March 10, 2015

The Problem with the Phrase “Motherhood is Lonely.”

Mom snuggling/holding a smiling toddler.

The other day at the park I bumped into an acquaintance, a fellow mother to a toddler. She told me that she had started a book club a couple months ago and that it had been a ‘lifesaver’ for her.

“Why a lifesaver?” I asked.

“Because motherhood can be lonely,” she intoned with puppy-dog eyes.

I wanted to nod my head in assent but found myself grimacing inwardly instead. Her comment irritated me, though I didn’t exactly know why. Later I went home and mulled it over.

I realized pretty quickly why I felt irked by her statement:it was because I didn’t believe her.

I think her statement about the nature of motherhood is wrong.

I realized that I am tired of the idea perpetuated by some mommies that motherhood is somehow a lonely profession unless you actively fight against its inherent loneliness.

In fact there are few things less lonely than having someone perpetually hanging off your side.

What’s lonely is holing yourself up in your house all day, or cutting yourself off from regular interaction with other adults. In truth any activity, whether it be writing or swimming or hanging out with a child, has the potential to become a lot less enjoyable and a lot more isolating when done exclusively.

But motherhood is totally different from any other activity! Some mothers will protest.

They’re right about that. Motherhood is in some ways not comparable to any other activity or state of being. The state of motherhood is 24/7 every day for the rest of your life. But why does that have to mean that it is also a social and cultural deprivation of sorts? Why does motherhood have to mean a repression of hobbies and interests?

The answer: it doesn’t mean any of those things.

If a woman isolates herself upon becoming a mother it is because she neglects other facets of her identity in sacrifice to her new role.

It is important to note however that many mothers do not actively choose to make this sacrifice. Life circumstances, like mothering a child of special needs or having a husband who works a lot, can make it difficult to find the time to engage personal passions. Oftentimes the result is loneliness.

Nonetheless it does not follow that because a woman is unable to do much besides child-rear that motherhood is characterized by loneliness. Motherhood is not lonely, but a woman who can’t do much besides mother often is.

Fortunately, a busy mother who recognizes that her loneliness does not stem from motherhood is more able to remedy her desolation.

Even those without the luxury of a night off or the occasional sitter can take small steps to re-instill their interests into daily life. Whether it be by virtue of a podcast, a phone call, or more time outdoors mothers can make the conscious daily decision to inject more of themselves into their routine.


Relephant read:

The 10 Commandments of Motherhood.


Author: Mariel Sofia Lindsay

Apprentice Editor: Melissa Scavetta / Editor: Renee Picard 

Photo: Maria Grazia Montagnari via Flickr

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