I am lonely, so lonely.
I shouldn’t be lonely as my husband and my two young children surround me. My husband is caring, supportive and shares equally the care of our children and the work of our home, but at the moment he’s caught up in plans for business ventures that are exciting to him but overwhelming for me.
My children are gorgeous and are at last growing past the intensity of the baby stage. They are starting to care for each other and play together, but they are little and when they fight they literally pull me in different directions so that I honestly don’t know how to care for one of them, let alone all three of us simultaneously.
I have many old friends, but it is hard to see them either when our schedules don’t overlap or when carefully organised plays get cancelled again and again thanks to illness.
I have extended family near by who are supportive in theory, but in practice are too busy, overly judgemental or reluctant to extend themselves to care for my mummy’s-girl daughter and not-long-out-of-infancy son.
I work in a large and friendly team but I’m new, part-time and work in a role where I need to be impartial to all rather than friendly with some.
I was part of a great mothers’ group who are still meeting but I moved away and, though I still join some park plays, it’s an effort to get there and our kids do not share friendships forged through kinder and swapped babysitting.
I am starting to meet local parents in my new area but they have their busy lives too and it is such a slow process to get to know anyone well enough to feel that they are a friend.
I’ve tried to be neighbourly but my neighbours obviously aren’t in the mood to reciprocate, so we simply wave from the driveway or, for those with kids, make our way separately to kinder rather than walking in the happy group that I had optimistically envisioned.
I’ve tried joining a local playgroup but there aren’t any on the days I don’t work.
I recall being a stroppy teenager and accusing my parents that they had no friends. “Why don’t you ever go out?” I hurled at them. It turns out that I was wrong. They have several good friends and, once all their children grew to adulthood, they started going out and away on holidays with these friends to the extent that my youngest sister pleaded with them to leave her a note so she wouldn’t worry about them.
I wonder now whether they were lonely for all those years when they too found it hard to see their friends and meet new people.
Maybe their fate is mine and I am destined to repeat the pattern by becoming isolated within my nuclear family, ready only to soar again into the social stratosphere once this stage has passed. But I can’t wait for this. I am lonely now.
The loneliness is so intense that it hurts. My chest caves in and tears come close to falling whenever I stop being busy enough for my feelings to surface.
I yearn to call out to my friends for help but I know they are busy. Most of them walk the same narrow balance beam of parenting that I do: children, work, a hefty mortgage, ageing parents and their own needs for sanity. Others do not have children and, even in my current state, I sense their profound sadness about this and their consequent reluctance to be involved too deeply with me and my family.
I have had stages in my life where I have been dimly aware that other friends were seeking more from me than I felt able to give. From where I sit now, I wish I’d listened. And responded.
If I make a huge effort to plan ahead I can have social events to look forward to, as long as the curse of illness spares us all for a time. But I so miss the spontaneity that was such a joyous part of my younger years.
My family will babysit if I ask, but asking takes energy and what I would really like is for them to willingly offer to be a more substantial part of my life. My friends are too geographically scattered to hope to live closer to them one day. I’d love to, but cannot afford to, live back closer to my mothers’ group, who will always accept me because we knew each other at our most vulnerable time.
I love my husband and my children. At times I welcome the feeling of us being a bundle, adrift in the big world with only each other to cling to. When all is well, this brings a calm, secure feeling. But when all is not well with me, or them, this is too shaky an arrangement to sustain, especially as I am the one on whom the balance most relies.
And all is not well with me. I am lonely. So lonely.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem