I felt so alone in the early days of moth­er­hood

My friends had travel and par­ties on their minds, not dirty nap­pies

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Front Page - Jen Ho­gan

I’ve never been one for my own com­pany – not in large quan­ti­ties of time any­way. It’s prob­a­bly just as well be­cause these days, as a mother of seven, go­ing to the loo with­out an au­di­ence or tak­ing a shower with­out an avalanche of chil­dren burst­ing through the door wail­ing “he breathed/looked/farted at me” are dis­tant mem­o­ries. As, ob­vi­ously, are keys in the door.

Much as I adore my chil­dren (in spite of their om­nipres­ence and con­stant in­ter­rup­tions), there was a time I found par­ent­hood ex­cru­ci­at­ingly lonely. I loved my job and dreaded my first ma­ter­nity leave, even though I was in­cred­i­bly ex­cited to be­come a first-time mum.

I was liv­ing in a new area where I knew no one. I was the first in my fam­ily to test the un­charted wa­ters of par­ent­hood. And my ex­ist­ing friends, who lived a dis­tance away any­way, had travel, night­clubs and par­ties on their minds, rather than dirty nap­pies and sleep­less nights.

I have never felt as alone as I did in those early days of par­ent­hood.

I stum­bled through new ex­pe­ri­ences and self-doubt as I strug­gled to get this most im­por­tant of jobs right. I planned an out­ing most days, al­beit alone with my baby, but some­times the ef­fort to get out the door meant those best-laid plans never came to fruition, so my home be­came some­thing of a pri­son – a lonely pri­son, the si­lence bro­ken only by the sound of a baby cry­ing and, fre­quently, her mum too.

And though I longed for vis­i­tors, none came, be­cause peo­ple were too busy get­ting on with their own lives. The vil­lage it al­legedly takes to rear a child was miss­ing in ac­tion and I was a lone sniper.

No cav­alry

I took a while to fully ap­pre­ci­ate the less col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proach to par­ent­hood that ex­ists these days and to re­alise the com­pany I longed for would need to be ac­tively sought rather than by wait­ing for the cav­alry to ar­rive. I needed a tribe – a tribe of mums – but I needed a tribe with whom I had more in com­mon than just hav­ing given birth. Be­cause I didn’t fun­da­men­tally be­come a dif­fer­ent per­son when moth­er­hood came knock­ing.

Ex­pe­ri­ence brings a de­gree of con­fi­dence but it doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily bring any more vis­i­tors knock­ing sec­ond and sub­se­quent times around – be­cause you’re no longer a new­bie to the moth­er­hood game. It’s fig­ured you know the score – and hope­fully what you’re do­ing.

I wor­ried a lot about lone­li­ness again when I made the move to work­ing from home. The thoughts of no col­leagues or friends for com­pany or cof­fee breaks filled me with dread, even if the pay-off was a more man­age­able home-life bal­ance. With many of my friends who had stayed at home de­cid­ing to head back to work now that their chil­dren were older, the prospect of hav­ing to pro­cras­ti­nate alone was ter­ri­fy­ing.

Be­cause even though as “your woman with all the kids”, I know more par­ents than I’d ever have thought pos­si­ble, many of these par­ents wouldn’t be quite sure how many chil­dren I ac­tu­ally have, just that “it’s a load”. As a busy so­ci­ety, we don’t know much about the in­tri­ca­cies of

I wor­ried a lot about lone­li­ness again when I made the move to work­ing from home. The thoughts of no col­leagues filled me with dread

the lives of peo­ple we ex­change niceties with on the school run or in the su­per­mar­ket and park.

Even now, avoid­ing lone­li­ness takes a con­certed ef­fort. Sev­eral of my hob­bies and per­sonal out­lets have fallen foul to the ever-chang­ing de­mands and time com­mit­ments of par­ent­hood. So, re­cently I joined a book club – some­thing this very proud mammy of seven would have pre­vi­ously dis­counted, con­sid­er­ing it al­to­gether too “mam­my­ish”.

It seems I was wrong – it’s the per­fect de­gree of mam­my­ish. I haven’t man­aged to fin­ish sev­eral of the books, but they for­give me, ap­pre­ci­at­ing the work­load in­volved with my fam­ily – them be­ing moth­ers and all them­selves.

We chat and laugh about much more than books – be­cause we’re a tribe, sub­tly watch­ing out for each other, check­ing in be­tween meet­ings and bond­ing over wine, choco­late and mixed views about Fifty Shades of Grey!

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