Dealing with Social Isolation: Tips for Parents
by Mia Cronan
It’s easy to think the whole world is going on without you, and that nobody else out there understands what it feels like.
Did anyone out there know just how isolating it was going to be when you first started staying home with your children? It’s easy to think the whole world is going on without you, and that nobody else out there understands what it feels like. Before you start calling Loner’s Anonymous though, consider a few things:
For a long time, being at home full-time with my children was only a dream, but when my husband and I were able to make it come true, I was thrilled. One year later I still love being a SAHM, but I must admit there are days when it feels a little like "solitary confinement" for a prisoner of war. Being the type of person who is quite prone to the depression that can accompany loneliness, I knew I needed to do something to prevent myself from feeling totally isolated from the world.
It’s a Lonely World in the House!
When I left my job, I didn’t have a single friend in my town that was a SAHM. That left me with only my two year old and a newborn for company and conversation during the day. Pretty soon the loneliness crept in and I began to feel disconnected from the outside world. I felt like life was going on without me. To make things worse, I wasn’t prepared for negative responses to my choice to stay at home. The comments like "Don’t sit around and get fat!" and "You’re wasting your education!" served to isolate me even further from my working friends. Overnight, I no longer had a peer group with whom I could discuss my thoughts and ideas. Then the depression started. With no one to talk to about your feelings, this situation only becomes worse over time. A person who is depressed suffers from low self-esteem, black and white thinking (mostly black), irritability, and plummeting energy levels. The last thing a mom with small children needs is to have no energy! This change in personali!
ty can begin to affect your marriage and your relationship with your children.
Many SAHMs begin to depend on their husbands as their only source of friendship and connection to the world outside the home. But no matter how stable and loving the marriage, depending on one person to provide all of our intimacy can strangle the relationship. Most SAHMs are looking for empathy and understanding, and even the most caring husbands cannot identify with what it is like to be a SAHM. No one can, except someone who has experienced it.
A depressed and irritable mother with no energy is not someone with whom children enjoy spending time. After a couple of months of feeling this way, I began to wonder if my children would be better off in day care with a more patient caregiver who had enough energy to spend time playing with them. I knew in my heart that the very best person to raise my children was me, so I sought out other mothers in the same situation, and my stay-at-home life began to turn around.
Seeking out other SAHMs
You may be thinking, "I don’t have time to start new friendships" or "I’m too shy to become friends with virtual strangers." Let me just say that the friendships that you make with other mothers are worth the time it takes to foster them, and other SAHMs will definitely not be strangers to you. When I joined a Mom’s and Tot’s group, I was overwhelmed at how much we all had in common, and many of us felt as if we had known each other forever. In this group I found friends who understood exactly how I felt and could provide insight into dealing with the problems that come with being at home.
Suddenly I had women to talk to who understood what I was feeling, even if I didn’t understand it myself. The playgroups that were scheduled for our kids were beneficial to the children, and it gave me something to look forward to. I know I would have given up on my stay-at-home life had I not found this group of kindred spirits to support and reaffirm my choice to be at home. Look around you, I’m sure there are women who need that type of friendship and would love the opportunity to provide it for you.
A Few More Things to Remember When You’re Feeling Lonely….
1. When you put your role in your family’s life in perspective, this is but a temporary situation. As much as you love being your children’s mother, albeit a lonely existence at times, the time when they won’t need you quite so close at hand is not that far away. In only five short years, your infant will be in Kindergarten, your toddler will be in grade school, or your first-grader will be either selling Girl Scout cookies all by herself or handing you his football schedule for the year. Wow! Five years can seem like a long time, but when you regard it as a small piece of the pie that our whole life comprises, it will go by way too fast!
2. This may be the best time for you to develop your spiritual side, which requires some solitude at times. And who benefits besides you? Your children, of course. When you can demonstrate spirituality, your kids are so much more likely to embrace the idea, too. The earlier the better for them to learn to bring God into their lives and get to know their Creator.
3. Many people today, in this world of fast-paced chaos, often feel that they just don’t have the time to put into relationships outside their home like they would like to. Maybe this is the time to try to do just that. If you have friends with whom you have lost touch because of working 50 hours a week and trying to care for a family at the same time, perhaps now you have some time to make a list of people to whom you could write. So sit down and write one letter a week until you are caught up. Or, you may find a simple phone call is more effective.
4. It’s amazing how getting outside can take away the feelings of being sequestered. Even if the weather’s cold, snowy, windy, or if it’s gorgeous, the great outdoors can blow away the feeling that the world is ambling along without you. You may even see a friendly face and someone to talk to for a few minutes. That can lift your spirits!
5. E-mail has been such a joy for me, as silly as it sounds to get so much pleasure out of a computer! I have a regular network of people with whom I e-mail everyday, and it really gives a lift to my day when a message from one of my sisters pops up, or I get a funny note from an old college buddy. Use it to your advantage if you have it! Swap recipes, tell jokes, get and give Christmas gift ideas, or plan a shopping venture. It’s much more convenient than trying to talk on the phone while your kids are throwing soup against the wall or crushing M&Ms into the carpet (not that any of our children would ever behave as such, right?)
What’s the bottom line? You are not alone. Find the best way for you to build a network of moms who can help you be the best mother you can be for your children: one who is happy, secure, fun-loving, and loved.
About the author:
Mia Cronan is a married full-time mother of three girls, ages 5, 3, and 1, living in Pennsylvania. She owns and edits www.MainStreetMom.com, the magazine for modern mothers with traditional values. Mia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.