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Are you lonely Mama? 10 Things You Can Do When Family Life Feels Lonely



Are you in a family, surrounded by people, yet feeling so alone?


Do you crave space and solitude yet also feel desperate for real connection? Are you full of love and fulfillment from your children yet also have such a big hole where something is missing? These seemingly opposite sentiments are a common combination for many parents. Despite being surrounded by those who you love more than anything in the world it can, nevertheless, feel very lonely at times and not just during the baby and toddler years. Loneliness can appear just as easily during the primary school, tween and teen years. I could write for hours about the many causes of this – the changes which parenthood brings, the shift in family roles, the juggle of different needs, social media and how many of your relationships in these chapters are based purely on your children having been born at a similar time. Even when you’re well into the school years having a child has had an impact on almost every area of life - your relationships, your work, your friendships , your interests. The list goes on. At its heart loneliness is rarely about lack of people and much more about lack of people with whom you really connect. Those relationships where you are seen and understood. Where you belong and are accepted. You can have a great relationship with your child, but they were never meant to be your sole source of connection. You need a community. “Connection is why we're here. We are hardwired to connect with others, it's what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.” Brene Brown As human beings we crave belonging and connection to others, yet finding it can, in some seasons be a real challenge and so instead many parents find themselves very lonely. In November 2017 Action for Children released some striking data from a survey which stated: "More than half (52 per cent) of UK parents have suffered from loneliness – with a fifth (21 per cent) having felt lonely in the last week. “ I suspect over the course of the Covid 19 pandemic this figure has increased. Certainly I hear a lot more people who are feeling disconnected and lonely as the need to be in survival mode for so long has impacted friendships and other relationships.


Loneliness is vulnerable, uncomfortable and can suck the joy and energy out of family life. A sad and lonely parent is rarely at their best. When you’re feeling lonely it’s too easy to slip into a negative narrative about yourself and how loveable, likeable and interesting you are and before you know it you’re in a vicious circle. So when you’re feeling lonely what CAN you do? I’m not offering you 10 easy steps to joyful connection. Let’s get real here. Loneliness sucks and is hard. Reaching out and making bids for connection is vulnerable… and hard. So step 1 is Choose your hard Lonely is hard. Vulnerable, but hopeful and seeking connection is hard. Which one serves you best? If there isn’t an easy option make sure the energy you put into the hard option is well invested. Step 2 – Use the past to inform the present. What worked for you before? When have you felt most connected to others and what do you learn from this? Was it a shared goal? Was it 1:1 deep conversation? Was it when you had stacks of time to hang out or less responsibility? The patterns of how you best connect may give you some clues as to what is missing and what might help now? Step 3 – Get clear on what you’re looking for. Are you after a community you can really rely on and belong to or is it fun and a good laugh outside of family life which is missing? Are you seeking deeper conversation or a mate on the school run? Maybe it’s feeling part of a team with a common goal? Getting clear on what you most need means you’re more able to focus your energies into solutions which are likely to meet that specific need rather than just taking up a new activity and hoping for the best. Step 4 – Question the story you’re telling yourself. The narrative which goes with our feelings can make a huge difference. If you’re frequently telling yourself that no one likes you and you’re uninteresting it’s going to bear fruit. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by you children’s behaviour you’re not alone, but maybe you just don’t know anyone else brave enough to talk about their struggles. Maybe your circumstances are unique and there are not many people who would fully understand, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t people would understand the feelings you have or the difficulty of being in a unique situation. If they don’t know they definitely can’t show you understanding. Question the narrative and look at the evidence. How much of what is happening is a product of circumstances rather than deep flaws in you? Do your friends even know how you’re feeling right now? Are other people really feeling super connected all the time or is that just a myth perpetuated by the superficial “love you hun” comments in a group w message which are often other people’s bids for connection? Are you telling yourself others are rejecting you when actually they’ve got so much on their plate that subtle hints pass them by? Watch out for messages which fuel the loneliness despite the fact they may not stand up to scrutiny. Step 5 - Get clear on what’s actually going on for you right now. Step 3 may have already given you a few thoughts. What is triggering feelings of loneliness? How much are you feeling pressure to follow what those around you are doing despite the fact it’s not “you.”? Are you an introvert looking for a deep connection with a few people, but in circumstances which offer light conversation with multiple people. Understanding the situation may not change it, but it may help you to accept and work with it more. Step 6 – Check your expectations. How much are you expecting of your relationships and how realistic is it? Are you longing for the halcyon days of your youth when actually you only have 5% of the time available you had then. If your week involves seeing lots of people dashing between work and school runs these are not circumstances which make meaningful relationships easy to form. If you’re feeling disappointed by your friends then it may be worth checking what’s going o for them and whether what you’re expecting is ok. Step 7 - Ruthlessly ditch comparisonitus. Are you looking on social media and comparing yourself to a mum whose personality and circumstances are very different to you? When you spot comparisonitus ruthlessly ditch it as it won’t help. Step 8 – Be honest about what works for you. Over the last couple of years I’ve learned how much I hate entertaining in my home at present. The house layout isn’t conducive and by the time I’ve cleaned, shopped, negotiated what everyone will eat, prepared and then cleaned up the aftermath the effort vs the benefit isn’t there. This then leads me to avoid connection when actually just meeting people for a drink/picnic etc is a much easier route to connection. As I juggle family, a business and other responsibilities I have to be realistic about what I can offer from a social perspective and get rid of the unnecessary energy suckers which are obstacles to connection. Step 9 – Invest wisely. If your resources are limited and you know you need some connection then maybe you have to say no to some other things. If you’re doing lots of social things out of duty which are only draining you then maybe you need to say no to some of those and yes to the ones which will help. This sounds simple until someone gets the hump because you said no to their thing. If you have limited time and capacity then planning in time for those relationships which uplift you the most as a matter of priority can make a huge difference. It may just mean you have to weather the discomfort of someone else being disgruntled. As I said in step 1 – choose your hard! Step 10 – Put on your brave pants and make small bids for connection. It’s scary and vulnerable which is what makes it hard, but I frequently see in groups I run when one person is brave enough to share their struggle the relief in the rest of the group is palpable – “I’m so glad it’s not just me.” You don’t have to start by asking someone to be your new BFF but you can drop someone a quick message to ask how they are or suggest meeting for a coffee. There is a risk. They may say no or just not reply. It will probably not be an overnight win, but you may find little by little as you get to know someone and share more you find a kindred spirit. “Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it's having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it's our greatest measure of courage” Brene Brown One of the best things I’ve done since starting the lonely journey of self-employment is finding business buddies. It’s taken time and required me to dip my toe in the pool of vulnerability and bypass some of the BS to be honest about how hard running a business can be sometimes, but the payoff has been some really great relationships which are honest, uplifting, encouraging and real. These relationships mean I am a happier, more confident and capable business women. Connection helps us to be at our best and has a ripple effect on those around us. So today if you’re feeling lonely I’d encourage you to find one small step and take it and then another. One day you’ll look back and be so glad you did.

********** To receive my blogs and other free resources and info direct to your inbox you can sign up to the mailing list at: http://eepurl.com/gAo-o1 I’m aware that for some people this is part of the journey of parenthood and for others this may key into deeper issues and maybe even ones which require therapeutic input. I’d encourage you if you’re stuck to reach out. As a coach my expertise is helping people move forward when they’re stuck. I also know some great therapists who can help you need them! You can book a chat by going direct to my diary at: https://calendly.com/optimumcoaching/appointment-with-julie-cresswell-clone Ps Although the title of this is Are you Lonely Mama? This all applies to dads, step parents and foster parents too. #loneliness #parenting #marriage #coaching #parentlife #mumlife #optimumfamily#connection #relationships#friendships #community #ittakesavillage#isolation Photo by Danilo Alvesd on Unsplash

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