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The Loneliness Trap

1
The Post That Wouldn’t Quit
I’ve had this post rattling around in my brain for a few weeks now, but I’ve had some reservations about whether it’s the right time to write it…

After all, no-one likes a moaner, do they?

Still, over the last week or so paragraphs kept formulating, words kept bouncing about, and I kept coming back to it. And it feels like it needs to be said.

You see, way before I began blogging myself I read A LOT of Mum blogs. I felt comforted by those more honest, rough-around-the-edges accounts of motherhood. Those

SelfishMother.com
2
blogs which brought the mediocrity, the frustration and the loneliness of parenting into the fore without eliciting guilt for not feeling grateful (#blessed ) 24 hours a day.

These were the posts that helped me navigate loneliness, motherhood and anxiety when I was at a bit of a loss.

 
The Norm
Now, of course I am grateful – so very very grateful – for my beautiful, healthy, happy kids. I may not spell it out much – for me it is implicit in my role as Mum. My kids are at the core of my beating heart and they make my soul complete. So

SelfishMother.com
3
lets not fanny about with this. It’s a given, ok?

But what I have come to realise is that, for me – as it is for the vast majority of mothers – there are times when we are stifled. When we feel like we can’t breathe.

When we are penned in from all sides by the needs and wants of our families, our kids, our partners, and the expectation that we are on tap for everyone. All the time.

We feel touched out and suffocated, and we pine for a moment’s peace, or just a few hours freedom, to feel like ours old selves again, just for a little

SelfishMother.com
4
while.

And when we read, with tired eyes, those posts extolling the unbridled joy of parenthood – the shiny images of familial perfection from all those Instamums, that sodding piece that does the rounds on Facebook about how ‘You Only Have 18 Summers’ (Really Linda?… Thanks for pointing that out, I must re-think my whole approach to life in general now I know that my children will evaporate once they reach voting age) we feel just that bit more crumpled, deflated, guilty and isolated.

 
It Takes A Village… (In An Ideal

SelfishMother.com
5
World)
There is a lot of talk about why motherhood seems so hard these days. Mostly, the conclusions that we come to all boil down to the whole ‘it takes a village’ thing.

Back in the day, not so long ago, children were generally raised around family, both immediate and extended, within a local community. There were many hands on hand, shoulders to cry on, and tables at which to sit and share the highs and lows of the rollercoaster that is child-rearing.

Nowadays, much of society doesn’t work this way. Lots of us are raising children in a

SelfishMother.com
6
far more fractured, dislocated social environment. And it can be a lonely old time.

Unless we are one of the lucky ones, surrounded locally by old friends or perhaps siblings who became Mums at a similar time, we can easily find ourselves surrounded by kids and chaos, complete with that claustrophobic yearning for freedom and a moment’s peace and quiet, and yet feel heartsick and alone, for lack of our own tribe.

 
Each To Their Own
I am a Mum with three young children. I freelance around what scant childcare arrangements I can afford.

SelfishMother.com
7
Life is busy. It’s chaotic and tiring, and sometimes stressful.

Sometimes it’s wonderful. But it’s always, always, busy.

Fundamentally, life gets in the way. Curveballs get thrown. You might have a new baby. Your kids might get ill, or not sleep for months on end, leaving you exhausted and demotivated.

It’s hard, and many friendships fall by the wayside. We get wrapped up in getting the day-to-day done as life flies right past us.

Our social lives can reduce down to play-dates and interrupted chats over tepid coffee whilst trying to

SelfishMother.com
8
ignore our kids trashing the house or killing each other. Our adult interactions minimised to fleeting chats at the school gates before we’re swept back up into the furore of the day’s chores.

I think it’s possibly the hardest time of our lives in which to sustain our existing relationships, let alone cultivate friendships that are meaningful and sustainable over time.

 
The Brain’s Very Own Social Sabotage Strategy
Considering all these hurdles put in front of us during our prime motherhood years, it seems so unfair that it’s also

SelfishMother.com
9
the peak time at which a Mum’s mental health is most likely to suffer.

The pressure of motherhood often causes anxiety and other mental health problems to bloom, often exacerbated by common themes – PND, exhaustion, low self esteem, baby loss and battered self image to name but a few.

Whatever the reason, it’s estimated that 1 in 3 mothers struggle with mental health issues.  And sadly this only serves to make us more isolated. Personally, I struggle with social anxiety and GAD (generalised anxiety disorder), bouts of depression, and a

SelfishMother.com
10
little bit of OCD frosting on top. And sometimes it can be really shitty.

My friendship groups of old have by and large disbanded. Scattered around the UK, some further afield. But in truth, I struggle to maintain contact with everyone, even those few who live within a few miles of me.

Hand on heart I can tell you that I am desperate to keep things going, but when my plans aren’t squashed by my kids getting sick, or my childcare falling through, my weird brain often sabotages my social life.

I make lovely plans to go out, but then as the night

SelfishMother.com
11
approaches it brings with it a sense of dread. I begin to feel sick. I start thinking about how things might go wrong, how I might feel awkward or uncomfortable and be trapped and unable to leave.

Sometimes I have intrusive thoughts. I might start to obsess about getting hurt whilst I’m out. Mostly though, I obsess about something awful happening at home in my absence. My toddler choking. My eldest falling down the stairs and breaking her neck. My five year old climbing out of his bedroom window and tumbling to the ground below.

As much as I

SelfishMother.com
12
fight against it by telling myself I’m being silly, or try to stop myself thinking these horrible, frightening things, I feel powerless and unable to control it, and these ideas grow and grow until they feel like an inevitability which only I can stop.

I usually end up cancelling.

I inevitably regret it afterwards.

I’ve missed out on seeing my friends. I’ve let them down again, and I feel sad, and guilty and more alone than ever.

And I know that it’s my own damn fault.

 
 Understandably…
Over the past few years, my social

SelfishMother.com
13
life has diminished like a handful of sand falling through my fingers.

As much as I might not like to admit it, most of my friendships have suffered, even the strongest, longest serving ones. Days become weeks and weeks become months. And sadly, sometimes months become years until those relationships fade into obscurity.

It’s understandable that, over time, even the most tolerant and understanding of friends begin to lose patience. After all – even the best of us would begin to waver, when wave after wave of invitation gets rebuffed. How

SelfishMother.com
14
would they know how much they mean to me if I’m always blowing them out?

Not exactly dependable really, is it? Not exactly a model of ideal friendship. I can’t exactly say “I’m always here for you” when from time to time I disappear into a hole with zero explanation.

So how to I mend this?

 
Can You Avoid The Loneliness Trap?
I know there are other Mums out there (like you, perhaps? After all, here you are, still reading…) who are struggling with feelings of isolation, struggling to keep their dwindling social lives afloat.

SelfishMother.com
15
Who have this added dimension to negotiate in their attempts to revive their friendships before they fade away.

If you are an anxious Mum, avoiding the loneliness trap sometimes seems hopeless and impossible. But I still believe we can help ourselves to beat it. I’ve given it a lot of thought lately.

What works for me might not work for you, obvs. But, that said, here are some of the things I think I can do to take back some control. Whether you follow my lead or these just provide you with some inspiration, I’m hoping you’ll find these

SelfishMother.com
16
helpful too…
1.) Reach Out To Your Friends
Even if it’s been a while.

Don’t try to arrange something you won’t be able to stick to if you’re struggling, ask them over for a cuppa. Arrange something that you know you’ll be comfortable with.

Make the effort, rather than waiting for them to contact you.
2.) Talk To Your Friends About Your Mental Health 
I realised fairly recently, that I hadn’t really truly discussed my behaviour directly with any of my friends in much detail. Mainly because everyone just sort of accepted that I had

SelfishMother.com
17
a habit of going AWOL at pre-arranged do’s, and it just became easy to let it slide.

When I started thinking about it from their perspective I was struck by how hurtful my absences might seem in the absence of a proper explanation, and I understood that I really do owe them that.
3.)  Take Ownership
Yes, it can be really hard, but your actions are still your actions, and you are still accountable for them.

I know I need to own up. To say sorry, and to make a promise to be honest about my reasons for breaking plans in the future.

Owning your

SelfishMother.com
18
behaviour and it’s consequences is often the first step in taking control of your mental health problems. Even if it’s hard to start the conversation, it’s one you have to have.
4.) Tell Your Friends What They Mean To You
… And tell them that you get it. Tell them that you understand how hard it must be to keep being around for someone who hasn’t always reciprocated. Tell them that you do think about them, you do miss them, and you’re grateful for them.

And thank them for being there.

 
And That’s It
I wish I could tie this

SelfishMother.com
19
all up neatly. Provide a convenient catch-all solution. Some sort of advice for anxious Mums to help them conquer this once and for all – to get back out there, find their tribes and get back to ‘normal’. But in truth there’s no such thing.

Ultimately what it all boils down to it this:

Keep trying. Keep talking. Own your actions and try get yourself out there. Small steps are better than none.

And if you stumble across the magic recipe to fix it all in one fell swoop, let me know xx
~~~
If you liked this blog, why not check out some of

SelfishMother.com
20
my other shizzle here – it’s not all serious stuff, some of it is funny and some of it’s (probably) quite useful. You might find this one resonates a bit if you’re finding things tough at the moment.

Also how about you join The Mum Conundrum facebook group? It’s full of lovely down to earth Mums and I share whatever funny and interesting bits of the Internet I stumble across.. My Facebook page has lots of cool stuff on it too …A like and a follow is always welcome, you know ;0)

I’m also on twitter quite a bit, so do say hello

SelfishMother.com
21
if that’s your bag.

You can also email me if you’ve got an idea for something you’d like me to write about, or if you’d like to work with me. Feel free to hit me up here.

Oh, and Pinterest, and Instagram … lest we forget x

SelfishMother.com
Kate Evans

By

This blog was originally posted on SelfishMother.com - why not sign up & share what's on your mind, too?

Why not write for Selfish Mother, too? You can sign up for free and post immediately.


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- 12 Sep 18

The Post That Wouldn’t Quit

I’ve had this post rattling around in my brain for a few weeks now, but I’ve had some reservations about whether it’s the right time to write it…

After all, no-one likes a moaner, do they?

Still, over the last week or so paragraphs kept formulating, words kept bouncing about, and I kept coming back to it. And it feels like it needs to be said.

You see, way before I began blogging myself I read A LOT of Mum blogs. I felt comforted by those more honest, rough-around-the-edges accounts of motherhood. Those blogs which brought the mediocrity, the frustration and the loneliness of parenting into the fore without eliciting guilt for not feeling grateful (#blessed ) 24 hours a day.

These were the posts that helped me navigate loneliness, motherhood and anxiety when I was at a bit of a loss.

 

The Norm

Now, of course I am grateful – so very very grateful – for my beautiful, healthy, happy kids. I may not spell it out much – for me it is implicit in my role as Mum. My kids are at the core of my beating heart and they make my soul complete. So lets not fanny about with this. It’s a given, ok?

But what I have come to realise is that, for me – as it is for the vast majority of mothers – there are times when we are stifled. When we feel like we can’t breathe.

When we are penned in from all sides by the needs and wants of our families, our kids, our partners, and the expectation that we are on tap for everyone. All the time.

We feel touched out and suffocated, and we pine for a moment’s peace, or just a few hours freedom, to feel like ours old selves again, just for a little while.

And when we read, with tired eyes, those posts extolling the unbridled joy of parenthood – the shiny images of familial perfection from all those Instamums, that sodding piece that does the rounds on Facebook about how ‘You Only Have 18 Summers’ (Really Linda?… Thanks for pointing that out, I must re-think my whole approach to life in general now I know that my children will evaporate once they reach voting age) we feel just that bit more crumpled, deflated, guilty and isolated.

 

It Takes A Village… (In An Ideal World)

There is a lot of talk about why motherhood seems so hard these days. Mostly, the conclusions that we come to all boil down to the whole ‘it takes a village’ thing.

Back in the day, not so long ago, children were generally raised around family, both immediate and extended, within a local community. There were many hands on hand, shoulders to cry on, and tables at which to sit and share the highs and lows of the rollercoaster that is child-rearing.

Nowadays, much of society doesn’t work this way. Lots of us are raising children in a far more fractured, dislocated social environment. And it can be a lonely old time.

Unless we are one of the lucky ones, surrounded locally by old friends or perhaps siblings who became Mums at a similar time, we can easily find ourselves surrounded by kids and chaos, complete with that claustrophobic yearning for freedom and a moment’s peace and quiet, and yet feel heartsick and alone, for lack of our own tribe.

 

Each To Their Own

I am a Mum with three young children. I freelance around what scant childcare arrangements I can afford. Life is busy. It’s chaotic and tiring, and sometimes stressful.

Sometimes it’s wonderful. But it’s always, always, busy.

Fundamentally, life gets in the way. Curveballs get thrown. You might have a new baby. Your kids might get ill, or not sleep for months on end, leaving you exhausted and demotivated.

It’s hard, and many friendships fall by the wayside. We get wrapped up in getting the day-to-day done as life flies right past us.

Our social lives can reduce down to play-dates and interrupted chats over tepid coffee whilst trying to ignore our kids trashing the house or killing each other. Our adult interactions minimised to fleeting chats at the school gates before we’re swept back up into the furore of the day’s chores.

I think it’s possibly the hardest time of our lives in which to sustain our existing relationships, let alone cultivate friendships that are meaningful and sustainable over time.

 

The Brain’s Very Own Social Sabotage Strategy

Considering all these hurdles put in front of us during our prime motherhood years, it seems so unfair that it’s also the peak time at which a Mum’s mental health is most likely to suffer.

The pressure of motherhood often causes anxiety and other mental health problems to bloom, often exacerbated by common themes – PND, exhaustion, low self esteem, baby loss and battered self image to name but a few.

Whatever the reason, it’s estimated that 1 in 3 mothers struggle with mental health issues.  And sadly this only serves to make us more isolated. Personally, I struggle with social anxiety and GAD (generalised anxiety disorder), bouts of depression, and a little bit of OCD frosting on top. And sometimes it can be really shitty.

My friendship groups of old have by and large disbanded. Scattered around the UK, some further afield. But in truth, I struggle to maintain contact with everyone, even those few who live within a few miles of me.

Hand on heart I can tell you that I am desperate to keep things going, but when my plans aren’t squashed by my kids getting sick, or my childcare falling through, my weird brain often sabotages my social life.

I make lovely plans to go out, but then as the night approaches it brings with it a sense of dread. I begin to feel sick. I start thinking about how things might go wrong, how I might feel awkward or uncomfortable and be trapped and unable to leave.

Sometimes I have intrusive thoughts. I might start to obsess about getting hurt whilst I’m out. Mostly though, I obsess about something awful happening at home in my absence. My toddler choking. My eldest falling down the stairs and breaking her neck. My five year old climbing out of his bedroom window and tumbling to the ground below.

As much as I fight against it by telling myself I’m being silly, or try to stop myself thinking these horrible, frightening things, I feel powerless and unable to control it, and these ideas grow and grow until they feel like an inevitability which only I can stop.

I usually end up cancelling.

I inevitably regret it afterwards.

I’ve missed out on seeing my friends. I’ve let them down again, and I feel sad, and guilty and more alone than ever.

And I know that it’s my own damn fault.

 

 Understandably…

Over the past few years, my social life has diminished like a handful of sand falling through my fingers.

As much as I might not like to admit it, most of my friendships have suffered, even the strongest, longest serving ones. Days become weeks and weeks become months. And sadly, sometimes months become years until those relationships fade into obscurity.

It’s understandable that, over time, even the most tolerant and understanding of friends begin to lose patience. After all – even the best of us would begin to waver, when wave after wave of invitation gets rebuffed. How would they know how much they mean to me if I’m always blowing them out?

Not exactly dependable really, is it? Not exactly a model of ideal friendship. I can’t exactly say “I’m always here for you” when from time to time I disappear into a hole with zero explanation.

So how to I mend this?

 

Can You Avoid The Loneliness Trap?

I know there are other Mums out there (like you, perhaps? After all, here you are, still reading…) who are struggling with feelings of isolation, struggling to keep their dwindling social lives afloat. Who have this added dimension to negotiate in their attempts to revive their friendships before they fade away.

If you are an anxious Mum, avoiding the loneliness trap sometimes seems hopeless and impossible. But I still believe we can help ourselves to beat it. I’ve given it a lot of thought lately.

What works for me might not work for you, obvs. But, that said, here are some of the things I think I can do to take back some control. Whether you follow my lead or these just provide you with some inspiration, I’m hoping you’ll find these helpful too…

1.) Reach Out To Your Friends

Even if it’s been a while.

Don’t try to arrange something you won’t be able to stick to if you’re struggling, ask them over for a cuppa. Arrange something that you know you’ll be comfortable with.

Make the effort, rather than waiting for them to contact you.

2.) Talk To Your Friends About Your Mental Health 

I realised fairly recently, that I hadn’t really truly discussed my behaviour directly with any of my friends in much detail. Mainly because everyone just sort of accepted that I had a habit of going AWOL at pre-arranged do’s, and it just became easy to let it slide.

When I started thinking about it from their perspective I was struck by how hurtful my absences might seem in the absence of a proper explanation, and I understood that I really do owe them that.

3.)  Take Ownership

Yes, it can be really hard, but your actions are still your actions, and you are still accountable for them.

I know I need to own up. To say sorry, and to make a promise to be honest about my reasons for breaking plans in the future.

Owning your behaviour and it’s consequences is often the first step in taking control of your mental health problems. Even if it’s hard to start the conversation, it’s one you have to have.

4.) Tell Your Friends What They Mean To You

… And tell them that you get it. Tell them that you understand how hard it must be to keep being around for someone who hasn’t always reciprocated. Tell them that you do think about them, you do miss them, and you’re grateful for them.

And thank them for being there.

 

And That’s It

I wish I could tie this all up neatly. Provide a convenient catch-all solution. Some sort of advice for anxious Mums to help them conquer this once and for all – to get back out there, find their tribes and get back to ‘normal’. But in truth there’s no such thing.

Ultimately what it all boils down to it this:

Keep trying. Keep talking. Own your actions and try get yourself out there. Small steps are better than none.

And if you stumble across the magic recipe to fix it all in one fell swoop, let me know xx

~~~

If you liked this blog, why not check out some of my other shizzle here – it’s not all serious stuff, some of it is funny and some of it’s (probably) quite useful. You might find this one resonates a bit if you’re finding things tough at the moment.

Also how about you join The Mum Conundrum facebook group? It’s full of lovely down to earth Mums and I share whatever funny and interesting bits of the Internet I stumble across.. My Facebook page has lots of cool stuff on it too …A like and a follow is always welcome, you know ;0)

I’m also on twitter quite a bit, so do say hello if that’s your bag.

You can also email me if you’ve got an idea for something you’d like me to write about, or if you’d like to work with me. Feel free to hit me up here.

Oh, and Pinterest, and Instagram … lest we forget x

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