Parenting Can Be an Isolating Experience, But You’re Not Alone

To any parent who feels alone right now: I’ve been there. I am there. In the moments we are surrounded by little people, we can feel the most invisible. You deserve to be seen.

By Kimberly Zapata 

Maybe you’re sitting in your living room crying, feeling like a failure for yelling at your kids. For screaming at your kids. For losing your proverbial cool. Maybe you’re in your bedroom hiding. You are trying to escape your family. To be. To breathe. To have a minute alone. Or maybe you’re in a crowd of people—at a birthday party or playdate—struggling to connect with others. Making “mom friends,” or any friend, feels daunting. It’s hard. Painful. A grandiose and unwelcome chore. And, in the midst of it all, you feel isolated. It’s like you’re completely and utterly alone. But you’re not, sweet friend. (Can I call you friend?) Because I’ve been there. I am there. Parenthood can be scary. Lonely. I often feel like I’m on an island: a tropical paradise (and party) for one.

Ironically, when you’re a parent you are never—OK, scratch that, you are rarely—alone. Between your kids and (possibly) a partner, there is little respite. You barely have downtime. And even if and when you find a moment’s peace, your mind is wandering. You are thinking about when baseball practice ends and dance class begins. You are also constantly keeping tabs on things like doctor’s appointments. School schedules. Feedings. Nap times. What to make for dinner. And while you would think these thoughts would occupy you, that the constant interaction would keep the loneliness at bay, it does not. Instead, it amplifies it. It exacerbates it. The more I am around my children, the less visible I feel.

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Of course, I know that sounds terrible. Writing these words feels like a guilty admission, one I certainly should be ashamed to make. But when I became a parent, it changed me—and my identity—and instead of being Kim, I became a mom. A and H’s mom. And for all I gained, something was lost. 

Not everyone feels this way. I know some are probably shaking their heads. Judging me. Wondering how I can feel alone in a house full of noise. In a condo full of comfort. In a family of four. But many (dare I say, most) parents work long days, with little downtime or “me” time. Things like hangouts, movies, dinner dates, and parties are a thing of the past. A relic of a lifetime gone by. Many parents go a week—or more—without adult contact. Grown-up conversations are a no-go. And many parents spend their mornings with Bluey, CoComelon, and Blippi rather than the news or a cup of coffee. Their free time is dictated by another’s interests. By colors, songs, and sounds. As for me? My own parental alienation began the moment I gave birth. Scratch that: I felt alone the second I arrived at the hospital.

Ironically, there was no shortage of activity in my room. Dozens of doctors and nurses checked in on me. Half my family came by. But I felt removed from it all. It was like I was living on the other side of a two-way mirror. I was in a house with glass walls. 

The early weeks were long and dark. I stayed home nursing my children. Changing my children. Napping my children. I would go days without sleeping. Without showering. Without human contact or a single warm meal, and I remember walking the aisles of Walgreens just to be around people. To see my reflection in the makeup counter. To feel less alone.

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As my babe-uns aged up and out and I moved from a stay-at-home parent to a working one, things shifted… again. My priorities moved and I was focused on work and motherhood. On being and doing all the things. And that came with its own challenges. I quickly became overburdened and overwhelmed. And while I meet with my colleagues weekly—while I see and play with my children daily—an absence remains.

Make no mistake: I know I am #blessed. I have two wonderful children. Two joyful, smart, and insightful children. Two children who have the power to make me laugh and cry. I also know I am immensely privileged. I acknowledge this fact. It is an important truth. But it doesn’t negate my feelings. If you are feeling lonely, isolated, or “touched out,” it shouldn’t negate yours.

While there are dozens—hell, there are probably hundreds—of reasons why parents feel so alone, each is valid. Whether you’re a new parent or a seasoned one doesn’t matter: Your feelings are real. You deserve to be seen and heard. 

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Image: MCKINSEY JORDAN / STOCKSY

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