Does anyone else find parenting lonely? I guess I should say “mothering…” Does anyone find mothering lonely?
I find it lonely in two ways: first, I feel alone with all of the big decisions. I know that this is not entirely true, because I do have a husband who is very much a part of the big decisions. But it feels like the weight of the big, big decisions — and the small, daily decisions — are always perched on the mother’s shoulders. I read somewhere that if a child is well-behaved, nobody gets credit, but if the child is a terror, people always wonder about the mother. Right? I know that fathers feel a lot of the responsibility of raising a child, but in the end I think it’s the mother who makes it or breaks it. We feel the weight of things more, I think, and we are quicker to judge ourselves if things are not going well with our child. If only I breastfed, if only I stayed home, if only I hired a nanny…
The other way I’ve been finding mothering lonely is the strange way it affects friendships. You’d think that this universal experience of having a child would bring women together and it does to some extent. But at least with my friends I have found that in an effort not to hurt, or judge, or second-guess each other, our conversations have become more… shallow, maybe? I think I am pretty good about not judging how my friends raise their kids. Sure, there are things I might not do myself, but I also get it that if your baby will only sleep in the bathtub, then that’s what you have to do to get through the night. I really do get it.
And yet I find myself measuring my responses, second-guessing what I should or shouldn’t share about my child, weighing whether I should share my experience in good faith, fearing that it will be taken as judgement. And at this point for me, a friendship has turned into a conversation of two polite strangers with barely anything in common.
When I was pregnant it felt like every woman was way too eager to share everything about their pregnancy and childbirth. And that sort of stopped once I had my baby. Nobody really talks about what having a baby does to you, your body, your marriage, your sex life, your finances, your sleep, your career, your confidence, your everything. Are these changes somehow more shameful to talk about than hemorrhoids and swollen feet? If I told one of my friends during pregnancy that my boobs were painful I would have gotten one advice after another about what to do. But if I would tell one of my friends now that my marriage is shaky or that sex is a distant memory, or that I really, really don’t know what I am doing when it comes to raising a child, I wouldn’t get any advice, just some “mhhhms” and “well, that’s so hard” and “it’s really hard to know what to do.” Not real advice or encouragement. Even when I try to talk to some of my friends about practical things like potty training I get the “well, each child is different.” That is not helpful.
Anyway… I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately and doing a lot of navel-gazing about what I might be doing wrong. Am I judgmental and I just don’t know it? Or is everyday life just so overwhelming for all mothers that we don’t have time to commiserate and really feel each others’ pain? Or maybe, just maybe, nobody really knows what to do.
Strangely, that is a comforting thought.
P.S. And just to clarify, my marriage and sex life are not shaky. But let’s admit it: things are different on both fronts.