Life as a working single mother is crazy-busy, and yet … it can be so very lonely.
Anyone else feel this?
How can it be that every day is packed full of chores, people and the vibrant chaos of our children, but we still feel isolated somehow? Slightly adrift from the rest of the world. Alone.
It is almost laughable that someone who can barely find a minute to herself during her waking hours, still craves more.
Yet, it is “what” we are craving that is important here. Let’s first look at what loneliness is.
WHAT IS LONELINESS?
According to Vocabulary.com, the definition of loneliness is:
“Loneliness is the state of being alone and feeling sad about it. It is a feeling of sadness or even anxiety that occurs when you want company. On the other hand, it is possible to feel loneliness in a crowd, especially if you aren’t interacting with others, like in a crowded subway car or busy grocery store.”
YES! That is exactly it!
This not only describes loneliness, but it also validates why single mothers can struggle with loneliness, even when they are super busy.
Ask yourself about the interactions you have throughout an average day. Are they quality interactions that help you feel less alone in the world? Or are you simply communicating with those around you as a way of making it through the day?
This article might resonate with you: Why single mums can feel like the loneliest people on earth.
Ok, we’ve identified loneliness and understand that we don’t need to be physically alone to feel it.
Let’s move on.
HOW CAN EXTENDED LONELINESS AND ISOLATION AFFECT ME?
Negative feelings come and go. Understanding them is an integral part of managing our mental health on a daily basis.
For example …
I can be skipping along perfectly happy with my singledom, then I catch up with one of my favourite married couples (yes, there are still a few remaining in my friend circle) and will suddenly feel very lonely. This will last as long as it takes me to drive home, hog the remote control and my entire queen bed … then the feeling will pass. All quite normal.
Yet, when loneliness sticks around, and even full ownership of a Netflix remote and a queen bed can’t eliminate it, that’s a different story.
Extended feelings of loneliness have a myriad of worrying outcomes, including health problems. This article from APA elaborates:
“Those who are lonely may slide into unhealthy habits. In addition, loneliness has been found to raise levels of stress, impede sleep and, in turn, harm the body. Loneliness can also augment depression or anxiety.”
Well, this makes perfect sense.
Lack of connection and meaningful conversation makes your problems and negative thoughts spin around and around inside your head in a never-ending circle of self-doubt that can drive you mad. Is it any wonder this can lead to stress, insomnia, anxiety, even depression?
Question: If you are struggling with your mental health, could it be caused by the absence of meaningful connection and companionship?
WHY ARE MY NEEDS NOT BEING MET?
I’m just gonna say it:
“We lack meaningful companionship and connection leaving us with feelings of loneliness and isolation because we are so damn busy.”
Does that sit better with you now that you know the facts?
Yelling at your kids to “get out the door, you’ll miss the bus”, listening to your work colleagues rattle on in a meeting or talking to child support on the phone is NOT going to fulfil your interaction needs. And allowing yourself 30-minutes to get lost in the drama of Bridgerton or Offspring every evening does not constitute as a social life.
What we desperately need and deserve is:
- Meaningful connection and conversation with people who get us and genuinely care for us (otherwise known as non-work-related adult conversation)
- The chance to support and guide those close to us (not only our kids) to feel a sense of value and self-worth
- A reason to smile with another adult, ideally giggle … better still, belly laugh
- The feeling of being supported by others, even if they are not physically present all the time.
I FEEL GUILTY THAT MY KIDS ARE NOT ENOUGH FOR ME?
I’d like to cover this because it is how I felt in my darkest days. And I believe a lot of single mothers feel the same.
We have these gorgeous little people in our worlds. Our children. They are our greatest loves, our mini entertainers, our biggest time takers. We love them to the moon and back a million times.
So why is this not enough?
Yes, our children do provide us with connection and companionship in their own special childlike ways but NEVER assume that this should be enough for you.
In fact, the huge amount of time, energy and all-consuming love for our kids is often what breaks our ties with other people around us, thus exacerbating the problem.
I have two beautiful daughters who I adore. Yet, there was no time during the “play mat and building block years” through to the testing teenage years that they were filling the full spectrum of my social needs … nowhere close. If anything, my care for them was preventing me meeting those needs.
There is no shame in admitting this. It is a reality. The sooner you accept it and work on filling your need bucket outside the realms of Kid World, the sooner you will feel better.
For further reading on mum guilt see: The truth about mum guilt and how to kiss it goodbye.
HOW CAN I CHANGE THIS?
Feeling lonely is one of the biggest challenges for single mothers. For this reason, we have heaps of resources on this website to help you manage stress and work your way around loneliness to a happier place.
Let’s cover a few limiting believes that may be preventing you from finding the friendships and quality connections that are out there waiting for you.
MY LIFE IS SO BUSY, WHERE DO I FIND THE TIME TO CONNECT WITH PEOPLE?
This is the main one isn’t it? And I totally get it.
You’ve got a few options here.
Can you manage your time better? Can you streamline tasks?
See these articles on with time saving tips:
Once, you’ve juggled a bit of time. You may find you have to be disciplined when you prioritise. So, instead of spending Tuesday night ironing, invite a friend over for a wine when the kids are in bed, or head to the movies with them. What’s a few creased clothes, when your mental health is at stake?
I FEEL DEPRESSED AND DON’T WANT TO SEE/CHAT WITH ANYONE
This is sooooo me. The less I see people, the less I feel like seeing them. Can you relate? If so, you will know it is a vicious cycle.
Feeling depressed can be a stress response and a sign that you need further support from a GP or counsellor. You can also call Lifeline or Beyond Blue. I have chatted to both in relation to single motherhood in these podcasts:
For some simple ways to break your cycle of chronic stress and/or depression, see this candid article about: How I manage my depression as a single mother.
As well as this, try and get some momentum to your social life, however small. Even if it’s going for a coffee alone where you interact with people around you.
Other ideas include:
- Walking your dog – great for making small talk with strangers!
- Volunteering at your kid’s school
- Arriving at day care or school pick-up early to meet and chat to other parents
- Spending time talking to a friend or family member, in person or by phone
Aim to do one of these things, or similar, at least once a day if possible.
I PHYSICALLY CAN’T GET OUT OF MY HOUSE TO SOCIALISE WITHOUT MY KIDS
Stuck at home? No worries.
We live in the age of technology which leaves us no excuses not to connect with one another.
Get tech savvy with your favourite video calling app and arrange chats, dates and even parties, all from your living room when the kids are asleep.
In addition, get engaged with social media and online social support groups to meet people. Some are especially for single mums and are area specific. This website runs the Single Mum Vine where many women have initially connected online, then arranged to meet up and have found “real-life” friendships. For me, this is one of the most rewarding parts of starting Beanstalk (cue: nice warm feeling inside).
Of course, real human contact is best, but getting tech-social is a pretty close second.
I HAVE LOST MY SELF ESTEEM AND SENSE OF SELF
Lack of connection over a long period of time can definitely cause lack of confidence.
In fact, the journey to become a single mum can be so intense that we are left wondering “who is this woman starting at me in the mirror?”.
Well, now is the time to discover her.
Self-discovery is the very first module of my “You’ve Got This” Single Mum eCourse and is an imperative step to re-building your world (and your dreams) as a single mother.
Allow yourself time to discover who you are, what you enjoy, and think about the kind of people you would like to spend your precious time with.
After all, until you are confident in who you are, how can you reach out and find healthy, authentic friendships?
Check out these articles for further support: