Only the Lonely
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How to cope with the sometimes loneliness of being a single mom
“You come home, make some tea, sit down in your armchair, and all around there’s silence. Everyone decides for themselves whether that’s loneliness or freedom.” —Unknown
In my early days of single motherhood, the loneliness that descended on my life was a challenge that felt completely unsolvable. Going from a full and self-affirming social life to being home alone every day with a baby was quite a contrast. And in the first few weeks after my child was born and before I found my voice as a mother, there was an eerie silence in my home except for the intermittent tears (from both new baby and new mama). My phone that used to constantly buzz with calls and texts went silent for days—so silent that I wondered if telecommunication systems were down worldwide or something. In hindsight, I think friends were just trying to respect my privacy and need for rest. But there is no way around it—I was smack-dab in the middle of some stark alone time.
At first I was crawling out of my skin with the sudden isolation; but, gradually, a quieter life became my new normal, and I got over that silly fear of missing out (most of the time). After almost four years since the birth of my child and the beginning of my path as a Solo Mom, I still have occasional lonely moments, but mostly I have come to embrace the bootstrapped, warm, cozy, honest little life I’ve made for us. So I pour that tea and take a seat and feel very free.
Here are some things that got me through the hardest moments over the years and thoughts and ideas about how you can, too.
1. Go watch the world go by. You can read a book (or pretend to read a book) at a coffee shop while your baby naps. If your child is older, you can park yourself on a playground bench. Being out there, available to interact with people—even just with a moment of eye contact or quick smiles exchanged—can change your whole outlook.
2. Know your true friends. If at first it seems as if all your friends have disappeared, take heart. You are just lucky to know who your real friends are. Try reframing your loneliness through the words of Tupac Shakur, who said, “The realest people don’t have a lot of friends.” I’d rather tell myself I’m feeling very real than feeling lonely.
3. Pick up that phone. Call someone to say hello, trade news, or even confess your loneliness. Consider calling someone who may be feeling lonely, too. Don’t take it personally if at first people don’t pick up the phone. Our phone culture sure is changing—so maybe even shoot the person a text before calling because many people don’t seem to answer their lines anymore without a heads-up first.
4. Join meetup groups. Look for parents’ groups in your area through Meetup or other local listings. Once you start poking around, you will find there is a meetup group for just about anything—not just parenting. You can even join or create some kind of virtual meetup: find a local book club, enroll in an online class with discussion section, or host a Facebook group fitness challenge among friends. It’s nice to know you are in something together with others.
5. Have a friend over. After your kid goes to bed and maybe even for a standing weekly or monthly date, invite a friend to your place. I have loved the nights when a friend comes over to chat over some tea or a bottle of wine. It really makes the house feel like a home. It’s even better when they show up a little early and read your kids a bedtime story. Everyone is so happy when that happens.
6. Read, read, read. Then read some more. This is my number-one anti-loneliness tool, which you already know about if you have ever followed my blog. About 90% of what I write about these days is books, which makes sense, since there is a book in my hand pretty much every night. Added bonus: I get to interact with my local librarians a lot, which has turned out to be lovely and has led to special little relationships for both me and my kid. More loneliness averted!
7. Take up meditation. You know you want to, but you don’t think you have time. Or you think it’s too hard. Well, guess what? You do have time after your kid goes to bed—and this is one of the best things you can do for your mental state and even your physical health. Try a guided meditation podcast if you need some help getting started.
8. Make a vision board. You can do this with scissors, glue, and a stack of magazines, or use a website such as Pinterest to bring together images that make you happy. The idea is if you spend more time focusing on the direction in which you want your life to go, it will come to life.
9. Go on a date. Makes a lot of sense to connect with someone equally eager to connect, right? If it goes badly, well at least that will give you some comic relief and some perspective on going home to a quiet house.
Beck List is an environmental scientist and writer living with her four-year-old future comedian in California. You can read more tips on her blog, BeckList.
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