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Motherhood Is the Loneliest Thing Ever

Photograph by Twenty20

When I became a mother, just like that, I surrendered any and all solitude and privacy I'd previously enjoyed. The quiet had been my muse, my companion, my center. Even the loneliness in that solitude was somehow comforting and familiar. If I learned anything as an introverted only child, it was how to be alone, still and with my thoughts. I can keep myself entertained and happy for quite some time without help from anyone else. If I only leave the house once a week, I don't get restless. I am content.

So for me to be lonely, well, that's saying something.

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Of course, I love being home with my children. I am so sad when we are apart, so I try to be with them as much as I can. I know full well the day will come, too soon, when they realize it's not cool to snuggle on the couch with Mom, and poof. Those days will be gone. There will be a last time they ask me to hold them. There will be a last butterfly kiss. I do so enjoy their company, but it turns out that I need more.

Somehow, singing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," saying "Don't touch that!" seven kazillion times and answering the question "Why?" all day doesn't quite fulfill my need (as minimal as it may be) for mental stimulation and friendship. I long for the closeness I felt in childhood friendships—friendships long gone and so foreign now. And after watching those bonds fray and finally break, I hesitate to pursue new ones. I'm afraid to need friendship, but it doesn't change the fact that I do.

I need people who build me up so that I can turn around and build my family up. I need people who will invest in me so that I have something to give.

The thing is, I can't burden my family with my need for friends. I cannot expect their presence in my life to negate my very real need for community, grown-up conversation and connection with the outside world. I certainly can't expect my children to be my shoulders to cry on or my comforters. No, my little people bring so much goodness and purpose into my life, but I need other people also. I need people who build me up so that I can turn around and build my family up. I need people who will invest in me so that I have something to give.

Suddenly, I was crying about it to my husband. With actual tears rolling down my cheeks last week, I realized how far I'd pushed myself, how much I was expecting of myself while I was running on fumes. If I, the happy hermit, feel like this, I wonder about you.

You Pinterest-perfect mamas with the from-scratch birthday cupcakes. You working mamas who somehow have the energy to make dinner when you get home. You mamas posting pictures of your night out with the girls … you don't look lonely to me, but maybe you are? I probably don't look lonely to you, but I am.

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Maybe you don't post about the days you're depressed and angry and feeling inadequate. Maybe your social media persona is far more chipper than you actually feel. Well, if you relate at all to this, I can tell you you're not the only one.

I'm tempted to close this out with some advice about making connections, but what I really want you to hear is that, whatever you feel, I'm here with you, and we will be OK. These overwhelming days will come and go. You're allowed to love what you have while also having needs. It's OK to listen to them. We are not alone.

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