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.

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“I’m Sorry I’m Grumpy:” Said the Mother to Her Baby

536659_3672287278117_866605873_nWhen we think of grumpiness and fussiness, we usually think of little children. Being a Mom or Dad is very hard work and on top of that work we are often sleep deprived and emotionally exhausted, sometimes even depressed. On our best days we are great parents who play with our children, laugh at everything and pour love out all over the place. Then there are the other days, the days that you just want to end. The day that your child woke up 50 million times at night, or the day that you threw out your back or have a head cold. How can it be that as parents we are expected to be nice and happy and fair and never take anything personally every single day? Well, I think we are human and absolutely never perfect. These are the days that we snap at our kids or roll our eyes when they throw fits or cry. The days that we refuse to play and we beg for that unconditional love we have in there somewhere. These are the days that the apoligies pour out.

“Mommy is grumpy, I am sorry.”

“It’s not you, I’m having a bad day.”

“It was wrong for me to yell at you, I’m sorry.”

“Mommy just doesn’t feel like playing ball right now, can we just cuddle or read instead?”

These are phrases that I have said when I am just being a plain old jerk to my kid; I mean just grumpy and not at all fun. If we are having emotions as adults, they know, they can feel it and I want to make sure to acknowledge that it is MY emotion and not theirs to worry about. I can’t possibly make myself a perfect Mom, never ever. But I CAN show my children that I am a self-aware Mom who will recognize when I am making a situation worse by lashing out emotionally instead of communicating my feelings. Some people say not to over talk about your own feelings with your kids and some people encourage this practice. My husband and I both agree that we want our children to live in a house where we openly express and discuss our feelings; I believe this relationship starts in infancy. These children are little angels and when they are having a hard day, it’s up to us to help them through it. In our house we take this one step further; we tell our son that “we take care of each other ” (it’s almost our family motto). This means that if myself or my husband are feeling “off” we will include our son and ask him to give hugs or even give space. It amazes me how he seems to understand this and on numerous occasions he has shown empathy beyond his years (though this is rare and more often he throws fits over everything, as toddlers do).  My short term hope is that my son will simply hear me apologize and perhaps forgive me for being grumpy with him. My long term hope is that any children I may have will be emotionally aware and capable of forgiveness.

If you have any helpful links about  this topic I would be happy to see them. I would also love to hear your thoughts on the matter. How would you talk to your kids about your feelings?