My first child was born, a few weeks before Thanksgiving. That holiday season was a complete blur of nursing, napping and utter fascination with my newborn. When my maternity leave was up I didn’t feel ready to go back to work. So, my husband and I decided that I would quit and be a stay-at-home mom.
I was happy with the decision but I never anticipated how long the days would be. I was used to being out of the house and interacting with colleagues throughout the day.
Now I was up at dawn feeding the baby and home alone until my husband got home, exhausted, at 8 pm. I was lonely but didn't want to admit it since I pushed to stay home with the baby and now my husband's salary was our sole financial support.
At first, I continued calling my friends at my office, but they were busy, and I was no longer part of their world. My high school and college friends didn’t have children yet so they couldn’t relate to my days of diapers and nursing.
Being a parent is thrilling, but it can also be overwhelming. It's not uncommon for new parents to experience feelings of loneliness similar to the ones I did. Here is what helped me get through:
Get out of the house
Take a shower, put on clothes (other than sweats) and leave the house. Even if it's cold out, bundle up the baby and get outside. Some daily fresh air does everyone good.
Find parent-friendly classes
I signed up for a music class, a gym class and a new mother’s group at our community center that turned into a weekly playgroup. It was a great way to meet other new parents and also helped my daughter develop her own social skills.
I began doing this everywhere I saw people with babies including parks, the mall and at the supermarket. Some of these conversations were brief, while others led to an exchange of numbers and a few lunch dates. A handful of the people I met this way became lifelong friends who I still treasure 20 years later.
If you have family or friends who offer to babysit, accept their generosity. If not, look for a reliable sitter to hire for a few hours a week. Don’t feel guilty for taking a little time off. Taking care of yourself will help you to be a better parent.
Keep connections with old friends
You may not feel you have anything in common with older friends, but you do, even if it’s just a shared history. Take a break from being a parent and talk about anything else – movies, TV, old stories, etc. or just listen to what they have to say. You’ll be glad to have these connections to your pre-parent life.
Talk about your feelings
When I finally opened up to my husband about my feelings he was more than supportive. The same was true when I told my mom and a few friends. You can be thrilled to be a new parent and lonely – these are not mutually exclusive feelings. Talking about these feelings will make you feel less alone.