The Secret Isolation of Motherhood: Is Social Media Harmful or Helpful?

VintageHousewifeCookingThe first year of my sons life way perhaps the hardest year of my adult life. I felt so trapped.

Isolated.

Lonely in the world of being a mom.

I expected that the infant care, feeding, sleep and time challenges would be something to prepare for, but I NEVER expected the dramatic separation between myself and the real world. At work as a nanny I frequented the school I once worked at; I was able to socialize with the community that I had known and loved before my baby, I felt human 4 days a week. Then coming home I was alone again; eating dinner alone with my son before my husband arrived after his bedtime. The weekends were the worst because my husband worked and I knew that the world was out having fun and I was stuck in my house alone.

Sounds awful right? Well, that has changed thanks to our move to Portland. We took a HUGE leap of faith in moving here with just 2 months to find new jobs and a new house. We were blessed and made the transition with more ease than we imagined. Now we have community in our church, community with my meetup group and a best friend neighbor that I often refer to as my sister when not thinking. With my friend and her family as well as my church, I have this comforting feeling that I always have a soft place to land if I fall and people I trust to help when we are in need. I also have purpose now, I have people that I can offer help too and as someone who lives to serve, this is a huge blessing.

In a community we not only find peace and joy in others support but in our ability to help others.

So what changed? Why couldn’t I do this is Seattle? Well, Seattle never felt like home, we never set roots. Here, we will stay and having roots gives us wings to fly! It’s not easy though. It takes a great deal of effort to get out of my comfort zone and be social and interactive in the world. I just need people around while I do the repetitive, mundane day to day tasks and this is the challenge these days. I have this vision of making my life like what I perceive a 50’s housewife’s life would be; chatting to one another while they hang laundry in their backyards, and walking across the street to Verna’s or Lois’s just to gossip about the hot news on the street or sipping lemonade together while all the kids play in the sprinkler. I’m nostalgic for a dream that I have never experienced in this lifetime and likely never will. But I am always trying to build towards bringing this back.

People have lost the sense of community and comfort of friends and family in our homes and social media has moved in in their place. Now that daily community has become rare and we aren’t quite realizing the devastating loss this is and social media has become the band-aid. While social media does provide a little bit of social time it doesn’t actually give us the real quality time we need with other human beings. It also creates addictions to the devices that can put a wedge between us and our children. It’s like the cough syrup we take to survive the day when all we really need is rest…we can tap a little into this medicine but the cure will never be found there. There is still the actual problem that must be solved, but in the meantime, sometimes a little Facebook is sadly just what an isolated and lonely mom needs and I think there’s no harm in this as long as we are VERY mindful of the balance between real life with our families and children we spend our days with, and the artificial world that can wait. We’ve all gone inside and turned to the world of social media. I love this crutch, but am always waiting and hoping for the change. Waiting for old-fashioned dream to come true.

So how DO you beat the isolation and head out to the real world?

Meetup.com – I run my own free meet-up group right here in Portland. There are SO many groups everywhere that you can connect with and head out to meet other moms.

Local Moms Groups – Going to parent support groups, play groups, music performances, art classes, etc. etc. can be a great way to meet other new moms. A Google search in your area can help you find these. You can even search for philosophy specific groups from attachment parenting to baby-wise; it’s all out there for you.

Baby Feeding Groups – Fearless Formula Feeders has many resources to search for groups in your area that offer support for bottle feeding. Le Leche League is a place to hang out and socialize while addressing breastfeeding issues and you can search on their site for groups near you.

Church – This can be a great place to build a community and even help others. If you are wary of the religion side of it, search around for a group that might suit you best. Unitarian Churches are non-denomination and I’ve always found to be very welcoming. Or if you live in Portland, you can always come to my church: The Oregon Community. ;)

If YOU have ideas for more groups for parents, please leave a comment with ink.

The main thing to remember when feeling isolated as a mom is that you are NOT alone. There are many, many moms that feel the same way. So on the random Tuesday on the rainy June day when you feel you are by yourself on the island of motherhood, remember that we are all there with you, waiting to reach out to the world and reclaim a sense of community.

Boredom: The Secret to Creativity and Problem Solving.

As a Kindergarten Teacher I often heard the phrase uttered from a little mouth: I’m bored! Now I would think to myself, what is the best way to meet these little ones needs? Boredom may be taken as the essential human condition, to which God, wisdom, or morality are the ultimate answers. Boredom is in fact taken in this sense by virtually all existentialist philosophers. What a great mind space to be in! As adults, we find instant ‘cures’ to our boredom in TV, computers, tablets, and smart phones. It is so easy to quell this discomfort for us. But with children with minds full of creative thought just waiting to bloom, being bored is the empty space to which they can fill with ripe, juicy imagination!

But how does one get from point A to point B? Through work!

~When the children come calling to you for their answers to boredom, we can wait and remain occupied with our own good work. “Yes dear let me finish my sewing, dishes, sweeping, laundry, etc; then we may do something together,” is a perfectly acceptable answer to this. Then take another 10-20 minutes to fully immerse yourself in some good work. More often than not, the children will find something to do on their own; something far more rich and imaginative than our own limited grown-up minds could have thought up. If after that time, they are still in need of your attention, then stop what you are doing and really spend some good quality time with them. Once they have this quality time, then they may feel free to go and spend time to themselves immersed in their own imaginative world.

Here is a great NPR post relating to this topic and including more benefits of play for children.

36 Things You DON’T Need as a New Parent and 36 Qualities You Do

I saw this article on BuzzFeed listing 36 new and ingenious products that you’ll want as a new parent. All I could think was how silly this was, how these are just 36 things that get in the way of real connection. Admittedly there were a few great idea, like the mailbox and the sidecar co-sleeper, but I’ll pass on the rest! When becoming a new parent we are trained to think we NEED STUFF to make it easier. This could not be farther from the truth; it is not the gathering of stuff that will prepare us for parenting, it’s the gathering of qualities within ourselves.

So skip the trip to the mall to buy those few last items that you have been convinced you need and start preparing to fill you basket with these 36 QUALITIES you will need as a parent.

1. Patience

2. Understanding

3. Joy for the little things

4. A sense of perspective

5. A sense of calm

6. Silliness

7. The ability to laugh at yourself for all of the mistakes you (and ALL of us) make.

8. Gentleness

9. Faithfulness

10. The ability to make tough decisions.

11. An openness to drastic changes

12. More patience

13. Humility

14. Tough skin against the criticism of others

15. Empathy for your child

16. A Lightness of Heart

17. Support for your partner

18. Conviction

19. Forgiveness

20. Self-awareness

21. Perseverance (this is a LONG road you are embarking on!)

22. Courage

23. Honesty

24. Gratitude for every moment, for everything you are blessed with.

25. Contentment

26. Generosity

27. Confidence

28. Attentiveness

29. Enthusiasm

30. Optimism

31. Creativity

32. Respect for other Parents; it’s hard work and they don’t need your judgement to make it harder.

33. Respect for your Child

34. Respect for your Partner

35. Respect for yourself

36. Unconditional love

You DO NOT need to be all of these things, of course not. But when we strive to be better people our children recognize this and this striving will be one of the best qualities you can pass onto them.