After giving birth I had what they call “baby blues”, I literally cried every single day for two weeks straight, and over the smallest and silliest things. I was truly an emotional wreck, I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing, and that I wasn’t being the best mum I could be. But during that time, I had all the support in the world, my husband was on paternity leave, my mum came to help us out, and visitors were at no end.
My mum went home after two weeks and so it was just me, baby and hubby for another couple of weeks, which was amazing (aside from the sleepless nights and exhaustion). My husband’s paternity leave ended, so then it was just me and my precious little baby boy. To be completely honest, I was petrified of being alone with him just in case I couldn’t handle it, I feel like I shouldn’t admit that, but it’s the truth – I of course got use to daily life on my own with the baby pretty quickly, but however taboo it may be for me to say this, I felt lonely.
I loved having my husband at home with us, and i missed him being there every day. His a great dad, and having him home in the evenings and days off were the best times for me, i had an adult to talk to, and it was also a chance for me to take an hour or so for myself. Without him, i had this little person solely relying on me for everything, and of course I couldn’t do more for him. When he was awake and demanded all of my attention it was exhausting at times, but mostly joyful. When he was asleep, I actually missed him, I know I sound crazy, but I guess the demands of a baby kept me distracted from feeling alone. I don’t know how single parents cope with this, all i can say is i salute you.
My feeling of loneliness mostly came from the fact that I moved from the area in which I grew up, to an area about an hour drive away, leaving my family and friends behind. I made the move when I got married a couple of years before I had my son, but being only 20 odd miles away didn’t really feel like a big deal before having my son. It’s not really that far, so i didn’t really make the time to make new friends. I mean it’s not like I moved to the other side of the world, but after having my son I really felt the distance. It was no longer a matter of just popping around for a cuppa and a chat for an hour or so with my friends, especially now with a baby, merely leaving the house felt like a big event.
When my son was only a few months old, the feeling of loneliness really played with my mental health. I had no friends nearby, and generally I knew nobody that would be around during the day. My in-laws are about 30 mins drive away from my house, and of course they came to see me and help me in the day when they could. My family and friends also came when they could, and cousins who live not too far from me came over every school holiday and some weekends. All were appreciated, and having them around was a true comfort.
Some days I just couldn’t shift that horrible lonely feeling. I felt particularly lonely on the days that my husband worked late shifts, he would leave for work around noon and work until 10:30pm, so basically, I was on my own all day with the baby. I mean I wasn’t stuck indoors all day, and I took my son out to the park where I spoke with other parents, and took him soft play etc. I thought about going to mummy and baby groups to meet some other new mums in my area, but they always started so early and I never made it on time, not to mention I was anxious as I heard those places can be quite clicky.
I found myself extremely emotional some days (especially those when I never made it out of the front door) and blaming my husband for leaving me alone, thinking “how dare he go to work and leave me on my own all day”. I was constantly relying on him to keep me company, and feeling angry when he had plans to go out, but my feelings and thoughts were completely clouded and irrational. I needed to get out of this unhealthy mindset, and I needed to stop putting pressure and blaming my husband for something that wasn’t even his fault.
Mentally, I came to breaking point and enough was enough, I didn’t want to be stuck in this lonely sad rut anymore. I didn’t want to keep relying on my husband and making him feel bad for having to go to work, or for occasionally making time for his friends and not staying at home with me and the baby.
I didn’t know what to do, and I struggled for months. I wanted to be able to go out in the day with my son without it feeling like a big event. I wanted to be able to go and see my family and friends, and importantly I wanted time for date nights with my hubby.
Some of the struggle came from my husband and I sharing a car, but as I was on maternity, financially it didn’t make sense to pay out for a second car. In hindsight I wish we did a short-term rental. With the baby, it was difficult to make journey’s longer than 20 to 30 minutes on public transport for me. Without wanting to sound like a princess, I really didn’t want to travel too far on public transport; in London, I’d be lucky to even get on the first bus that came along, as there were always other mums taking up the two available buggy spaces.
My husband and I discussed options that wouldn’t impact us financially, and we came to an arrangement. On his late shift, we agreed that I would have the car for the day. Honestly, I felt so much relief, I dropped him off to work, and drove to see my family and friends for the day, then I would pick him up in the evening. This new routine definitely helped my mental state and relieved me from those long lonely days at home, which even a walk in the park couldn’t help. It was also a perfect excuse for a weekly visit to see my sister and new baby niece. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all about being able to escape the same four walls i saw everyday, but as my loneliness stemmed from not having my family and friends nearby, this was my solution.
My husband also encouraged me to have “a night off” and to go out with my friends, and we also tried to make time for date nights. I exclusively breastfed my son, and I really struggled with the whole pumping thing, so I found it hard to be away for more than two hours, but on occasion those couple of hours away (all the while missing my baby boy), gave me some recovery time, which is extremely important.
Overall during my maternity leave it was very clear to me that although babies (and children in general) can keep us busy and distracted, it’s easy to feel lonely and isolated, particularly when you are a new mum and finding your feet. For any parent feeling lonely, my advice would be to find activities you and your baby can enjoy in the day (this doesn’t have to mean leaving the house, which I know is not always easy), and also find time for yourself, see your friends, and reconnect with your partner. Recovery time is important.
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