Recently, my son and I were out standing in front of our home on the sidewalk and we met a young Mom from our neighborhood walking her dog and with her toddler backpacked along for the adventure. We started talking and I immediately remembered the loneliness of those moments of motherhood. These three were such a happy scene to behold but the deeper aspects of suffering were right there for me in the mother’s eyes. This super aware Mom and I actually openly discussed maternal loneliness and I told her to please stop by when she was out walking. If only for a few moments, I made sure she knew I was happy to hold her in an authentic space as she journeyed.
Although my child is now 6 years old and lovely to talk to, I still miss companionship with adult company. My husband is a surgical resident and gone a lot. When he is here, he is exhausted and my child is better at demanding his scraps of energy and attention than I ever will be. And so again, the loneliness creeps in. It is so much better than it was when my own child was a toddler but still the weight of loneliness is there.
As a society we don’t often talk about the Shadow Lands of Motherhood. All advertising dollars are spent to make sure that culturally no one sees any of it. It took thousands of deaths for our culture to begin to even have a conversation around postpartum fragility. And now, it seems that public conversation has simply turned lamely into Pharma “solutions”. What if the threat of isolation doesn’t end in the 4th trimester? Today I am writing to say that maternal/paternal loneliness is real and there is no pill strong enough to mask it. Loneliness deserves our attention. It may sound simple but just realizing that my loneliness deserves my awareness and my tenderness has helped me experience and move through it.
What I am wondering now is how do we better support each other in the journey? How do we experience our loneliness so that we emerge stronger and healthier rather than it eating us or further isolating us? How can we do a better job of forming community around ourselves and others? How do we ask for support when we need it?
I am journeying these questions myself and will write more as I discover. Today it felt like enough to simply pose the awareness and the questions.
Heather Kim, DO