THE LONELINESS OF EARLY PARENTING
So much changes after having a child and the focus on postpartum life tends to be, understandably, on a woman’s physical recovery. Thankfully, there’s more conversation around a mama’s overall emotional wellbeing, even professional, but what about the social part? We don’t talk very much about that and it’s important that we do.
The below article in The Atlantic explores the prevalence of loneliness in early parenthood, particularly in the first year of parenting. According to the charity, Action for Children, 68% of 2,000 parents surveyed felt “cut off” from friends, colleagues, and family after the birth of a child. The numbers, not surprisingly, were higher for mothers given they are typically the primary everything -givers. Isolation, alienation, and fatigue typically combine to uproot just about everything, including friendships. What once upon a childless time was a simple invite to dinner becomes a litany of logistics to navigate for a new parent—not the least of which is the evening part which, last time I checked, is still when most normal dinners take place.
Some friendships survive this transitional time, others fade away. For me, there's been ghosting with some friendships with childless friends while other ones have only strengthened. The commonly held assumptions that I will grow closer to women just because they’re also moms, or moms with a child the same age as mine, have proven false again and again. After all, if we didn’t have anything in common before becoming moms we probably won’t have much in common after. At the same time, some of my deepest friendships are now with women navigating motherhood like me.
The author sums it up well, “I have to work harder than I did pre-kids to make my old friendships work. For now, my benchmark for social fulfillment isn’t a state of pre-child “normalcy,” but a constant negotiation: I do my best to make room for the friendships that matter to me while accepting that I—at least occasionally—might have to comply with my child’s dubious taste in playmates.”
Occasionally being the operative word.