The Isolation of Parenting

Photo source: HuffPo

I’m only fifteen months into this journey of parenthood, and I know there’s years of stress, frustration, and worry to come. Every stage of development has had their stresses, and once you stop drowning and get to treading water, it seems like something new comes along.

Facing the daily challenges as the primary childcare provider can feel like you’re only on your child’s level, and at the end of the day (literally and metaphorically), you want to have adult conversation. You want to have a break from changing diapers, from reading the same picture book over and over, and from handling tantrums. Maybe you’re like me and think, “Hey, I’ll go to a library reading group/play group/moms’ group/Bible study, that way I can bring my kid(s) and meet people like me!” And depending on when you do this, it may work! It’s easier to do this when your babies are little and will sleep anywhere (though it may not feel like it in the moment. Believe me, 2-month-postpartum-me would cuss out current-me for suggesting the idea. But hindsight is everything).

But then maybe your kid stops sleeping “anywhere.” Maybe he/she will only now sleep in their crib, or rarely a portable crib. And hey, that library time you were just starting to have fun with now happens during a nap. So does Bible study/small group. So does every other kid event your town seems to have. Who schedules events for one year old’s during a time when most one month olds, statistically, are napping?

I’ve had people tell me, “Take him out, a nap can happen after and it’s not the end of the world.” Yeah, that’s turned hellish whenever I’ve tried it. It usually makes for a cranky baby and a reeeeeaally late nap. So it makes me not want to participate in these gatherings, because the desire to have a happy, cooperative baby, tends to outweigh the need for socialization in the moment.

But then I see parents at church who have kids napping in pews while there’s tons of noise around, or sleeping on their shoulder while they walk around, and I wonder what I did wrong. I read a ton of advice while pregnant about exposing your child to noises while they sleep, about not halting daily processes like vacuuming or other noisy things, about not whispering and tiptoeing around. I feel like I did all this, but it got to a point where he just.would.not.sleep.through.the.noise.

When you’re not able to socialize, or only socialize with major limitations, it’s isolating. No longer can you be spontaneous, you have to be on EXACT schedules, otherwise maybe you can only hang out for 45 minutes before you need to come home to get your child to sleep.

Who knows. Maybe it’s just because I’m a first time mom. Maybe it’ll get easier with more kids. But also, who knows, maybe not all kids can be “trained” to sleep out and about. I see all the kids who are out and at play/the mall/church, but I don’t see the ones that are home. I don’t see the moms who may be feeling the same way I do, and wondering what the heck is wrong with their kids.

Despite your best efforts, motherhood can be isolating. This is one reason why I’m so grateful for the internet. While it can never replace in-person interactions, I am happy and blessed to be able to talk to my friends online, to be a part of mom’s groups and forums, and to at least know I’m not alone in my feelings. Maybe you’ll read this post and feel that way as well. Seasoned moms will say this all doesn’t last forever, which can be both good and bad. But I think it’s okay to not enjoy every time in your child’s life.

(This post was punctuated by a kid who wouldn’t naps, followed by several wakeups and “shushing” sessions. I could write a book on naps…)

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