The truth about the loneliness of motherhood #MakingOverMotherhood

loneliness of motherhood

I remember looking forward to motherhood with such joy. I had visions of picnics in the park with all the lovely new mum friends I would meet. Of afternoons spent in cafes, swapping news on milestones. It would be a new chapter of life, full of mum friends.

Instead, I felt lonely, and alone. Suddenly existing friends who didn’t have children yet dropped like flies, and new mum friends were non existent. The pain of trying to forge new friendships having been catapulted into this new chaotic dimension was excruciating.

And so began the loneliness of motherhood

The worst thing about the false picture of motherhood we’re all sold, is that when we get there and realise almost none of it is true, we then feel a crushing sense of shame. What kind of mother am I – you wonder – to not be enjoying every moment of motherhood, when everyone else is so obviously lapping it up? Or so you think based on evidence you keep scrolling through on social media.

But the problem is with social media, is that it’s only the trailer to the movie. Everyone is posting pictures of their shiny new life with baby, bursting with happiness and joy. What they are not posting pictures of are the times when you lock yourself in the toilet and cry because you feel absolutely lost as an individual, and an utter failure. And then cry even harder because it seems like absolute MADNESS to cry about it.

The sham of a perfect parenthood

Obvious to say, but people are not posting rants about how they have had a mere seven hours sleep in seven days because their baby has been up all night for days on end. Instead they are posting pictures of their cute baby coo-ing and gurgling.

And so we all keep marching on to be beat of the drum of seemingly perfect parenthood, pretending we’ve got this. Never daring to ask for help because we want to prove to ourselves and everyone else in the world – and on social media – that we are coping. When the reality is often a million miles away.

As you know, this week I have been honouring Maternal Mental Health Week on the blog. That’s why I’m shouting loud about vegan beauty brand B. by Superdrug’s #MakingOverMotherhood campaign. It aims to encourage people to talk, share feelings and seek support when struggling with maintaining positive mental health and give those who need more support access to resources who can help.

loneliness of motherhood

Making over motherhood

So if things are not all happy and shiny in camp motherhood, what is really going on? The team at B. asked 500 new mothers, who have had a baby within the last 12 months, their views on maternal mental health, revealing that 48 per cent of new mums have found motherhood lonely.

The survey revealed that a massive 83 per cent wanted more time to prioritise self-care – something I can entirely relate to, can’t you? And 17 per cent agreed putting on lipstick helped them feel themselves again after a sleepless night. When you’re feeling rather broken, these little acts of self love can really go a very long way in new motherhood.

Earlier this week I attended the #MakingOverMotherhood panel discussion which got underneath the gloss of motherhood. It was a bold and empowering debate about how hard motherhood can be, and touched on peri and post natal depression, anxiety, intrusive thoughts and OCD.

Led by Jo Love of Lobella Loves, a campaigner on maternal mental health, the panel featured midwife Clemmie Hooper of Mother of Daughters, Shakira Akabusi, Jade Ariff of Mother Of All Adventures and Martha Faith of The Imperfect Motha, as well as Jo Mackie, Superdrug’s Customer & People Director.

I really wanted to share with you the key takeaways from the panel, with the aim of spreading the message far and wide that it is okay not to be okay in motherhood.

  • Do you struggle with feeling guilty about your choices? Remember, it’s okay to do something for yourself as you do a hell of a lot for your little people and you need to recharge! Tell yourself this: you are doing the best you can with what you have.
  • There is no one way to be a mum – it’s important that we shatter the stereotype and create a motherhood journey that’s right for us as individuals.
  • Honesty is an amazing way of unlocking the mental burden we often feel in motherhood. With honesty, comes freedom – if you’re honest with yourself, others will come out and share too without the fear of being judged. If you’re feeling negative, take a moment to say whatever thoughts you are having out loud. You can even write or drawn them.
  • As a collective, there needs to be more emphasis not on planning the birth, but on what motherhood looks like afterwards.
  • Comparing can make you feel negative. Social media can have a big part to play in that so try curating your feeds so that you only see people’s posts that make you feel good. Don’t be afraid to unfollow or mute accounts that don’t. Remember, people don’t post that they are losing their minds!
  • It’s okay to feel overwhelmed at the thought of going back to work. While going back to work gets you back into that familiar sense of belonging, it can also be very scary with the expectation put on you combined with juggling work and family life. We need to push for both women AND men to be better supported in the workplace, so that men can better support their partners too. Be bold enough to ask for flexible working options and ensure you keep in the loop while you’re off. This enables you to be honest in your needs in the run up to going back to work.
  • While looks aren’t everything, learning to feel proud and confident in the skin you’re in is crucial. We need to change the language around post natal recovery around fitness and bouncing back. It should be about being strong, active and capable.

Embracing the imperfect

What was clear from the panel was that we need to stop trying to make motherhood look so easy. Instead, let us openly fly the flag for imperfect parenting and admit that being a parent is actually very hard work.

As a new parent, we put so much pressure on ourselves and when expectations don’t match up to the reality – which they seldom do in parenthood – this can be such a blow to us. I have often said that high expectation is the number one downfall in parenting. And perhaps fuelled by social media and the unreal stories it can create around parenthood, I can’t help but thinking it’s a big contributor to our maternal mental health epidemic.

With one in five women experiencing a mental health problem during pregnancy or after giving birth, and one in four remaining undiagnosed – that’s a story we need to change.

And we can all do that by sharing the truth about motherhood.

Together we can make change

Join me and B. By Superdrug in posting images showing real motherhood as part of #MakingOverMotherhood campaign across social media this week. Because the truth about how hard motherhood can be deserves to be out there in the big wide world, don’t you think?

Have you struggled with loneliness or a mental health problem in motherhood? Do share in a comment below.

signature

Cover picture credit: People photo created by senivpetro – www.freepik.com

*This post has been commissioned by B. By Superdrug. 

26 comments

  1. I felt quite lonely too when I had my first. All my friends were at work and I was stuck at home with a baby all day, and no one to talk to. I did go out to things like mummy meetups, baby cinema etc. but that only ever took up a small part of the day or week. I longed to go back to work and be among grown ups. I found it easier the second time round, as my eldest was 4 by then so I had someone to talk to and we took the opportunity of my maternity to do loads of outings and other things together, with baby tagging along.

  2. I moved where I live now after uni to be with my now husband and I only had ‘friends’ at the job I got. As soon as I was pregnant no one really cared and when I went on maternity leave it got even worse. I went to baby classes thankfully to actually get out of the house.

    Erin’s 3 now and I see 1 person from my old job (she was pregnant same time as me) but we only see each other every now and again and she’s probably my only friend. Working from home makes things really hard, along with social anxiety, and the loneliness is awful sometimes.

  3. I felt very lonely after having my first child, I would count down the hours until my husband would come home from work and I felt guilty that I wasn’t loving my time with my baby. Thank you for sharing your experience, I think if more mom’s were honest it would set much better expectations to other moms about the reality and challenges of motherhood.

  4. I felt very lonely after I had my second child as I had a gap of 5 years and all of my other mum friends had had their second a few years before and gone back to work. Thanks for sharing this post, it really is something that needs to be talked about more.

  5. Thank you so much for posting this and raising more awareness of maternal mental health! I’m passionate about the topic too, and I think it’s so important new mums are given a realistic version of what to expect instead the magazine one!

  6. I did suffer from loneliness with my first child as I was the only person I knew, who had a child. But it was more with my second child I needed the support. He had severe reflux and has CMPA. That was HARD! I’m glad taboo subjects are becoming more open now, and people are sharing their experiences.

  7. I know my SIL felt the same as most of her friends didn’t have kids yet and she couldn’t do the old things they loved doing together plus her PND she felt quite alone most times.

  8. It is a very big change and certainly takes some getting used to. And, although it’s nice to meet up with other mums when you’ve got a new baby it’s also nice to be able to meet up with friends and not have the “baby talk”.

    My baby days are long over but it’s great to keep raising awareness of mental health and make sure mums feel able to share their feelings without feeling guilty.

  9. I love this post so much! Moms have this false idea that motherhood is all sunshine and rainbows. it’s just not true. Social media is, of course, somewhat responsible for that, but this misconception has been around even before social media took it even further.

  10. Motherhood CAN be so lonely! that’s why it is SO important for us moms to stand together and support each other, even if it’s only online.

  11. I’ve gone through this feeling at some point in time in this journey of motherhood. I was a new mom and my husband was working abroad. Thankfully, I lived close to my mother who always checked on me and the baby. It got better in time though. I think the next “lonely” period will be during the empty nest phase. I have to prepare myself for that.

  12. My friend is struggling with loneliness being a new mom right now. I understand how it could be but it’s rewarding to see your child grow.

  13. Wow thank you so much for all the comments – it is SO great to get this all out in the open and so important that we all talk about these challenges openly so thank you for lending your voices to the conversation x

  14. Oh so sorry you had to go through this! I hope you find new mum friendships and Kudos to you for being open and honest here.

  15. we can only do our best. no such thing as a perfect parent. i have good days and then have have horrible days. i just try my hardest to have the good days out weigh the bad ones.

  16. Wow I’m so glad that you brought to light this issue. I would have never thought this was a reality for so many moms- I was neive to assume its always a happy and fun time. Perhaps social media distrorts our image of motherhood and parenting in general. We then end up with a divide instead of finding comfort in commonality that many mothers face.

  17. Being a mom is so tough. Some days are really really hard. Hugs to all the moms out there that feel these things, too! <3

  18. I’d have thought the percentage would be a lot more than in the 40’s. Never felt as lonely as I do now and my child is now 4 with SEN and attention difficulties. Close family & Grandparents can’t be bothered or can’t handle my child, the one friend I have doesn’t have children, hubby works shifts.

    There definitely isn’t enough support with PND or depression/loneliness after having a child and even less when this carries on for years afterwards. Suck it up attitude prevails unfortunately.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.