Becoming a mum for the first time can be lonely and isolating. Especially if you don’t have a partner, or your own mother to help out. Aimee Foster opens up about the early days with her daughter, feeling as if her life had been turned on its head…
Aimee Foster is a freelance writer, social media manager and mum.
As a topic, loneliness is a bit taboo. Few people are comfortable admitting they are lonely for fear or ridicule or pity. It can take a great deal of courage to stand up and admit to feeling isolated. Yet more courage is required to do something about it.
In a former life, before I was governed by nap-times and feeding patterns, I worked at a busy airport. Many of my shifts began or extended into the mornings. The peaceful dawn hour simply didn’t exist at my workplace.
Swarms of passengers buzzed through the airport throughout the day. The place had its own time zone. Amidst the chaos of lost bags and security controls, I spent my time surrounded by colleagues, many of whom had become close friends. Our friendships were fed by the consistency they needed to flourish. Coupled with an active social life with friends from school and work, I may have spent some time alone but I was never lonely.
Becoming a mum changed everything
Then I became a mum and the tables turned. My new addition transitioned from the inside to always-by-my-side and life changed beyond recognition. Work stopped. Social life stopped. And motherhood charged ahead down a very lonely road.
An unexpectedly single mum, I was the first of my friends to have a baby and was navigating it all without my own mum. Suddenly, my days were spent alone with my daughter while the rest of my world was at work. Friends were keen to meet up in the evenings but I was usually too shattered by that point and I couldn’t go anywhere, anyway.
A condescending voice in my head said, ‘Mums are everywhere. Just go and meet some’. This was easier said than done when shyness and a crippling confidence nose-dive joined the party. I went to a few baby groups but no-one spoke to me. My confidence was in tatters from lack of sleep, the exhausting effort of adjusting to motherhood and my new cloak of isolation. I gave up and let the loneliness close in.
By the time my daughter reached her first birthday, I hadn’t made any close mum friends. While I had met my (now) husband, I still spent a large chunk of my time alone with my daughter while he and everyone else I knew worked.
Loneliness peaked in the mornings
Loneliness found its natural peak in the mornings and the busy airport dawn hours had become a distant memory. It was just me and my baby, the silence interrupted by my beloved LBC radio. Left to contemplate our day together, we decided that there were only so many trips to Tesco and walks in the park we could busy ourselves with.
So what changed? Eventually I decided to stop waiting for loneliness to bow out of my life and made an effort to chase it off. This would require some substantial stepping out of my comfort zone. I’d never actively tried to make friends before.
According to Shasta Nelson in her book, ‘Friendships Don’t Just Happen’, all friendships require consistency and intimacy. This is where it becomes more difficult for mums trying to meet other mums. While juggling sleep deprivation, illnesses and appointments it can be hard to establish the same consistency with new people that naturally arises from school and work.
Furthermore, as anyone with small children will know, trying to hold a conversation without becoming distracted is hard enough, let alone attempting to foster a meaningful friendship. Despite all this, I persevered. I went on ‘mum dates’, made an effort to schedule regular play dates and really open up to the mums I met.
I managed to combat loneliness, eventually
It took far longer and required much more effort that I had imagined, but finally it happened – my very own tribe of mum friends. Days of blanket loneliness were transformed into meet-ups with adult conversation, laughter, ranting and (occasionally) wine.
I don’t think I noticed how debilitating loneliness was until I was rid of it. My advice to anyone experiencing similar is to reach out. Don’t stop reaching out until you find what you need. Leave your ego at the door, this is nothing to be ashamed of and doesn’t reflect badly on you.
If you’re looking to make new friends in any walk of life, remember that consistency and intimacy are key. It may take time to find a group of people who ‘get you’, so don’t give up at the first hurdle. Nobody deserves to feel lonely.