Keys jingling at the front door were hardly audible over the sound of our dog’s padded feet, the thump-thump of a toddler and the pitter-patter of a pre-schooler down the hallway each night. I was quick to follow. The dog and the children were eager for a hug and a kiss from daddy. I was eager for some conversation that didn’t revolve around diaper changes and Sesame Street. Years as a young, stay-at-home mom were filled with play dates, mother’s groups, bible studies, and neighborhood friends. There wasn’t a shortage of female companionship. We shared parenting tips, marital support and even helped each other find time for ourselves by being a part of a kid swap. When my first child started school, I welcomed the opportunity to enjoy undivided moments with my youngest. It also gave me the added benefit of meeting pre-school moms and eventually made connections with kindergarten moms. My children’s friends were the children of my friends.
Fast forward 8 years. I have a daughter in middle school and a daughter in elementary. There are no more play-dates or mother’s groups. Most of my friends have either gone back to work, gone back to school or moved. My children make their own friends. The realization that the last 12 years had been spent taking care of children, children that now spend more hours of the day with teachers then with me, was overwhelming. I felt left behind, isolated and emotionally needy. Everyone else in the house seemed to have a purpose – school and work – while I, on the other hand, only had toilets to clean.
I was lonely.
Too many times I have seen friends get themselves into financial straits or jeopardize their marriages by letting loneliness push them into the malls or other relationships. And yet, I was allowing these feelings to escalate into depression. It became harder and harder to get out of my pajamas or take a shower, housework piled up, and dinners were prepared haphazardly because my mantra became “it’ll still be there tomorrow”. Days went by when the only creature I had a conversation with was the dog.
One day I was stunned to see a disheveled, stinky and unorganized woman in the mirror. The bubbly young mom I once knew was gone. The mom that volunteered on leadership committees and hosted play dates or meal swaps had been replaced by a whiny, unmotivated imposter. Was this the kind of role model I wanted for my children? I knew I needed to put my big girl panties on and snap out of this funk. At first it was a struggle to just take a shower and wear something other than sweatpants, but each day got easier. Volunteering in my child’s classroom was great, but it didn’t introduce me to other available women, so I started volunteering in programs outside of school. I also thought long and hard about what things I was passionate about, and had a heart-to-heart talk with my husband about what my needs were to be a better wife and mother. A better me.
My prescription to combat loneliness is unique to me: playing oboe in community groups, joining Jazzercise and a writing group, volunteering for an afterschool program and working from home. Every woman’s needs are different; their passions are created from individual talents and desires. Find a part-time day job or volunteer program, join a book club through the public library, take an exercise class or learn a new skill through continuing education or create your own group through www.meetup.com . But the most important thing is to do something.
*This article was written by me and first published by The Livingston Parent Journal in their January issue. I thought it important enough to repost today.