There's a post making the rounds on Facebook right now. The title drew me in - "Are You Lonely, Mama?"
My initial response was, "Yes! She's going to be talking to me, I know it. I'm lonely a lot because being with little kids so much can make you feel alone and, sometimes, a little bit crazy. She's gonna get it!"
And the author was totally speaking my language. This right here? I LOVE THIS: "Sometimes, I go to Target and walk around just to have interaction with people outside of my house. When I'm out with the boys and I look up from the chaos long enough to see another mama doing the same things I'm doing, I just want to run over to her and say, "Are you lonely too? Do you want the same things I want? Do you struggle with the same things I do? Will you judge me for failing? For being scared? For wanting to run away from my kids? For forgetting to put shoes on the oldest and a clean diaper on the youngest? Can we be friends? Am I freaking you out? I don't care. HOLD ME."
I love this so hard I would almost pay someone to do this to me in Target. Because that right there? That's as real as it gets. I LOVE HER.
And then I got to this: "Mama, I know that you're lonely too. It's OK. Just remember that this is a season and it is the most sacred season you will ever have the honor of experiencing. This is the time when your babies need you and want you and enjoy having you around. This is the time when they will cling to your legs as you try to leave the house without them and run into your arms when you come home as if you'd been gone a lifetime. You will never be more loved and wanted and needed than you are right now... in this moment."
I felt a little bit abandoned by my new friend, like she'd abruptly turned down aisle 12 and I was still standing, alone, in aisle 10. Because I knew where things were headed next: into Embrace This Phase Of Life Land.
I know - they're little, they're growing up, they love us now in a unique and impossible-to-maintain-forever kind of way. I so, so get it. I have two kids, and I can already feel things shifting with my six year old. She's not wanting me in the same ways anymore. More importantly, she doesn't need me in the same ways. I am a self-described Big Time Feeler - I feel all the feelings all the time, and so this fleeting phase she describes, I not only get it cognitively, I feel it in my belly.
And yet, when I later read this paragraph, I thought, wait a hot minute...: "When loneliness creeps up in your heart and you start to feel sorry for yourself and wish for something other than what you have right now, fill that emptiness where your social life used to be with baby belly laughs and movie nights and pillow fights and silly songs. Don't let temporary loneliness steal this season of your life."
Because I don't want to fill all of the parts of me with my kids. I just don't. I don't want to give up my friendships for my kids. Yes, mothering can be lonely - but we don't have to willingly keep it that way.
I'm an introverted over-thinker, and so making close female friends is really challenging for me. Girls scare me most of the time, and so, especially in early motherhood, it was easy to become lonely and isolated. But early motherhood was also the time when my lonely isolation made me completely burnt out, resentful, and sad. My life had become too much about my kids and not enough about remembering that I was more than a mother. Which is not me saying that my role as mother is unimportant or insignificant - that's preposterous. But it is me saying that I haven't yet figured out how to be a loving, kind, patient, fun mother - how to be the kind of woman I want my kids to emulate - without maintaining slices of my former, pre-mother self. And solid friendships are a part of that for me.
It's okay to feel sorry for yourself when you realize that kid music has replaced your music. When your child clings to your leg even though you're just going to grocery store for your half hour of alone time and you're leaving said child with their other parent. When you feel sad about how lonely you are because parenting is isolating and friendships are hard to maintain. Parenting is exhausting, rewarding, frustrating, exhilarating, full-to-the-top, and lonely. It is and/both. And, I think, we need to maintain our own personal and/both to remain fulfilled.
Instead of forcing ourselves to embrace our loneliness more fully by over-sentimentalizing the fact that our kids will one day grow up, I think it's okay to instead say to our partners, "Look. I need to get the hell out of here tonight because I'm sad and lonely and I need to hang with my girl to feel more whole. Thanks for doing bedtime. Isn't our kid the best one in the world? I appreciate you. G'bye."
I, happily and willingly and with abundant doses of love and kisses, give my kids a whole lot of me.
But I don't need to give them everything.