The Loneliness of Motherhood

I was waiting at a coffee shop to see if anyone would make it out tonight to color with me. Most of my friends had passed on the invite, but still, there were a few who might venture out last minute. Maybe their plans will change. It was a miserably cold evening in the dark of winter. I just needed out of the house and away from the kids, the dishes, and the never-ending goodnight routine. Does anyone else need out tonight?

Ah, there was Hannah coming through the door. She was probably the busiest mother I knew at the time, and also my best friend. We were in the midst of a short and sweet season of living in the very same town. I felt certain she would be here, but didn’t actually expect anyone else. I could hope though. As she sat down, I commented on the fact that it was just the two of us together again. “Why do I keep trying?” I chuckled, in jest at myself. She laughed with me, eyeing me with her ever-knowing look. We picked up our coloring books and continued our conversation where we had last left off. No one else showed up.

This winter in particular, I was thinking back on how I had arrived here. Why did it seem like getting together with anyone, anywhere required such a tremendous amount of effort? I need not wonder long – raising a young family was consuming most of my social circle now. I knew well how time-consuming and energy-draining it was. Maybe in six months I’ll see them again. Summer play dates at the park work well for most people…

I was also attempting to make some new friends, but felt at a loss how best to do so. Starting new friendships was a skill I was never great at, and my attempts reminded me of awkward high school days. It seemed like everyone already had an established circle of connections and busy schedule. I wasn’t sure how to initiate without sounding needy.

When we were in the midst of foster care, our house felt like a war zone. We went through some exceedingly difficult seasons of behavior with several of our children. The lack of coping skills displayed by our eldest, now adopted, spilled over to our eldest biological, who admired his older brother and imitated his tactics. Thankfully, since adoption some of these difficulties have subsided. However, on the whole, I find that daily life at our house differs from most of my friends with only biological children. We have additional control and intellectual/emotional deficits to manage. Kids with attachment challenges don’t fill up your love tank easily; they often put a drain on it. I have long assumed these added stressors are one of the reasons I have a constant need to keep the kids out of the house, moving from one activity to the next. Generally, the busier they are, the less energy they have to instigate fights with each other.

Motherhood is so beautifully consuming; it is supposed to be to an extent. For a somewhat extroverted person like myself (and probably for a lot of introverted stay-at-home parents as well), all the daily interactions I have with my kids don’t fill up my need for socialization and connection. The kids, obviously, are at a completely different stage of life. Sometimes I want adult time, without interruptions. I especially want time without all the control-based behaviors. Additionally, over time I have come to the conclusion that part of my ongoing drive to exist in a role other than “mother” comes from the nonreciprocal relationships I have with some of our adopted children. Because I undergo seasons of rejection from them – some of these seasons are long and emotionally painful – it is easier for me to maintain my mental equilibrium by receiving love elsewhere, momentarily escaping the mother role. Hence a significant drive for quality time with friends that probably would be less of a priority were all our children attached and reciprocating love normally.

At present, I don’t have a great solution to this lack-of-social-time problem, if it really is a problem. Perhaps it is a perceived problem. Spending most of my time with my own family is in all of our best interests. I’m also not trying to complain. But for those who feel me, just a shout out to say, “Hello! I’m in the same boat also, wondering where all the adults went! Am I the only one left here?” I’ve been unavailable as often as anyone else, so the street runs both ways. However, I’m determined not to quit on decades of friendship just because I’m potty training a two-year-old right now. We humans put time into what we value. I hope at the end of my life I valued people more than my never ending to-do list.

Photo by Dani Vivanco on Unsplash