ZI8. It’s amazing how three little characters can produce so much stress and yet here I stand trying to focus on something else, anything else and I can’t get those three characters out of my mind. Deep breath, eyes closed. Nope, they are still there. ZI8. It’s been 8 minutes now, maybe I can relax. Nope. Neck is tightening up. Eyes closed again, try to listen, roll my head from side to side to try and release the tension. Deep breathe. Here it comes. 15 minutes. Maybe it won’t happen today.
There it is. I open my eyes just in time to catch the 8 scroll off the screen. I know what it is. Well, at least I can relax now. I know my fate. I stand there for just a moment longer to soak in this last moment. What is this intense standoff you ask? It’s just another morning at church.
I go grab the screaming baby from the nursery worker and do the little dance to get him calmed down and then head to the cry room to catch the rest of the worship music and Bible study. And as my son snacks and plays happily in that little soundproof booth I see it happen to someone else. And a few minutes later one more time. Each time I watch the mom gather her things and head towards the nursery. They know they aren’t coming back. And each one settles into a different spot where their child won’t bother anyone else and just maybe they can at least catch the gist of the message while juggling sippy cups, goldfish, and toys. And while we are with 150 other women gathered together, each of us is completely alone.
For any mom dealing with separation anxiety, you know exactly how this feels. Motherhood is the best thing that ever happened to me. But when I transitioned from working mom to stay at home mom, I was also surprised to find out just how lonely it would be. From the outside, stay at home moms seem to be surrounded by people all day. Never having to leave your kids, time for playdates and mom groups, Bible studies, and carpools sounds like the promised land compared to early morning commutes, daycare drop-off, 5 o’clock traffic, balancing bath time, homework time, dinner time and family time in just a few hours in the evening.
But full-time stay at home moms have the benefit and burden of being with your kids ALLLLLL the time. From the moment they wake in the morning to the last excuse to get out of bed one more time at night they are there. They create a barrier to any personal relationships. Not intentionally or maliciously of course but it’s still there. They are within earshot of every conversation. They dictate where you can go (thank you restaurants that still have play places). They require your focus. It’s almost like walking around in a fishbowl. You can see other people and sort of superficially communicate with them but there’s always a barrier there to making any real connection. When I went to work they may have been on my mind constantly but physically there was no barrier to connecting with people. I could have honest conversations. I could invest in other people. I could focus my attention. I could finish things (at the office anyway). Even if they were just co-workers or clients I could have real interactions with adult humans.
But when I left that world to be at home all the time I realized that I didn’t have any friends who lived in this world. And everyone I met already had friends and, being in their own little fish bowls, they really couldn’t add any new ones. So I was alone. More alone than I’ve ever been. Until one sweet mom reached out to me. She’d been in my shoes before and she knew what it was like to start over in a new place trying to build relationships with a baby on your hip and a toddler to wrangle. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to call her a friend and she probably has no idea what an impact she has made on my life.
So if you’re the mom who has lived through this phase of life, please don’t leave us. Yes we are going to be late sometimes because someone had a bathroom emergency as we were walking to the door, and yes we are gonna want to go to chick-fil-A every single time we meet up and yes we are gonna cancel on you last minute because someone woke up with a fever after being totally fine the day before, but we need you right now. We need you to see us and talk to us, not just about how big the kids are getting or what the newest baby trick is, but we need you to ask us how we are doing. What are we worrying about? What is making us feel like a failure? And don’t worry we don’t need you to fix it, or give advice, we just need to know that you felt the same way at some point. Like we aren’t alone.
And if you’re the mom right now who is feeling completely isolated even though you are surrounded by people all day, please know that you are not alone. It’s okay to want to connect with people and it’s okay to be sad when you aren’t able to. And if you’re still trying to find someone to connect with and just need to hear that we’ve been there and that it does get better. You can find us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and we’d love to chat with you. Not because we are therapists, or your new best friends, or have some course to sell you that will solve all your problems, but because we are moms who have felt alone and sometimes still do.