So I'm not alone then ...

Often when chatting to other mothers they'll say, 'Oh Jenny, I'm so glad it's not just me'.

I've been thinking a lot about the 'oh it's not just me' phrase, especially after writing this blog and having women repeatedly say they feel less alone when they read my struggles.  I'm glad that my hopelessness provides that service for you all! :)

It's the aloneness that it is hard.  It's the feeling that I must be the only one who is stressed out by my kids trying to get out of the house in the mornings.  My child must be the only one who throws a tantrum at age 11, because they didn't get to have a friend over.  I must be the only one who feels lonely being at home all day with a small baby.  I must be the only who battles to get their kids to brush their teeth (every, single, DAY).  I must be the only one who has children that fight.  I must be the only one who has a five year old who won't eat breakfast.  I must be the only mum with a toddler who doesn't eat fruit.  I must be the only one with a eight year old who wets the bed every night.

The list is endless.  And when you find someone who admits to you, 'Oh, my kids do that all that time',  you just feel a little bit of that aloneness lift.

Being a mum in our nuclear family era can be lonely.  And you feel that a lot when you have a baby.  You come home from hospital, a few days later your husband returns to work and there you are.  All day with this very small, confusing person.

And it's not just about babies.  Even as my kids have got older and I've developed a community for myself, I still find that we operate very separately from one another.  We don't share much of our struggles, and we look at one another from the outside.  'Oh, she must be such a good mum, her kids all wear clean clothes' or 'O, she seems so patient, I never see her yelling at her kids at school pick-up' or 'why can't I be more like Ms X, she does so much ... '.

What we don't see is the rest of life.  The mother crying in her bedroom, trying to regroup so she can face the next onslaught of tantrums, negotiations, sibling fighting.  The mother yelling at her kids because she can't regroup, she can't see a way forward, she has no energy left.  And she's on her own.

I don't think we were really meant to bring up children in isolation.  As much as the idea of living in an extended family does fill my heart with a level of dread (and I like my family!), I can see that parenting in a tight community would mean you would see the good, bad and ugly.  And while there would be lots of hard times, you could learn from each other - you could truly learn that we all struggle in parenting, through all stages and ages.  You could share the burden with others, you could share the isolation.

So what's the solution?  I don't know - it can be a challenge (especially in cities) to develop those kinds of communities.  But one small step might be trying to be honest with other women about your parenting struggles.   Not to be scared of judgement from others.  And to work hard at not judging others when they are honest.

Plus I can pretty much guarantee that once you start sharing the hard stuff, there will always be another woman who is quietly thinking,  'So I'm not alone then'.  And that will enable her to get up and keep going for another day.


Leanne said…
hi Jenny, this is a long over due post to say how much I enjoy your blog and am one of those women who think 'thank goodness someone else...'. I am completely in awe of how you just manage to get 5 kids up and out and back in again everyday! In fact I often share your words of wisdom to me about babies that the relief is just in keeping them alive by the end of the day- so true but not something we often articulate! Also as a mother who works I feel that old guilt combined with the need to look as if I have it all under control and how I can have children and it will not affect how I do my job etc etc. That was a long way of saying how much your refreshing honesty is appreciated and makes me think fondly of those Hebron days!
Motherhugger said…
I absolutely agree that parenting shouldn't happen in isolation. If we were to design a society, no-one would suggest mothers should spend their days alone with the children.

There is a school mum who has told me recently that she isn't coping well. Now every time I see her I share a story from my repertoire of most embarrassing or humiliating or not coping mothering moments. I think it helps. We have a laugh.

I've also put together a compilation of mothering songs, that I'll copy for her and for you and some other mums. It is just so reassuring that I'm not alone. That these songs exist, and I can play while cooking or cleaning and not feel alone means a lot to me. I have a particular song for you. Unglamorous by Lori McKenna, which is a celebration of domestic life. We need that.

Thanks for posting.
Jenny said…
And thanks for commenting - that makes me feel less alone in cyberspace!
Jenny said…
Lovely to hear from you Dr Leanne - thanks for reading (and commenting).
Heather said…
"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one." [CS Lewis]
Pip said…
I have always thought that living with extended family or in a very close community would ideally make parenting alot easier...someone to help with the meal prep or entertain the kids while that was happening etc. I know the problems that this would also bring but in theory a very good idea that we have shunned in western society.
Katherine said…
Love it! And it is so true. I have always been fairly open about my struggles - and end up feeling the fool as others won't admit and you feel like you're alone. I have been astonished the times I have asked "is everything OK?" to be told "yes, of course, all's well" and then find down the track that the mother in question went to Tresillian or QE2 because they weren't coping. Why do we put this on ourselves? If I ask if you're OK it's because I want to help - not judge - and by being honest we help each other!

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