, remember?
I think I might be on to something. I think the answer might be to move from fearful and anxious to fiercely confident. Don't shake your head. You can do it. We can do it. Because this is my new plan for the next few months.
1. When I make a decision, I need to stand by it.
I'm not going to keep this super-open, empathetic mind that's nineteen steps ahead each time I make a decision anymore. I am getting to the point where my decision process looks like this:
Should I do this to make Person A happy? Because if I do that Person B might be upset. Well and because Person B and Person C are together, both Person B and Person C will be pissed. But what about Person D? Should I just tell Person A to deal with it so I can make Person B and C happy? Or what about the invite from Person E?
Honest to gosh, that is how I make plans in my head. I weigh who I perceive will get the most pissed and then typically do what that person wants. How about deciding what I want without taking into account everyone else's needs and desires? Is that even possible these days? I know I've never mastered that skill. Hell, I've never even apprenticed in that skill. Until now.
2. Time to stop defending my choices.
Wonder why she chooses to stay married? Wonder why her kids need to be in bed by 8? Wonder why she doesn't do her work at so-and-so-time so she can be free to do the things I want her to do? Wonder what she does all day since she doesn't really work?
Well, keep wondering.
3. People, we don't need to prove ourselves to anyone other than...well...ourselves.
So you are pretty. Awesome, love on yourself. So you've got a good man. Awesome, love on your man. So you've got sweet babies. Awesome, love on your babies. So you're taking a vacation. Awesome, enjoy your vacation. I am happy for you, and I mean that with all sincerity. But don't think your achievements make you any more of a person in my eyes. Just like your falls, your epic falls from whatever tower of doom you've built for yourself, will not change who you are in my life. You don't need to prove yourself to me. If I love you, I love you, end of story. And that should be a two-way street.
4. Be responsible for my own happiness.
Time to stop thinking a "good day with the kids is all I need!" or "a date night is all I need!" or "a relaxing night out is all I need!" because let's face it, that's not all anyone needs. And when you put that much pressure on something you can't control (like, say, another person), you're setting yourself up for failure.
It's time to immerse yourself in the things that bring you, yourself, alone, joy - regardless of how happy they make other people. So you love reality TV. So watch it. So you would kill for the chance to sit alone in bed wearing only a pair of fuzzy socks and a bumpy blanket made of unread novels. Go for it. This is your happiness, your life. You alone are responsible for ensuring your own happiness. This is my happiness, my life. I alone am responsible for ensuring my own happiness.
5. Can't be everything to everybody. Just accept it.
I can't be the greatest daughter, sister, aunt, friend, mother, spouse, employee, church member, table leader, co-op contributor, chicken-raiser, and 2-mile runner. It's just not possible. There's so much to experience in this life - so much awesomeness - that I often find myself overwhelmed with "callings" to be this, do that, be there, do more. And the people I meet along the way always want just a little something more. Some time. Some work. Some favors. At some point, I really do think I will learn to accept that I will never be exalted as the Queen of the Volunteers. Nor will I ever get an award for being The Best Daughter Ever. Or even The Greatest Friend Who Ever Lived.
But I have a theory that if stopped caring so much about the awards and started living without all the approval-seeking, that I might end up nabbing one of those honors. Or at least get to a point where I just don't care about them anymore. To be honest, either outcome would be fine because both would mean I've learned to accept I can't make everyone happy.
Because fierce chicks don't wake up and say "I'm going to let everything else run my life today!" No. No they don't. They run it themselves. And take responsibility for it. And gain the confidence they need to know that, alone or not, they've got this. Let's see if I can make it happen :)
What do you do to beat isolation? It doesn't just happen to mommies! I'd love to hear about it in the comments down below and as always, thank you so much for reading.