There is so much about motherhood, about having kids and being with them a lot, that I wasn’t expecting. I think that’s true for most of us with small ones, right? Like a million moments of, “Woah, I wasn’t ready for this.”
I can honestly say that I’ve only been caught off-guard by a select few of those unknowns. This is largely because most of my friends have children and I’ve been able to watch and learn for a number of years. And those friends who have kids are exceptional and honest. Their honesty paved a brave path for me when I had Shepherd.
There is, however, one thing about being a mom, specifically a stay at home mom in this season (this season being: not back in Thailand), that has thrown me off balance a number of times. It’s the loneliness.
I never, in a million years, would have guessed or inferred or assumed that loneliness would be one of my biggest struggles as a mom of young children. I am literally never alone. No, man, literally. If there aren’t three around me, there’s at least one. And shes’s new, so, you know, she’s physically on me much of the time. And then there’s Stephen who is here with us whenever he’s not working. And then there are play dates and school once a week and small groups and dinners with friends and church and college group and the random happy hour with friends. I mean, I am very, very infrequently alone.
And yet, this loneliness can be crushing at times. It’s insane.
Shepherd talks roughly 100% of the time he’s awake, and Valor copies roughly 100% of the things Shepherd says or does. So there’s a lot of words happening over here. We talk so very much. Sometimes I turn on a show just to make the talking stop. Sometimes I tell Shep and Valor to pretend Mommy isn’t here. Judge not, friend. Judge not.
The point I’m making is that around this time last year, when we decided we were staying in America for another year, and Stephen was working full time and I was home with the two toddlers, loneliness started to pop up here and there like speed bumps along the road. Speed bumps that I wasn’t expecting, so they’d startle me, cause me to swerve and I’d have to find my bearing all over again.
I didn’t hear a lot of other moms talking about this one, though. This wasn’t like painful nipples or stretch marks or letting your kids watch a lot of TV, which are common “secrets” or “confessions” moms make on the internet all the time. My days, at times, would drag out like Groundhog Day- the same things again and again and again. It was cold out, we were in the house a lot, and I was bored. I find being a stay at home mom boring at times. And when I’d get bored, I’d get resentful and restless and end up yelling at the boys or generally acting in a way I didn’t love, and then I’d feel ashamed and like a horrible mom. That cycle repeated itself nearly daily. And still, I didn’t feel like I could say it out loud too much, just how bored I felt.
But that was when I realized that it wasn’t just boredom I was feeling, it was deep loneliness. Stephen would come home, and I found there wasn’t really a way to explain the day. So I wouldn’t. And we had two toddlers and I was pregnant again, so we’d go to sleep not too long after they did. And I’d wake up alone because Stephen gets up super early so he can come home from work earlier, and start the same routine again, alone.
But I had friends, and we’d talk. Even about this. About how hard being a mom was. We love our kids more than we love ourselves, that’s a given. But man, it’s hard, and we’d talk about it. But even that didn’t alleviate the loneliness.
Glennon Doyle Melton wrote a lovely essay on how the expectation on younger moms sometimes, or I would even say moms who are being honest about how hard being a mom is for them in that season, is to remember this is just that, a season, and to do all you can to enjoy it. Writing all this, I can just hear what some people are going to say, everything from it being an honor to be home with the kids to how much I need to soak all this in.
And I agree, 100%. It is an honor to be home with the kids. They won’t be small forever. This is just a short, fleeting season. I will miss their chubby hands and talking all day.
But I am also lonely. And I am also sometimes bored.
And that’s okay. The two can exist together at the same time and not be bad or wrong and not cancel each other out.
I believe with my entire being that being present is pretty much the solution to everything. As someone who has massive anxiety issues, being present is something I’ve studied, practiced, sought help for and have worked toward for the better part of ten years. Being fully present in a moment, to an experience, a feeling, a thought, is what allows you to totally absorb it.
To be fully present, to absorb the moment entirely, we have to be honest.
I want to absorb these days, these moments with my gorgeous, lovely, enthralling, interesting children. So I need to be present to these days, these moments. So I need to be honest in these days, these moments.
And in these days and moments, I sometimes feel lonely and I sometimes feel bored. By naming that, by calling it out, I am not asking for anyone to take it away from me. This is my life and my reality, and it’s for me. I’m simply doing what I need to do to absorb it so that when their hands aren’t as chubby and they talk to me less and less, I can know I was there down in the muck of the moment when those things were happening. And I can enjoy what happening now, in the new season.
See, I’m not sure there’s a solution here. I think being a stay at home mom to three super young kids is going to be lonely at times. And I think it’s going to be boring. I am going to have entire days where my brain feels numb from cars and nursing and trains and puzzles. And I’m going to stand at my kitchen sink and yearn for some other adult there with me in the moment who sees me and knows me.
And that’s okay. It’s okay.
But I want to sink down as deep as possible in the moments, because they are fleeting. They might not all be lovely feelings, the ones we run after and pursue, but they’re all ours the same. So I want to show up to them fully.