Motherhood and the Lonely Years

There’s something we don’t talk about often as moms, but it needs to be said.

It needs to be added to the plethora of friendly advice we give out to new moms and it needs to be understood in its context, but here is what I know to be true:

Being a mom can be really lonely.

It seems like an oxymoron to even put the words mom and loneliness in a sentence together.

Image of woman in sundress holding bright yellow bouquet outdoors with text: "Motherhood and the Lonely Years"

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Motherhood and the Lonely Years

By definition, if you’re a mom, especially a mom to young children, you hardly have a minute alone.  It’s rare that you’ll have a moment without your little people needing you, wanting you and tracking you down if you do find a half-minute to do something without them.  (Goodbye, private restroom breaks.)

As a mom, you willingly give up all personal space, three-quarters of your bed and two hundred percent of your heart.

You’re never alone, even if you’re at work or otherwise occupied.  You carry the mantle of mom wherever you go (and wouldn’t have it any other way).

All that neediness is a good thing.  It’s good to be wanted and needed and loved by these tiny souls that live under our roofs and rely on us for everything.

Their needs drive us to be responsible, to pay attention to how we act, what we say, and to consider someone else’s well-being above our own – maybe for the first time ever.

It’s truly astonishing how motherhood grows us, stretches us and turns our wants and needs into a lesser priority; it’s a paradigm shift that seems to catapult us into another world entirely once our first baby arrives.

It’s a world we didn’t know existed, but one we were seemingly created for.  And if we let it, this new way of thinking and doing life will turn us into a better, revised edition of ourselves.

Selflessness can do that to a person.

But, let’s be honest about one thing.  Despite embracing this new role, despite the joy-filled rearrangement of our lives and even despite our deep, truthful desire to be all things to our children (and perhaps because of all these things), taking on this mantle of motherhood also means facing an exhausting, lonely season in our lives.

Because even though we have good intentions to get together with friends, to get out of the house and practice that “self-care” thing everyone talks about, it doesn’t really happen very often when you have small children at home.

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Motherhood and the Lonely Years graphic2

The Mantle of Motherhood

Between you and your friends and your friends’ kids, someone always has a cold, a doctor’s appointment, or a necessary trip to the grocery store.  And let’s face it, just getting out of the house requires a carefully crafted, wedding-planning-level of orchestration that just isn’t worth it, most days.

This is all assuming that your close friends are still nearby during your mothering years, that they haven’t moved across the country for their husbands’ job transfers or wherever the flow of life might take them.

It seems to be exponentially harder to make new friends after you become a mom.  It’s possible, of course, it just takes a lot of effort, and effort for anything extra can be hard to summon in this weary stage of life.

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A lot of days, even though you long for meaningful conversation with someone over three feet tall, it’s just easier to stick to the routine. And so that’s what you do.

Now, please don’t misread this whole thing as a plea from a desperate wife.  I’m not saying that husbands don’t count as a source of companionship and understanding.

I live for those late-night conversations when all the kids are in bed and we have a few moments to debrief the events of the day.  That’s so important and I don’t discount it at all.

But from my observation, dads seem to naturally preserve more of their pre-kid autonomy than we do. Especially if they’re the full-time working parent (and you’re not), they simply have more opportunity to make connections with others during the day.

At the same time, as the more relational half of our partnership, my need for expressing my thoughts and desires is often greater than his need to do so.  (Translation:  Women like to talk.  We NEED to talk about things.)

Besides all this, I think there is a unique quality that comes with mothering young kids and babies, in that they tend to default to us, as moms, to meet their needs – which we are intrinsically fine-tuned to in the first place.

toddler sitting on mom on yellow couch. Mom is exhausted.

The nurturing, exhausting season

(Funny how that works.)

But during this season of nurturing, of providing and pouring ourselves into our little ones, it’s easy to get caught up in all that we’re missing outside of these four walls.

Like that time when you had dinner plans with a friend you hadn’t seen in ages but had to cancel because one of your kids is running a fever.

Or that entire year-plus spent in the back of the church nursery, nursing the baby instead of getting to listen to the sermon.

Or that embarrassing instance where you missed seeing your cousin walk down the aisle because your toddler chose that exact moment to throw a colossal fit.

These are the lonely years, the years that seem like they might stretch on forever, the years where our identity is so entwined with the task of raising kids that we feel like who we were before “mom” might never have really existed.

Mothers often feel lonely, despite never being alone! What husbands and kids may not understand but most moms can relate to- and the hope we can hold on to. #Motherhood #Lonely #MomLife #Kids #Parenting

At times when I start to feel this way, I have to remind myself that this mantle of motherhood is exactly what it was designed to be:  both a cloak that surrounds us and also a distinguished title reserved for us in this season of life.  What it isn’t meant to be is an all-encompassing blanket of burden.

In reality, we can’t expect other people, big or small, to meet all of our emotional needs.  Only God can do that.  If we do feel lonely, we can be assured that He will use those times to highlight His nearness.

I’ve been told that these are the years we’ll look back on and wish they never really ended.

Because the real lonely days are ahead, when our kids will grow up and no longer need us (as much) and our hours, days and months will have to find a new and redefined purpose.

So right now, I’m choosing to slow down.  I’m choosing to be more intentional in learning to appreciate the beauty of this appointed time, this season of being needed, of being exhausted to the core, and of sometimes even feeling alone in a house full of people.

Because even in the difficult moments, I believe those moms who have traveled this path ahead of me, and I have a feeling their words will ring true.

And I don’t want to hasten the day that’s coming — when this mantle is no longer mine to wear.

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10 thoughts on “Motherhood and the Lonely Years”

  1. You are so right about this stage of life. I found having children drastically changed friendships due to different parenting styles, busy schedules, and the fact that my child NEVER slept when she was little. Never took naps. So I was desperate to find activities in the afternoons but all my girlfriends’ babies were down for something I had never experienced–a long nap. 🙂 I was very lonely when my daughter was a baby. But that baby is now a sophomore in college, so it’s a different kind of loneliness. It’s easier this year than last year when she first went away to school. As with all things, this too shall pass. 🙂 I started my blog as a way to express how I felt about the changes in our lives. I intentionally put things in place to allow me to remain busy once she left home. It really helped to have my own things to focus on while she is at school. Motherhood is always a fluid thing and we just have to remain flexible! 🙂

    1. “Motherhood is always a fluid thing” — love that! I’m glad it’s getting easier for you this year. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and wisdom Sarah! 🙂

    1. Thanks for stopping by Ashley. Knowing others feel the same way is helpful too. Of course, keeping the perspective of the fleeting nature of time – even in the hard moments – makes it all worth it. 🙂

  2. Thank you. I’ve just moved to a new place and I’m hundreds of miles away from anyone I know. It’s just me, my husband and a 2mo old. It’s hard and this helped a lot.

  3. I am NOT a parent. I know nothing about babies, kids, or raising children. My best friend is suffering from loneliness as a mother of 2. What can I do to help her? Her husband enjoys his life as pre-kid. What can I do to support her?

    1. Hi Jamie. Staying in touch with your friend is one of the most important things. If you can visit her, hang out with her and the kids, the companionship is really important. Knowing you still have friends that enjoy being around you and still want to see you when your house is a loud wreck..that’s special. 🙂 My (out-of-state) friends and I started doing Marco Polo videos this year and we record short clips back and really helps us to connect and know we’re not alone. I also enjoy a coffee date with a friend now and then. And realizing this stressful/lonely season is just a season; it will pass and there will be more opportunities to get out and be around people (although we’re all probably suffering a little in that area right now).

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