Friends Cure Stay-at-Home Blues

hands for mothers & othersBY KATHY P. BEHAN

I was prepared for a lot about motherhood. I knew it would be hard, but very rewarding. I knew that it was a 24-hour-a-day, seven day-a-week occupation, and that it would completely change my life. But there was one aspect of stay at-home motherhood that no one ever talked about, and that took me completely by surprise — how lonely it can be.

After my first child was born, I would get both of us fed, dressed and ready to go. But go where? Most of my friends were either working mothers, or childless career women. I, on the other hand, was held captive by a toothless, charming, demanding and at times, extremely unreasonable little dictator all day — and I thought I’d go out of my mind.

I would sit alone in my house and try to figure out how to fill the hours until my husband came home. I longed for adult conversation. I also desperately needed advice and support for my new lifestyle, and novice parenthood. But most of all, I was very lonely and embarrassed. to admit it, even to myself.

All those feelings came flooding back yesterday, as I talked with a new mother. I was watching my second son’s swimming lesson, and trying to coax my 17-month-old into sitting down for a change. In between chasing my daughter, and watching my son, I struck up a conversation with a young mother. She had just moved to town and was trying to adjust to a new community, a young baby, and stay-at-home motherhood.

I really enjoyed our talk — disjointed though it was by my constantly having to retrieve my little one. I admired this woman because she was off to a really good start. She had just joined a terrific organization called The Family Place (they sponsor weekly playgroups for young children and their mothers), and was checking out the Newcomers and health clubs, and various other places in town where she could meet people. Instead of sitting at home and brooding, she was out on the town, actively trying to plug herself into the community.

As for me, I also had a happy ending — or was it a beginning? After wallowing in misery for a while, I got hooked up with a friend of a friend’s mothers’ group. We met once a week, alternating at each other’s houses. This group was a godsend, and it was something I looked forward to all week. The women were upbeat, fun and honest about the ups and downs of parenthood. I honestly don’t know if I could have made it without them.

Seeing this new mother reminded me that loneliness isn’t something to be ashamed of. It’s only shameful if you don’t do anything about it. Use this emotion as a motivator. Make like a politician, and get out and meet people. Join — or form — a mother’s group. Reconnect with the women in your LaMaze class. “Pick up” nice mothers in the playground. For mothers of older kids, set up a coffee klatch with the moms of children in your youngster’s class.

My friends are one of my strongest support systems. They encourage and help me in so many ways. For starters, they remind me that I have a life apart from my kids. They also keep me sane, reminding me that messing up is as much a part of motherhood as cleaning up. But most importantly, they let me know that I’m not alone, we’re all in this together.

Now, I get by with a little help from my friends — and so can you.

Kathy P. Behan, a mother of three, is a nationally published freelance writer, specializing in health and family issues.

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