A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood
Print Friendly and PDF

I’m really lonely.


There. It’s out there. In public. For everyone to see.

It’s taken me a while to admit this but, I think if more moms said it out loud, if we admitted it, we’d be all be a lot better for it. See, the thing is, research shows that the number of Americans who report zero “close” friends has tripled in recent decades.

So, while junior naps, and you scroll through your Facebook feed reading endless articles about the top ten types of mom friends you need in your “tribe,” and editorial spreads about “ladies who lunch,” it’s really easy to get a general sense that there’s some kind of cool table that you aren’t sitting at. But the reality is that no one is at that table. In fact, there’s rarely anyone at lunch at all, at least not as often as they’re letting on.

I’m lonely and I have no friends.

It was about six months ago that I really started to think about this topic. I’d been through a bad episode of adult bullying. Yes, it’s a thing. I’m a grown-up woman, who was bullied by other grown-up women. I thought this wasn’t supposed to happen after high school, or even grade school.

As it turns out, I’m not alone. Google “women bullies,” or “mom bullies,” and you’ll find thousands of results about how to deal with women bullying other women in the workplace or, moms bullying other moms or even, moms bullying other children, of all things.

Experts suggest that, often, women who bully other women do so because they feel threatened. We’ve all seen it. In a group of women, everything seems fine, and then, as if overnight, one woman is singled out as a target of the group’s ire. Whatever is different about her makes her a target for dismissal from the group, through gossip, backbiting, and even open hostility.

Of course, women know that quiet, subtle insults are the bread and butter of a female bully. “Indirect relational aggression” is what Jill Webber, a psychologist who writes about mean girls, calls it.

For me, I wondered why play-dates were cancelled, why my everyone was always busy, and why my friends actually thought I couldn’t see them roll their eyes when I was speaking. I cried, and asked my husband why I went through not just one, but two, brain surgeries, without a phone call, a card, or even a text.

As it turned out, according to my bullies, I was no longer qualified to be their friend because I don’t go to church. Apparently, they still prayed for me. 

In my family’s life of military moves and constant relocations, making – and keeping – friends is a premium. So, losing friendships that we’d held onto for over a decade was a blow that I took especially hard. But, my being sad, or even my standing up for myself, was viewed as either mental illness or drama. Dr. Webber says that, when women become overwhelmed with sorting through the painful feelings that come with rejection and worthlessness, “drama” is like a scarlet letter, worn like a brand that makes us fearful of ever expressing future emotion.

The bullying episode was one of the worst experiences of my life. It made me question my entire sense of self. Because we place such a premium on our relationships with other women, we become “painfully self-critical when [we] feel unwanted by others,” says Dr. Webber. We see this premium reflected in sites like Scary Mommy, with an entire section devoted just to keeping, celebrating, and maintaining lady-friendships.

The whole thing made acutely aware that the size of our family’s social circle was was getting smaller just as he was getting bigger. Gone were the gaggles of giggling women sharing cheese crackers and laughs at the playground. Those days were being replaced by long, lonely, isolated afternoons on the couch, waiting for the carpool line, wondering how I could possibly be the only person who feels this way.

You’re lonely, and you don’t have any friends either.

It turns out that I’m not the only person who feels that way.

According to a 2003 Gallup study, Americans reported an average number of 8.6 friends. Additionally, more recent research shows that, because of the explosion of social media, our relationships have changed, and our methods for determining what constitutes a “relationship,” are vastly different.

A 2006 Cornell study of over 2,000 participants showed that roughly half indicated only one “close” relationship. One. Even more importantly, those participants who indicated that they had “no” close relationships were primarily women. 

Social media has changed our definition of “friend.” A 2006 study reported that fully 25% of Americans report having no one – that’s right, no one – to confide in. That’s down from three people in 1985, and two in 2004. Our friends are dropping like flies.

If, at best, we report having 8.6 friends, why do we have, on average, 338 Facebook friends? Remember when we chatted with other parents at our kids’ soccer games, instead of playing on our phones? Or, when we joined leagues and clubs? That’s how we used to make friends. We’ve lost that.

Corynn, a marketing professional, represents a category of moms (and dads) that are almost exclusively dependent on their spouse for social interaction, a group that’s grown from 5% to nearly 10% over a period of 15 years, and is likely bigger now. The same study found that those who depend exclusively on family is up from 57% to 80%.

Corynn says she socializes with her husband because, frankly, he’s her best friend. Furthermore, she says that she’s, “trying to do better and be more social,” because she, “knows it’s important. But between volunteering and trying to spend every second with my kid, who refuses to stay little, I can’t seem to find the time, or a reason.”

Duke University sociologist, Lynn Smith-Lovin, warns that despite the deep bond in these marital relationships, “if something happens to that spouse or partner, you may have lost your safety net.”

Virtual friends and online bullies.

In today’s technology-driven world, it’s impossible to deny the idea that moms turn to their phones and laptops when they’re home, when the baby is sleeping, when they’re bored, lonely, or just need someone to talk to. Moms find friendship in message boards, in reading groups, in chat rooms, and in Facebook friendships.

Virtual friends, and even analog friendships that were once lost but have been rekindled as a new (albeit less tangible) cyber version, offer solace and keep us company. Online friendships can be a positive force in a person’s life, and people certainly find acceptance and peace in the friendships cultivated online, possibly even beyond real-life connections.

Holly, a single mom raising a teen daughter, says that her online friendships have kept her grounded, reminding her of who she is, and giving her the confidence to be the parent she wants to be, despite outside pressures to be someone else. She says that, for her, “the Internet is truly magical,” and that her online girlfriends are “more supportive, more available, and less judgmental” than her real-life friends.

Even despite our online friendships, when we see a thousand images of laughing women at lunch, laughing women on girls’ getaway weekends, laughing women getting manicures, laughing women going shopping, we get the drift: we aren’t a laughing woman, and we’re definitely not at the spa.

It can be painful to bear witness to all that apparent fun. And it can make us feel as though we’re screwing up. Again. Not only are we screwing up the formula vs. breastfeeding thing, the gluten thing, and the red dye #5 thing, but we’re also screwing up our social lives by being the only mom with, what feels like, no real friends.

While chatrooms and message boards can be useful sources of information and virtual friendships, the can also be easily dominated by a few strong voices, drowning out those that are less vocal, but still have something to say. And being nameless, often faceless, voices gives people license to hide behind their screens and be cruel, vindictive, or even threatening.

The unscientific research.

I asked a small sample of five moms with vastly different characters, jobs, and backgrounds, how many “close,” friends they have. The answers I got ranged from zero to seven. I also asked how often they socialize with their friends. Their responses varied but for one factor: all of the women I asked gave an excuse, and apologized, for not socializing more, including the woman who claimed to socialize every weekend. 

Everyone felt that they weren’t socializing enough. One woman, a stay-at-home mom of four, said, “Ack! I don’t like to admit how infrequently I get together with friends!” While another mom said she didn’t see a “reason” to socialize outside of her family, though she still thought she should. The mom who was least apologetic for her social life explained, “As a natural ambivert, I enjoy seeing people, but I can’t see them too much. Taking too much time to socialize can be draining on my personality…and on my paycheck.”

That’s not to say that these women are completely uncomfortable with their choices, just that they all seemed to think that they should be socializing more. And, they are right. According to research done by Dr. Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Oxford, people need approximately three to five friends for overall wellbeing. And, the feeling of isolation, created from not cultivating friendships, left fallow in a lack of socializing, can be as deadly to our health as smoking, alcoholism, never exercising, and obesity, according to a meta-study that combined nearly 150 other studies, with over 300,000 participants.

So…what?

We think that we know what defines “friend,” based on greeting card sentiment, and on what we teach our preschoolers. But, somewhere along the way, we forget about having playdates for ourselves. We forget about sharing, sending cards, giving presents, and about making phone calls. We forget to say hello to our neighbors, or to stop by on our way home from work, just to drop off a note. We’ve gotten lost. We’re a nation of hibernators, of hiders, of spouses and kids. Despite outward appearances, the data suggests that we aren’t a nation of ladies who lunch, we’re not a nation of people who are happy to be alone, we’re not even a nation of people who are just always happy. In fact,  just over one in ten Americans has a prescription for anti-depressants.

A few things are certain, based on current research and trends: we are losing our friends, we don’t know what to do about it, and we wish it wasn’t happening.

I’ve made an active effort to socialize with friends, to reinvigorate old relationships, and to make new ones. I’ve been inserting myself into my community, putting myself out there, and edging my way into conversations or situations that are a little outside my comfort zone. It’s been paying off and, it turns out, being friendly is a little like riding a bike, you never really forget how.

The very best of Motherly — delivered when you need it most.

Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

We spend a lot of time prepping for the arrival of a baby. But when it comes to the arrival of our breast milk (and all the massive adjustments that come with it), it's easy to be caught off guard. Stocking up on a few breastfeeding essentials can make the transition to breastfeeding a lot less stressful, which means more time and energy focusing on what's most important: Your recovery and your brand new baby.

Here are the essential breastfeeding tools you'll need, mama:

1. For covering up: A cute nursing cover

First and foremost, please know that all 50 states in the United States have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. You do not have to cover yourself if you don't want to—and many mamas choose not to—and we are all for it.

That said, if you do anticipate wanting to take a more modest approach to breastfeeding, a nursing cover is a must. You will find an array of styles to choose from, but we love an infinity scarf, like the LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Nursing Cover. You'll be able to wear the nursing cover instead of stuffing it in your already brimming diaper bag—and it's nice to have it right there when the baby is ready to eat.

Also, in the inevitable event that your baby spits-up on you or you leak some milk through your shirt, having a quick and stylish way to cover up is a total #momwin.

2. For getting comfortable: A cozy glider

Having a comfy spot to nurse can make a huge difference. Bonus points if that comfy place totally brings a room together, like the Delta Children Paris Upholstered Glider!

Get your cozy space ready to go, and when your baby is here, you can retreat from the world and just nurse, bond, and love.

3. For unmatched support: A wire-free nursing bra

It may take trying on several brands to find the perfect match, but finding a nursing bra that you love is 100% worth the effort. Your breasts will be changing and working in ways that are hard to imagine. An excellent supportive bra will make this so much more comfortable.

It is crucial to choose a wireless bra for the first weeks of nursing since underwire can increase the risk of clogged ducts (ouch).The Playtex Maternity Shaping Foam Wirefree Nursing Bra is an awesome pick for this reason, and because it is designed to flex and fit your breasts as they go through all those changes.

4. For maximum hydration: A large reusable water bottle

Nothing can prepare you for the intense thirst that hits when breastfeeding. Quench that thirst (and help keep your milk supply up in the process) by always having a water bottle with a straw nearby, like this Exquis Large Outdoor Water Bottle.

5. For feeding convenience: A supportive nursing tank

Experts recommend that during the first weeks of your baby's life, you breastfeed on-demand, meaning that any time your tiny boss demands milk, you feed them. This will help establish your milk supply and get everything off to a good start.

What does this mean for your life? You will be breastfeeding A LOT. Nursing tanks, like the Loving Moments by Leading Lady, make this so much easier. They have built-in support to keep you comfy, and you can totally wear them around the house, or even out and about. When your baby wants to eat, you'll be able to quickly "pop out" a breast and feed them.

6. For pain prevention: A quality nipple ointment

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the truth is those first days can be uncomfortable. Your nipples will likely feel raw as they adjust to their new job. This will get better! But until it does, nipple ointment is amazing.

My favorite is the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter. We love that it's organic, and it is oh-so-soothing on your hard-at-work nipples.

Psst: If it actually hurts when your baby latches on, something may be up, so call your provider or a lactation consultant for help.

7. For uncomfortable moments: A dual breast therapy pack

As your breasts adjust to their new role, you may experience a few discomforts—applying warmth or cold can help make them feel so much better. The Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack is awesome because you can microwave the pads or put them in the freezer, giving you a lot of options when your breasts need some TLC.

Again, if you have any concerns about something being wrong (pain, a bump that may be red or hot, fever, or anything else), call a professional right away.

8. For inevitable leaks: An absorbing breast pad

In today's episode of, "Oh come on, really?" you are going to leak breastmilk. Now, this is entirely natural and you are certainly not required to do anything about this. Still, many moms choose to wear breast pads in their bras to avoid leaking through to their shirts.

You can go the convenient and disposable route with Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads, or for a more environmentally friendly option, you can choose washable pads, like these Organic Bamboo Nursing Breast Pads.

9. For flexibility: A breast pump

Many women find that a breast pump becomes one of their most essential mom-tools. The ability to provide breast milk when you are away from your baby (and relieve uncomfortable engorged breasts) will add so much flexibility into your new-mom life.

For quick trips out and super-easy in-your-bag transport, opt for a manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump .

If you will be away from your baby for longer periods of time (traveling or working outside the home, for example) an electric pump is your most efficient bet. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is a classic go-to that will absolutely get the job done, and then some.

10. For quality storage: Breast milk bags

Once you pump your liquid gold, aka breast milk, you'll need a place to store it. The Kiinde Twist Pouches allow you to pump directly into the bags which means one less step (and way less to clean).

11. For keeping cool: A freezer bag

Transport your pumped milk back home to your baby safely in a cooler like the Mommy Knows Best Breast Milk Baby Bottle Cooler Bag. Remember to put the milk in a fridge or freezer as soon as you can to optimize how long it stays usable for.

12. For continued nourishment: Bottles

Nothing beats the peace of mind you get when you know that your baby is being well-taken of care—and well fed—until you can be together again. The Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle Newborn Starter Gift Set is a fan favorite (mama and baby fans alike).

This article is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.

Coverage:

A viral video about car seat safety has parents everywhere cracking up and humming Sir-Mix-A-Lot.

"I like safe kids and I cannot lie," raps Norman Regional Health System pediatric hospitalist Dr. Kate Cook (after prefacing her music video with an apology to her children."I'm a doctor tryin' warn you that recs have changed," she continues.

Dr. Cook's rap video is all about the importance of keeping babies facing backward. It's aptly called "Babies Face Back," and uses humor and parody to drive home car seat recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

"Switching from rear-facing to forward-facing is a milestone many parents can't wait to reach," Dr. Cook said in a news release about her hilarious video. "But this is one area where you want to delay the transition as long as possible because each one actually reduces the protection to the child."

Last summer the AAP updated its official stance on car seat safety to be more in line with what so many parents were already doing and recommended that kids stay rear-facing for as long as possible. But with so many things to keep track of in life, it is understandable that some parents still don't know about the change. Dr. Cook wants to change that with some cringe-worthy rapping.

The AAP recommends:

  • Babies and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat.
  • Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible. Many seats are good up to 65 pounds.
  • When children outgrow their car seat they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly, between 8 and 12 years old.

You might also like:

News

[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

Suicide rates for girls and women in the United States have increased 50% since 2000, according to the CDC and new research indicates a growing number of pregnant and postpartum women are dying by suicide and overdose. Suicide rates for boys and men are up, too.

It's clear there is a mental health crisis in America and it is robbing children of their mothers and mothers of their children.

Medical professionals urge people to get help early, but sometimes getting help is not so simple. For many Americans, the life preserver that is mental health care is out of reach when they are drowning.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg just released a plan he hopes could change that and says the neglect of mental health in the United States must end. "Our plan breaks down the barriers around mental health and builds up a sense of belonging that will help millions of suffering Americans heal," says Buttigieg.

He thinks he can "prevent 1 million deaths of despair by 2028" by giving Americans more access to mental health and addictions services.

In a country where giving birth can put a mother in debt, it's not surprising that while as many as 1 in 5 new moms suffers from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, more than half of new moms who need mental health treatment don't get it. Stigma, childcare and of course costs are factors in why women aren't seeking help when they are struggling.

Buttigieg's plan is interesting because it could remove some of these barriers. He wants to make mental health care more affordable by ensuring everyone has comprehensive coverage for mental health care and by ensuring that everyone can access a free yearly mental health check-up.

That could make getting help more affordable for some moms, and by increasing reimbursement rates for mental health care delivered through telehealth, this plan could help moms get face time with a medical professional without having to deal with finding childcare first.

Estimates from new research suggest that in some parts of America as many as 14% or 30% of maternal deaths are caused by addiction or suicide. Buttigieg's plan aims to reduce those estimates by fighting the addiction and opioid crisis and increasing access to mental health services in underserved communities and for people of color. He also wants to reduce the stigma and increase support for the next generation by requiring "every school across the country to teach Mental Health First Aid courses."

These are lofty goals with a lofty price tag. It would cost about $300 billion to do what Buttigieg sets out in his plan and the specifics of how the plan would be funded aren't yet known. Neither is how voters will react to this 18-page plan and whether it will help Buttigieg stand out in a crowded field of Democratic candidates.

What we do know is that right now, America is talking about mental health and whether or not that benefits Buttigieg's campaign it will certainly benefit America.

You might also like:

News

[Editor's Note: Welcome to It's Science, a Motherly column focusing on evidence-based explanations for the important moments, milestones, and phenomena of motherhood. Because it's not just you—#itsscience.]

If you breastfeed, you know just how magical (and trying) it is, but it has numerous benefits for mama and baby. It is known to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, and cuts the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by half.

If this wasn't powerful enough, scientists have discovered that babies who are fed breast milk have a stomach pH that promotes the formation of HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor cells). HAMLET was discovered by chance when researchers were studying the antibacterial properties of breast milk. This is a combination of proteins and lipids found in breast milk that can work together to kill cancer cells, causing them to pull away from healthy cells, shrink and die, leaving the healthy cells unaffected.

According to researchers at Lund University in Sweden, this mechanism may contribute to the protective effect breast milk has against pediatric tumors and leukemia, which accounts for about 30% of all childhood cancer. Other researchers analyzed 18 different studies, finding that "14% to 19% of all childhood leukemia cases may be prevented by breastfeeding for six months or more."

And recently, doctors in Sweden collaborated with scientists in Prague to find yet another amazing benefit to breast milk. Their research demonstrated that a certain milk sugar called Alpha1H, found only in breast milk, helps in the production of lactose and can transform into a different form that helps break up tumors into microscopic fragments in the body.

Patients who were given a drug based on this milk sugar, rather than a placebo, passed whole tumor fragments in their urine. And there is more laboratory evidence to support that the drug can kill more than 40 different types of cancer cells in animal trials, including brain tumors and colon cancer. These results are inspiring scientists to continue to explore HAMLET as a novel approach to tumor therapy and make Alpha1H available to cancer patients.

Bottom line: If you choose to breastfeed, the breast milk your baby gets from your hard work can be worth every drop of effort.

You might also like:

Life
Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.