“Parenting Can Be Isolating, But You Are Not Alone” – a simple yet powerful truth I want every parent reading this to understand. Even when you’re surrounded by a crowd, feelings of invisibility may seep in, yet it’s crucial to remember you’re not alone in this journey and you indeed deserve to be seen.
It’s possible that you’re currently sobbing in your living room, feeling like a terrible parent because you yelled at your children. Because you were yelling at your children. Because you metaphorically lost your calm. Perhaps you’ve gone into hiding in your bedroom. You are attempting to flee your family at this time. To be. to take a breath. To have some time to oneself. Or you may find yourself struggling to connect with others while in the midst of a large group of people, such as during a birthday party or a playdate. It can feel overwhelming to try to make “mom pals” or any other kind of friend. It is not easy. Painful.
An extravagant and unwanted chore. And in the midst of it all, you have the impression that you are all alone. It’s as if you’re all the way out in the wilderness by yourself. But you’re not, sweet friend. (May I address you as my friend?) Because I have a personal experience there. I am present there. Being a parent may be very nerve-wracking. Lonely. I frequently have the impression that I am alone on an island, enjoying a private tropical paradise (and party) for myself.
In a sense that defies logic, being a parent ensures that you are never, well, let’s rephrase that: you are hardly ever alone. There is little time for relaxation when you have to take care of your children and (maybe) a partner. You seldom ever get a chance to relax. And even in the brief instances in which you are able to experience a sense of calm, your thoughts continue to race. You are considering the time that the dancing class will start as well as the conclusion of baseball practice. In addition to this, you are always on top of things like scheduling appointments with the doctor.
Timetables for the schools. Feedings. A time for naps. What to make for dinner. You would assume that these ideas would keep you occupied, and that the continual interaction would keep the feelings of loneliness at bay; nevertheless, neither of these things is true. Instead, it strengthens its effect of it. It makes the problem much worse. The more I am with my children, the less noticeable I feel to the outside world.
Obviously, I am aware that you think it is awful. The very act of writing these words feels like I’m confessing, and it’s one that I really ought to be embarrassed to make. But becoming a parent altered both me and who I am; so, instead of being known as Kim, I am now known as a mother. The mother of A and H. And despite all the things I accomplished, there was a cost.
This is not the opinion of everyone. Some of you may be shaking your head. Judging me. I couldn’t understand how I could feel so isolated in this place full of people talking all at once. In an apartment that is loaded with amenities. In a household with four people. However, many parents, perhaps even the majority, have demanding work schedules that leave them with little time for relaxation or “me” time. Things like going to the movies, hanging out with friends, having dinner dates, and attending parties are now a thing of the past. A relic from a time that has long since passed.
There are a lot of parents who go a week or even more without talking to another adult. Conversing on an adult level is not allowed. And rather than starting their day with the news or a cup of coffee, many parents choose to start their day with Bluey, CoComelon, and Blippi. Their leisure time is organized in accordance with the pursuits of a third party. By hues, musical notes, and acoustic vibrations. As for me? The moment I gave birth, my personal experience of parental alienation began. Incorrect: the moment I stepped foot in the hospital, I had the distinct impression that I was all by myself.
To my surprise, there was a significant amount of activity in the room I was in. There were plenty of medical professionals who came to check on me. The other half of my family was here. But I felt distanced from it all. It was as if I were living on the opposite side of a two-way mirror from everyone else. I found myself inside a home that had glass walls.
The first few weeks were dreary and drawn out. I didn’t work because I needed to take care of my children. Introducing new ideas to my kids. My children are currently sleeping. I would go without sleep for days at a time, without first taking a shower. Without human contact or even a warm meal, I remember going to Walgreens just to be around other people and roaming throughout the store. To examine my appearance in the mirror behind the makeup counter. To feel less alone.
Things changed…again…when my babies grew up and out of the house and as I transitioned from being a stay-at-home mom to a working parent. My priorities shifted, and I began to place a greater emphasis on both my career and parenthood. Regarding becoming everything and engaging in all activities. And that was with its own set of difficulties. I was rapidly put in a position where I felt overwhelmed and stressed. And despite the fact that I get together with my coworkers once a week and that I spend every day with my kids, I still feel like something is missing.
Make no mistake: I know I am #blessed. There are two beautiful people in my family—two lively, intelligent, and perceptive young children. My two kids can make me laugh and cry at the same moment. I am also well aware that I enjoy a great deal of luxury. This is a reality that I am aware of. It is necessary to recognize this fact. But that doesn’t erase my feelings. Even if you are lonely, isolated, or “touched out,” the fact that you are experiencing these things should not invalidate your experience.
Each of the many reasons why parents feel so isolated is a fair one, despite the fact that there are dozens—hell, there are probably hundreds—of them. Your experiences as a parent, regardless of how long you’ve been doing it or how recently you started, are valid. You have earned the right to be observed and listened to.
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