Maternity leave is not always a walk in the park, pushing a stroller on a sunny day. Sometimes it's sitting at home with the curtains pulled, feeding your baby and wondering if your old co-workers are all out at lunch together.
It's common to feel lonely during this time of transition. But for some, adjusting to maternity leave is even lonelier and harder than they imagined.
In fact, according to a poll conducted for BBC Radio 5 live by ComRes in the U.K., 47% of women felt lonely while on maternity leave. But that's not all the study of just over 1,000 women discovered.
While loneliness was felt by almost half of the respondents, 27% also said they didn't enjoy maternity leave as much as they thought they would. How unpleasant was maternity leave for some? Well, two out of five women missed their jobs and going to work, and one out of five wished they went back to work sooner.
New research also out of the U.K. shows that a staggering 82% of moms under 30 feel lonely some of the time while more than four in 10 (43%) are lonely often or always. And it's worse for younger moms; those between 18 to 25 are often or always lonely compared with 37% of those 26 through 30.
So, we know not all mamas are enjoying their maternity leave, but why is it so hard sometimes?
This U.K study revealed that more than 80% of mums under 30 say they meet their friends less often after having their child. It makes sense that someone would feel lonely when they suddenly don't have a job to go to, aren't seeing their friends anymore and are home alone with their beautiful baby all day.
But it won't be like that forever, according to Angela Anagnost-Repke, who previously wrote for Motherly about her experiences. Initially lonely and overwhelmed, Angela wasn't sure how to overcome her feelings of despair.
"After a few months of staying home with my two small children, sorrow began to creep into me. My life began to feel like it was stuck on repeat. I'd wake up, perform mundane chore after mundane chore, and play pretend Little People with the kids," she wrote of her personal experiences.
But by reaching out to her husband and letting him know how she felt, she felt a burden lift off her shoulders. Soon, with his encouragement, she was able to find herself again.
"I started graduate school, began typing stories on my laptop, and trained for a half marathon. Slowly, the loneliness faded and my vivacity sprang back into me. I became a happier mother."
Besides confiding to loved ones, making friends with other moms is a huge help for getting over the maternity leave blues. It's not always easy, but worth the effort, noted Mellisa Skolnick, who detailed her experiences in the past.
"You keep looking though. She's out there. Just like that one true friend you had in high school. Just like a unicorn riding on a rainbow. That elusive four-leaf clover. If you kiss enough frogs you will be rewarded. And when it happens, it's like fireworks on the Fourth of July. Time stops and a theme song begins to play in the background of your life. That's when the wooing begins," Skolnick said.
Last month, the British government appointed a Minister for Loneliness. The new role was created to look at strategies for dealing with what health professionals around the world are calling an "epidemic" of isolation and disconnection—an issue widely attributed to an aging population and rising rates of people choosing to live alone in countries like the United Kingdom, United States and Canada.
While something similar hasn't popped up in North America quite yet (though there should be as loneliness is a societal problem that is as dangerous as obesity some say) there are still ways to reach out and tackle those lonely days.
1. Mama needs mama friends. Sometimes making friends with other moms is harder than it sounds but a great way to make new friends is to just strike up a conversation at the local park, your next yoga class or even online in a local mom group chat. Don't be shy! There's thousands of other moms out there going through the same thing as you.
2. Schedule some YOU time. Newborns take a lot of time and energy and it's easy to become overtired and overwhelmed so it's important to look after yourself, too. Whether it's a walk in the park sans stroller, a bubble bath or yoga and meditation, don't forget to set some time aside to collect your thoughts. According to psychologist Dr. Christina Hibbert, this alone time should be to unwind, relax, rest, and revive mama, (not complete your to-do list).
3. Confide in someone you love. Whether it's your partner, your parents, your siblings or your best friend, it's important to open up about your experiences when transitioning into motherhood and remember; you're never alone!
You might also like:
- Dear new mama: You won't feel this lonely forever
- Sometimes motherhood can feel really lonely
- To the mother who feels lonely right now—it won't be like this forever