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Just Because You Have a Family Doesn't Mean You're Not Lonely

Photograph by Twenty20

The other evening, as I sat surrounded by my family, I thought I was feeling a little sad but I couldn't put my finger on a specific reason. It had been a productive day and my kids were happy. As I looked over at my children playing, I realized I wasn't sad—I was feeling lonely. I immediately felt ashamed, but when was the last time I'd taken the time to really connect with another person? It had been a few days.

I know this isn't something you are supposed to admit. It comes across as being needy. And, really, if you're surrounded by your family members and you feel lonely, then you're led to believe you're the one who has the problem. You're the ones who isn't appreciating what you have. You're are the one who's doing it to yourself—right?

Yet I don't know a single person who hasn't felt lonely. I can't tell you how many times I've talked to a mom who admits to feeling lonely and confused by it. After all, they're with their kids almost all the time. Whether they have a career or not, there's always something we could be doing to push the isolation away.

Just because you have a family and are busy doesn't mean you don't feel alone. Some of my loneliest moments have come after I gave birth to my three beautiful children. It's not because I don't love them or because I'm not thankful for them, it's because I'm not taking time to connect with anyone.

In an article for Scientific American, scientist Matthew Liberman says, "Our need to connect is as fundamental as our need for food and water."

Think about that for a second. You would never go without food or water by choice—your brain tells you you need to eat or drink in order to stay healthy and keep yourself alive.

Before we know it days, or even weeks, have gone by and we haven't had a real conversation with another adult or taken the time to invest in any of our relationships—and we feel lonely.

Yet when we feel lonely, we're afraid to reach out for fear we will come off as being too clingy or that something is wrong with us. Lieberman says this is because "In the west, we like to think of ourselves as relatively immune to the sway of those around us while we each pursue our personal destiny. But I think this is a story we like to tell ourselves rather than what really happens."

Moms are so focused on their work as a mother—nurturing and caring for their children, bills, laundry, grocery shopping and cleaning—that it's so easy to spend all of our energy doing that. By the end of the day, we have no energy left for connection. We keep pushing forward because we're afraid if we don't, too many things are going to fall through the cracks.

Before we know it days, or even weeks, have gone by and we haven't had a real conversation with another adult or taken the time to invest in any of our relationships—and we feel lonely.

You can be in a loving partnership and feel lonely. You can have 10 kids running around and feel lonely. You can have lots of friends and feel lonely. It's hard to admit to having these feelings because they make us feel vulnerable, but your feelings are meant to teach you something.

Humans need to connect. It's essential to a happy, healthy life and we aren't exempt because we are mothers.

So, the next time you're feeling lonely, listen to that urge. Don't push it away. Take the time to connect with others. It doesn't mean you're weak or lacking in anything—it means you're a human being.

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