The feeling of loneliness. So many of us are experiencing it. So many things can factor into being lonely. Did you know it is a common feeling of new parents? Loneliness and isolation are often feelings described by new parents. If you find yourself nodding along, know you are not the only lonely new parent.
Adding to the family whether it is a first child or 5th is a life transition. While the time may be exciting, perhaps hoped for, and of course full of love, it is also full of sleep deprivation, and constant responsibility. Not to mention adjusting to a new identity shift (why this part doesn’t get talked about much is always surprising to me).
Having a baby is a big shift. No matter what your expectations were, likely the reality is somewhat different. The life you were used to changed in an instant. Now the time clock revolves around when this brand new human wants to eat, poops their diaper, or needs to sleep. All your other adult responsibilities are there too though. Maybe you are on a work hiatus but the dishes don’t stop, the laundry piles up, and Spot the dog still needs that walk….and maybe a bath. All of this can be overwhelming. One day you feel you are killing it and the next you aren’t quite sure how you’ll make it till dinner time.
Sometimes we are so wrapped up into this new odd routine that it feels like one day we just pop our heads up for air and realize nothing is the same. So we call our friends. They are busy tending to their own families, or maybe they are working, or even though they are your go-to friends maybe they are in a different life circumstance and it feels like they can’t completely understand what you are saying. And this is if you get over feeling like burden telling your friends how you actually feel.
And then, there’s COVID.
The pandemic adds a whole new layer. For some it means no visitors whatsoever. For some a huge reduction in visitors. No matter what the visitor and helper policy you have in place is it certainly less help and it may come with some low level worry.
Leaving the house sounds lovely but it may feel risky or hard to try to venture out with your new baby. It may feel like all you can do is be home with your baby, or walk around the block at best.
More than once I have heard something like this, “I long to just go to Target, get a Starbucks and walk around.”
This is coupled with a feeling like there’s no escape. No break in the day to day. It is also super ok to admit you want to escape away for a little bit. This does not make you a bad parent. And I 100% understand how nice wandering the aisles of Target alone is.
AND THEN THERE’S THE SEASON CHANGE.
While fall is beautiful (and who doesn’t love a warm Michigan cider mill donut?) it can also be another change on top of the many changes that lead some of us to feel even more lonely. Evening comes sooner. The air is cooler. Also many people feel more comfy with visitors outside during the pandemic and with frigid temps ahead this makes the winter sound much more like it was during lockdown.
As doulas we see you. We know this feeling. We are are here to listen and here to support. Know this moment is temporary.
So what in tarnation can we do about new parenthood loneliness?
For starters recognize that you may be feeling this way. Say it out loud. Tell someone.
Pretending you don’t have this feeling or stuffing it down will never help you.
Look around you. Who can you reach out to? Maybe it is family, friends, a therapist, or your doula. Simply begin the conversation that you are feeling isolated and want help figuring out how to not feel so alone. You will not be burdening those who truly care for you.
KNOW THAT YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN FEELING LONELY.
Comfort can be found when realizing that this isn’t something completely unique to you and your situation.
It is also a good time to practice self-love and happiness growth.
Doing things like exercising, having a daily grateful list (just jot down five things, no matter big or small), meditation (the Headspace app is amazing!), journaling and doing extra acts of kindness, while always a good idea, also help you get into a place to feel better about making more connections.
Search for a parent group.
Social media can be one place to connect. We even have a Facebook group for parents called “Metro Detroit Families, Keeping it real.” It can feel good to connect with folks going through a similar life experience. Some in-person groups can be found although more limited due to the pandemic. Places that offer baby classes or pre-natal yoga may offer in person parenting groups.
If your feelings of loneliness are overwhelming, or seem to be interfering with your daily life though it is a good time to reach out to a mental health professional. There are those that specialize in the postpartum time and early parenthood days too. These may be the best place to start.
You don’t have to navigate parenthood alone.
Postpartum and Infant Care Doulas can be a companion piece for new parents. Doulas specialize in helping families adjust to their next chapter. We come in-person to your home with some extra precautions in place and/or even have virtual consulting options. We are here to walk with you in these early days of parenthood.
Try some of our suggestions today if you are feeling that new parent loneliness. Remember you are not alone in this. Looking for support? Contact us today!
Authored by Andrea Stainbrook