What image does that word conjure up for you? An elderly person with no one to talk to? An angst filled teenager unable to fit in with the cool gangs at school?
I bet it doesn’t make you think of a Mother who is at home with her kids, who speaks to other Mums most days. Who has plenty of friends, family and support surrounding her. That’s who I am. But if I am being honest with myself, I feel very lonely at the moment. A taboo subject, but one I can be sure I am not the only one feeling. Because being a Mum can be very isolating.
I chose to be a stay at home Mum, and I am beyond lucky to be able to have that option. And I DO love it. I don’t miss a moment with my kids, we do everything together. But since having Holly, and dealing with Josh’s autism, I have began to feel quite alone. We tend to have our weeks set out in a routine around Josh’s nursery and classes that I take him to. But I’ve come to realise that even on nursery days, when it’s just Holly and I, I feel lonely. I feel quite ashamed to admit I don’t take Holly to any of her own classes. She comes to Josh’s classes on Tuesday and Wednesdays as well as playdates as and when we have them, but there is no class I take her to that is just for her. Nursery days are the days I have at home, doing jobs – hoovering, washing, tidying, food shopping and the occasional coffee with a friend if I’m feeling wild! Holly is one now and I feel terrible guilt for this. Maybe it’s that typical “second child” syndrome; they just slot in to your lives and you go with it. And she’s happy enough for it but still, as a Mum, that doubt creeps in your mind.
Because I’m thinking of her. And Josh. And the Husband. Even the cats. All day long I think of everyone elses needs; what they have to eat, what they want to do, have they got clean clothes, have I entertained them enough. Some days you feel all touched out – you’ve got the kids wanting you all day long, clambering on and wanting to be picked up, the husband coming home and wanting some affection, and even the cats pawing at you wanting a comforting tummy to doze on. And sometimes you just think “enough”. Inwardly you might be screaming “what about me, what about what I need or want” but you don’t because, yep, the guilt stops you. And I guess that attitude contributes to the isolated feeling.
I can’t lie; Josh’s condition does make me feel cut off some times. I can’t simply nip to soft play with both kids because it just doesn’t work like that for us. Josh would be pulling me in one direction and Holly would be crawling at impressive speed in the opposite direction. I can’t split myself in two and, unlike many three year olds I can’t just let Josh go off and play because you are on constant high alert as an Autism Mum for anything that may distress him or cause him to get angry. For me, a simple trip to soft play is planned with military precision. I feel sad sometimes when I see my friends doing a play date at the park, kids happily scooting around, playing together or going on their bikes whilst the Mums have a chin wag. I sometimes long for that normality.
I feel like this post is probably self indulgent. I feel guilty (surprise surprise) for saying I feel lonely and just not very much like myself at the moment. I’ve got it lucky – I am at home with my babies, we have our health and a lovely house, I have friends and family, yet I feel the way I do. I also realise that simply admitting I am feeling this way isn’t enough. I need to actually take steps to make myself feel a bit happier because a happy mummy makes for happy children! So today, I took Holly to a little coffee and playgroup session with friends. It was wonderful to do something just for Holly and to spend some time with friends having a good old natter about things that weren’t always baby related.
Because us Mums, we’re like one big gang aren’t we. We’re all in the same boat, I bet all of us have felt lonely at one point or another. We all sometimes look back and miss that person we were before we had kids and the freedom that came with it. It’s not easy going from that freedom to a life where you long to go to Tesco for some adult conversation with Susan on checkout 5. It’s not easy to admit you feel isolated even when you have another human attached to you 24/7. But it is OK to admit that feeling. Motherhood is lonely at times as well as challenging, frustrating and exhausting. But it’s also rewarding, fuelled by love, amazing, and the best feeling in the world. It is a gift. You take the good with the bad. And you find a way to work at it. Because the world hasn’t forgotten about Fi. It’s just waiting for me to return.