Social Isolation For Stay-At-Home Mothers?

Many, many mothers have told me their day goes smoothest for their children when they stay home but that there is an issue of feeling isolated themselves when they only go out  two times a week or once a week!  It really is a fine line, isn’t it, between doing what is really good for small children, who do need to be firmly entrenched in the home, but also keeping our sanity!  Do you all remember that post where I wrote the average woman speaks 25,000 words a day or something like that?  I  mean, those words have gotta come out somewhere, right?  It can be hard when we only have a small child around, and then we tend to start talking just to hear ourselves talk and we overtalk that poor child to death!

Ladies, again, I think this is a fine line.  For many mothers I know who suffer from post-partum depression, they have to be around some people to keep them on an even keel, so this whole forty days at home doesn’t work well for them unless they have a strong support system of folks willing to come to them.  I also encourage mothers to get their friend fix without their small children if possible, because let’s face it, to get support we want to talk about the challenges of parenting and I think that is so hard to do with all your children listening!  Perhaps that is a possibility for you!  (Obviously I am all for breastfeeding infants and toddlers coming along because they have such an intense need for their mothers!)

So, I think of this depends upon where you are in your parenting journey, and some of it depends upon your personality.  I am completely extroverted, (uh, other than I need my quiet time at night so I can write!) but I LOVE people, I love to hear their stories and all these connections go off in my head.  It is like pinballs bouncing around in my head, ping, ping, ping.   I bet you all could hear that in that Waldorf Connection Radio Show, LOL!   I am very lucky that   I have a pretty great circle of friends.  However, that took time to build up! 

So what do you do if you have no friends locally yet?  I don’t think entrenching your children in your home means you never go out of your home – can you walk to the park?  Play outside in your subdivision or street?    Do you have neighbors?  Is there a homeschooling group you could attend?  Can you go to a La Leche League meeting or an Attachment Parenting meeting and meet some mothers?  Do you have ANY friends that you could take turns going to their house one week and them coming to you one week so you both could be home one extra day during the week?  Just remember that small children really need you to hold that space in the beginning with a structured activity, and to really keep those times with other children short!  There are many posts on this blog regarding “playdates” for small children, perhaps those would help you to have a successful time of it!

Some mothers feel very isolated when they have that first child, because maybe their friends haven’t had children yet, so it is like building a circle of friends all over in many ways.  That is a challenging time of transition!  At the time you are challenged by finding your way in parenting, you are also feeling separate from all your former friends!  I think in  that case you do need to get out and meet some new people – neighbors, people at your place of worship whom you don’t know well but would like to get to know, people you run into with children at the store even!

Make a list – do you know women whom you would like to get to know better?  Can you call them up and arrange a meeting?  What qualities do you want in a friend?  Write them down!  I have seen mothers post flyers at their local health food store, yoga studio, etc  asking for mothers with children of certain ages to call them to arrange a meeting… Yes, it is a risk in some ways, but sometimes one has to be proactive!    Sometimes mothers meet over message boards, forums…Did you all know my local Waldorf homeschooling group actually started with three of us who met on-line?  It was like this:  “What, you are in Georgia?  I’m in Georgia!  We live really far apart, but so what, let’s form a group! Probably there will only be the three of us!” (now we have about 25 families as members! Never thought that would happen!)  Everything has to start somewhere!

Sometimes Waldorf homeschoolers have a hard time getting together with other families because they feel the other families won’t understand the way they parent.  That can be true, if the other children are really media-saturated and can only play in reference to media, but I have to say:  search for that common ground.  You may be a really positive influence for someone else!  Also, check with your Unschoolers!  I find in the Early Years, we often have quite a bit in common with our unschooling friends as far as more of that unfolding gesture in our educational philosophies!

This is SUCH an important issue, please, please leave a comment and talk about how you handle this balance – being home, making new friends who might be conducive to your parenting style, what to do!

Connections make the world go round,

Carrie

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22 thoughts on “Social Isolation For Stay-At-Home Mothers?

  1. Good morning, Carrie!

    I was so happy to wake up to this post! I know I was a bit knee-jerk with my reaction re: media, and it probably had a bit to do with my isolation. Sorry.

    As I mentioned before, we live in rural north-western Massachusetts, with three other full-time households on our street, for a total of about 9 people (including us!). It’s more of a bedroom/retirement community, sometimes with too many people in the summer, but mostly grandparent generations year-round. I did find out there were two other women in town who had babies within 6 months of our son (twins a few months before and on a few after), so I will be getting in touch with them to at least meet them.

    We’re in a 9-town school system, so I know there are many families around, I just may have to travel a bit. A friend lives a few towns away, within the district (I actually used to teach her daughter) who also had a baby recently- in fact, we’ve visited together so her 4 year old daughter could get used to being around a baby (she loves my son & can’t wait for her brother to be old enough to play with her!). It’s harder in winter, like this week- we just got 24″ of snow yesterday, snow/sleet today- I don’t think I’m going anywhere!

    It’s also a challenge for me because I did not grow up here, but my husband did. So we are 15 minutes away from my mother & father-in-law, and 25 minutes away from my sister-in-law & her husband. I have become friends with my husbands friends & their S.O.s, and made friends of my own through the school system I worked in and the private boarding school I left last summer to be a stay-at-home mother (my husband is still working there, so we sometimes visit for lunch).

    99% of my family lives in RI, so “family obligations”- parties, visiting my parents & sister, etc- requires a 3 hour trip (6 hours round-trip). Now that I am home, I usually visit for a few days, so that the trip isn’t too hard on my son (or my back from all of that driving!). I say “obligations” because celebrations, and family in general, are so important with my family, particularly my father’s side (Italian, Roman Catholic)- there are 10 children, including my son, under the age of 18. My dad is the oldest of 5, I am the oldest female cousin of 5 in my generation, with four more 20 years younger than me, and now my generation is having children (6 so far, 3 within the past year). We used to get together every Sunday when my grandparents were alive, celebrations were just bigger dinners and nicer clothes and in the front room instead of the kitchen. Now they are events- I want to go to be with family, but they seem like a circus production (which actually was the theme of a triple birthday bash this past weekend). Then there are my dad’s cousins- who all used to work together, and have larger family gatherings a few times each year- but that’s a whole other extended story!

    So isolation from my family & friends, new family & friends, has me turned to the Internet to seek knowledge, camaraderie, solitude, enlightenment, and more. Especially physical isolation due to weather, location, and such, has been both good and bad. I realized yesterday that, while I knew I wasn’t going anywhere, I also probably wasn’t going to read much on-line with our back-up battery beeping, power flickers, and snow to clear & wood to fetch- on top of baby to focus on 99% of that time. I do love the solitude at times, the woods around me, everything peaceful, turning off the lights even. But it can be a challenge- last winter, when I was a few months pregnant (right in the middle of experiencing some “morning sickness” of course) we had an ice storm that left us without power for a week. Why a week, especially when everyone else was restored in a few days? They didn’t know there was a house here! (Despite repeated complaints.) We made do- I learned to cook on a woodstove, keep the house warm, live by candlelight (I always wanted to live by candlelight!), and getting to bed early & waking up early.

    Not sure where I’m heading with all of this, but that it requires adapting- to the newness, to the changes, to the moment.

    Thanks again, Carrie! I look forward to reading other stories!

    Sparkling wishes,

    Kerrie

  2. I definately feel that other parents don’t understand the way I parent which can leave me feeling very isolated really. Sometimes I feel I have to hide things like being TV free with people I seeat regualar play groups because it makes other parents feel threatened by the way *I* choose to parent. It’s so hard.

  3. How do you do it? It’s like you crawl inside my world, and report back on what you find :) I think it feels toughest when my husband is busy at work- he comes home late, and then works late into the evening- my need for discussion keeps him from his tasks. (It’s better now than when he was in school and couldn’t even join the family in the “before bedtime” hours, so I try and remember that.) I end up talking his ear off for 5 or 10 minutes when we get in bed.

    We’ve had good luck hosting playdates for the gals at church, especially when my first was young. 4 or 5 moms would come to my house, we’d all bring a snack to share, and let the babies roam and play.

  4. There are a few things that have really helped me:

    Inside the Home:
    1. learning to really enjoy being with my child: this has been the most helpful because then I’m not anxious to be away
    2. having my own projects going (in weaving and felting): projects give me something to be excited about and beautiful materials inspire me
    3. keeping a mothering/inner work journal: a good way to express and connect to oneself
    4. reading parenting books and Carrie’s blog (for support and inspiration, to learn new things) and reading literature and poetry (to connect some of the essence of the human experience)
    5. letting go of the way my life use to be and flowing with the rhythms of childhood: this has been big, just realizing that my child is happier and more at peace when we are home and outdoors and that this simplicity is actually soothing and nourishing for all of us
    Outside the Home
    5. go to the park and meet with other children and moms in nature: we are all at our most joyful when in fresh air and stomping in melting snow puddles or climbing trees
    6. going on walks, which lead to all sorts of interesting interactions with others walking dogs or going here or there; children naturally draw others in

    Still, I would like to find a mom/friend close by with whom I share a more profound connection, but I do imagine that that will eventually happen either at the park or in a craft workshop I do or wherever. I feel more patience for that now that I am better settled into my life as a mother.

    • Elizabeth, this is just so beautiful, thank you so much for sharing! Your best friend will come!! I had a prayer list for a best friend for quite a long time, and have been abundantly blessed.
      Love,
      Carrie

  5. Elizabeth thank you! I’m going to print that out! Carrie- I never thought once about putting a friend on my prayer list. DUH! Great, great post!

  6. I know how you feel, Rosaleen. I feel that way about my own family (and my husband’s)- I’ve tried & tried to explain that I don’t want the latest electronic gadget FOR BABIES from Leap Frog or V-tech. A baby doesn’t need that! And while we aren’t media-free (DVD rather than TV since 1. we don’t get channels here & 2. even PBS has commercials!), I refuse to buy-into the Baby Einstein, Teletubbies, or whatever the latest “This will make your baby/toddler/child smarter” shows are. (I actually did learn from Sesame Street as a youngin’ & was disappointed I wouldn’t be learning Spanish in Kindergarten.) We’ve been aiming more towards the green/organic/natural material/non-toxic/etc toys, and they just don’t seem to get it. Which adds to my isolation of “am I the only one who understands this?” feelings.

    Elizabeth- beautiful! I look forward to Spring/Summer when my little nurseling will be a bit more easy to manage & the cats can be outside so I too can start some projects!

  7. This is such an important topic, Carrie! Thank you for writing about it. I feel like this is one of the main reason some moms decide to go back to work and to put the children in school (thinking they can’t homeschool because they feel so isolated). I am sending this link to one of my dear friend who suffers from isolation.

  8. One of the ways in which I found support was through blogging. I read all these great blogs! Once I became familiar with one site, I started to see who they were following and then found an entire group of bloggers that seemed to speak my language.

    I started to leave comments and felt connected to a common group of creative women. This helped me immensely and I I highly recommend. You can visit with friends, get your daily dose of inspiration and you choose who you want to read/follow. If you live in an area that is not like minded, getting online via blogs can help you feel as if you are not alone.

  9. I think about this topic a lot too, Carrie.
    I have been surprised by how hard it is to be a stay at home mother, let alone a homeschooling mother (and bear in mind my children are not 5 yet!). It really feels like there is no one else at home during the day. I wonder if it felt different for mothers at home a generation ago, or two generations ago. OK, I do have a few friends that do not work. But there only a few of us! I know of other homeschooling mothers but everyone is either busy, or lives a little too far away to get together very easily. Hmmmm….
    I have been told that it really takes time to find your niche if you are homeschooling. I would love to be a part of a supportive community. There are some homeschooling groups in our city. I have been working so hard on establishing our rhythm and staying home, etc, that I haven’t felt like going out and visiting different groups was going to be very peaceful or helpful for us.
    As I have been pondering this issue I have been dreaming up a park day that I will organize, where I invite all these people that I know and like but never see!

  10. Elizabeth, I could have written the almost exact same post! :-)
    This is what keeps my days going as well, although I do not seem to make much connection at the parks around here, as most moms come with their friends, strangely enough, I guess so they have somebody to talk to.
    I am the the last mother standing from my circle of friends around here, we used to be a group of four moms, all of them have moved away now and there is only me left, sounds sad right…, but I have lived here only for four years now.
    Anyways I keep buys with a couple of chat boards and blogs, working on myself of being a better mom and homemaker, as well as doing my crafts. One of my hindrances is that I do not drive, but I also have great difficulty connecting to people around here, most people have lived their whole lives here and are a bit skeptic towards foreigners, not to mention women with an alternative life style and a very different education method to most people.
    the crafting group idea sounds actually quite good, I never looked into a craft or handwork group around here. Thanks for the suggestion!

  11. You know what’s funny? I feel so much LESS isolated once I stopped going to playgroups and trying to keep busy and social outside the home. I always felt so alienated at playgroups and it wasn’t until after I found this blog about a year ago that I had the courage to be a dedicated homebody with my children. and since then I have met at the park a few exceptionally nice parents with whom I feel really comfortable. Thanks Carrie! :)

  12. I’m struggling with this right now. I have a 2.5 year old and a 9 month old and I’m totally a homebody, but I’m having such a hard time balancing everything. Luckily, I feel comfortable enough to be away from DD now that she can go longer in between nursing times, so DH is watching the kids for a little bit on his days off. So I guess I do get out a little, but it sure doesn’t feel like it after being home all during the week.

    Still, I wish I had some friends who believed the same as I do about parenting. I have some good blog friends, a friend at church with kids my kids’ age, and a friend from my old work too. None of them parent the way we do, but they do hold some of the values we do in parenting.

    Thanks for this post…I really appreciate all your insight. :)

  13. Creating a sense of community is especially important to me for my own family and as a pregnancy yoga teacher. I see so many mothers enter into motherhood all alone. Families are often far flung or not available. By forging that community we can use each other for reassurance, guidance and so much more. And our children have come to think of each others homes as an part of their own. I have also found other waldorf homeschool mom’s in unlikely ( or fated) situations, just by being who we are and putting it out there. But there is so much more available to us as mothers then their was just 7 years ago when I became a mom. Now there are cloth diapering classes, babywearing workshops, and farmer’s markets in much more abundance. Brings me much joy. Thanks for bringing up this thought on one more blustery, freezing, snowing winter morning here in MD. WE MUST DEFROST SOON!

  14. Maggie,
    I feel for you! I also had a group of friends and five of them moved away (two are left). It is its own kind of loss….
    to have a friend move away. And then sometimes when you have little ones (or more little ones) you don’t have the energy or the time to go out and make new friends, or to keep up with aquaintances. I hope you do rebuild a nice circle of friends. I think you can, with time.

  15. Thank you Molly, I felt a bit lonely in the beginning when the last of my friends moved away, but now I am getting used to “being by myself”, so to speak, I actually manage to keep myself so busy that I do not even have much time to think about it to be honest.
    Like Elizabeth said there is so much work to be done around the family, home and on working on myself that I do keep pretty busy and do not miss socializing much, especially since I am due with my second child in a couple of months and I am constantly tiered. I guess everything has its place at some point in ones life, right now this means for me focusing on my inner work and being there for my family.
    We will see what the future brings, I know that we will have to move again in a couple of years.

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  19. I have been homeschooling for ten years now and feel so alone. I would love to go out for coffee once in a while with another mom. Everyone is too busy or already has enough friends, I guess. I am so sad. I am grateful to be able to homeschool and know it is best for our kids, but I never knew I would have no friends at all , ten years in. I feel like if I disappeared, no one would even know I was gone except my husband and my children. My parents are dead. My faith is all that keeps me going.

    • Marice –
      Hugs and love! Where are you located? Are your children involved in a homeschool group? Our homeschool group really has a lot of activities for the mom, and mom’s night out, mom’s herbal study groups and many other things that have spun off..

      I wonder if something like that, where you could really connect with other like minded mothers, would be near you? What about at your place of worship? Is there a mother’s group? If there is, and it is only for parents of small children, I wonder about having YOU start a group for mothers of older children….

      Please write back when you want to, I will hold you in my prayers…
      Carrie

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