I’m in a very vulnerable place this week, so this is going to get real. You’ve been warned.
It Takes a Village
Parenting books and mom blogs repeat over and over, “It takes a village!” “Find your mom tribe!” “Surround yourself with a supportive network!” etc, etc, etc. Sounds great, right? But what about the people who don’t have that village? It’s not as if it comes in the standard hospital package. Here are your baby diapers, your peri pads, your granny panties, and, oh, don’t forget Janice, Sarah, and Rachel, your new mommy besties! As nice as that would be, it’s not that easy– at least for many of us.
I’m the type of person who opens up to very few people. I would rather have one really close friend (a “kindred spirit”) than a hoard of casual friends. Over the years, those close friends have come and gone– life happens. Having moved several times doesn’t help my cause. Long-distance relationships are a struggle for me. I’m a homebody at heart and a very private person. I also feel that making friends, especially best friends, after age 30 or so is much more difficult. People have their people, and the best friend “dating pool” has shrunk to the size of a puddle. So, for the last ten years, my one and only best friend has been… my husband. That’s been super convenient on one hand. I’m a homebody, and he’s already at home! On the other hand, it has its drawbacks.
Enter kids. AKA Drawback #1 and Drawback #2. Making the shift to parenthood is both a strain on the individual and the couple. I’ve heard varying opinions on this, but for us, kid #2 rocked our world WAY more than kid #1 did. He’s 17 months old now, so for almost 1.5 years, we’ve been under a constant level of stress. I’m telling you, it’s been rough. To set the scene more fully, we do not have any family near us, and we both work outside of the home on opposite schedules so our boys have never needed childcare. That’s great for them. For us, it means that we are always ON. There is never a break. There is rarely a day off together. Family time is limited, and I can count our date nights on one hand since our first son was born almost four years ago. Let me tell you, for two introverts who have always seen home as a safe haven, having multiple charges who need your attention all the livelong day is beyond exhausting. All couples go through a
strained growing time after becoming parents, but when your spouse is also your best friend, it’s a double whammy. You somehow lose track not only of how to be a couple, but also how to be friends.
When Parenting is Lonely
To the private person who doesn’t easily confide in others, this means that the loneliness of parenthood is even more magnified. Here’s what it looks like on a daily basis. You are mentally and physically exhausted, so you don’t get as much done as you wanted to. The house is trashed. The house always seems trashed these days. When you work three full days and your husband works the other four, it’s hard to divide the chores. You are either there or you’re not there. And the baby cries at the gate when you try to get anything done in the kitchen, so you just give up on it. You are tired. So very tired. So tired that it’s hard to plan outings and even harder to coordinate those with other moms and kids. So you stay in your isolated bubble and start thinking that you’ll never have a true adult conversation again. You think about having a playdate at your house… but your house is a mess, and it’s just not worth trying to make it look perfect. You wish you had the kind of friends that you felt comfortable inviting over despite your messy house, but you don’t. Or maybe you do, but it’s just an extra pressure you put on yourself.It's okay to admit that you haven't found your village yet. One person can be enough. Click To Tweet
You can’t complain about it all to your husband, because he’s just as tired and just as stressed. At some point, you forget that you are in this together, and it’s hard to laugh together about it. Survival mode kicks in, and you do what you have to do to see yourself through each day. There’s not much, if any, emotional energy left for empathy if, say, your spouse gets a cold. Once upon a time, that would call for some pampering and extra sweetness, but now? Buck up, buddy. I can’t deal with anything else. There’s also so much more to complain about. Who isn’t pulling their weight, who forgot to do this, who acted this way… When your primary confidante is also your primary scapegoat, that doesn’t work so well. A best friend outside of the boiling pot is needed; otherwise, the pressure will escape elsewhere.
When You Really Need Help
And then, things get even worse. This was our week: minor home damage from the hurricane necessitating home insurance calls and assessments; a flat tire on the car and not a single break in our schedule to get it to the shop. This was a big week for my husband, as he had a presentation to give at a local school. And then I hurt my back. I’ve had back pain before, but nothing like this. If you are a Gilmore Girls fan like I am, you may remember the time Lorelai hurt her back and her mother stayed over to help her? (I wrote about that episode here.) I always thought that storyline was exaggerated just a little bit. I’m here to tell you that it was entirely feasible because I looked just like that today.
I spent the morning on the floor, letting my boys use me like a jungle gym and generally wreak havoc on the living room. I couldn’t walk. Thank goodness the baby didn’t poop because I couldn’t have lifted him onto the changing table. I can honestly say that I’ve never had pain like this, even during labor. (And I would have paid good money for an anesthesiologist to make a house call to give me an epidural today!) Now, sure, there are friends and neighbors I could have called who would have been readily willing to help with the boys or run errands, and in no way do I want them to read this and feel guilty. It’s on me to ask for help when needed. It’s hard for me to ask that of them, though. I always think about how busy everyone is, I don’t want to be a bother, and a multitude of other excuses. I really do need to read more of those “it takes a village” articles. At any rate, I knew my husband would be home by noon, so I toughed it out.
The Village Comes Through
So, what happens when your village is ONE person? One person who is also stressed to the max? One person who has a big presentation that night? One person who really needed the focus on him that day? My husband found me on the floor and helped me up. When I collapsed into tears with the pain (he can count on one hand the times he’s seen me cry), he immediately canceled his afternoon appointments, took over the house and kids, insisted that I get an adjustment and a massage, and didn’t let me lift a finger for the rest of the day. He walked to the store after his big presentation to get me a heating pad and took our 3-year-old with him to burn off some of his cooped-up energy. In short, he was my savior today.
It’s been a hard week, but the silver lining has been the window of realization that deep down, we are still there. We’ve got each other’s backs, and as the kids grow and the laundry settles, we’ll find our groove again, side by side. It’s frustrating and gratifying to be best friends with your spouse. I’ve realized that I’m not really cut out for the “mom tribe.” Sure, I love my neighbors and playdate buddies, and it’s fun to see our kids interact. When push comes to shove, though, I’ve got my wingman right here.
Still holding open auditions for a backup best friend, though. 😉
Do you know someone who could use some encouragement through the loneliness of parenthood? Share it here!