As a researcher of human nature, author and podcaster Gretchen Rubin has studied many habits of humankind. Many of her works focus on happiness and creating good habits. She published an article called “7 Types of Loneliness (and Why It Matters).” She states that if we identify the type of loneliness we feel, we can deal with it more effectively. In this article the 7 types of loneliness identified are: new-situation loneliness, I'm-different loneliness, no-sweetheart loneliness, no-animal loneliness, no-time-for-me loneliness, untrustworthy-friends loneliness, and quiet-presence loneliness.
But there's a big one that's not on this list. The loneliness of being a new mom. Whether it's your first baby or your fifth, those days with a tiny new one can feel downright lonely! Even with friends and family surrounding us, (and sometimes because of it) we can feel lonely. Even if we had a great birth experience (but especially if we didn't) we can feel lonely. Even with a supportive partner, (but especially without one) we can feel lonely. 3 A.M. feedings are lonely. Struggling with breastfeeding is lonely. Experiencing postpartum anxiety or depression is lonely. Loneliness can take a severe toll on our physical and mental health. Treating our loneliness is a part of self-care.
So, if you're feeling lonely, mama, what can you do?
1.Talk about your loneliness. To your friends, your mom, your partner, your clergy, your therapist, or whoever is a trusted listener in your life. There's a certain amount of shame in feeling lonely, especially if from the outside it looks like you have a lovely life (and you may!). Don't tell yourself others have it worse and to just "buck up." Speak your loneliness, and...you won't feel as lonely.
2. Get involved. Invite other moms you know over for lunch and ask what helps them feel less lonely. Go where you think your future friends might be. Are they at the park? The gym? Yoga class? A support group? As a new mom your energy is limited but make sure you save some of that energy to do what you need to do to combat loneliness.
3. Cuddle. Cuddle your new baby! When we experience loving physical touch it releases oxytocin in our brains that helps us feel good and increases bonding. Hug a good friend. Hold hands with your partner.
4. Recognize your role transition. Motherhood is a major role shift and changes our identity. Part of your loneliness may be because you’re not sure you even know yourself anymore! You probably had a pretty good handle on who you were before children, and it may be helpful to connect to those old identities that are important to you. Even if it’s not your first child, getting lost in motherhood can be lonely, so take time to connect to what makes you YOU.
5. Be an explorer. Explore your inner world through journaling, art, music, or whatever outlet helps you most. Find ways to process your (good, bad, and ugly) feelings about motherhood. Being in touch with these feelings can make it easier to authentically connect with others, and connection decreases loneliness. C.S. Lewis said, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”
If you've identified that you're feeling lonely, try something different. If you're not feeling motivated to tackle your loneliness, don't just wait for the motivation to find you. We know that motivation follows action, not the other way around. So, step outside of your comfort zone if needed, knowing that a supportive sisterhood of new moms have felt a similar "new mama loneliness" you have.