Why is motherhood so lonely? I think perhaps with most other major life changes you're doing it with others to support you - your flatmates in the first week of university; your manager in a new job role. Of course mothers have many places to get support, which we would do if only we weren't so tired. And so we don't do the things required to connect with people - like get dressed and leave the house and as a result we feel lonely and then the loneliness makes us feel down and when you're down you don't feel like connecting with people etc etc etc.
And then there's people like me, I quite like the isolation of motherhood. I appreciated the rest from the sometimes exhausting process of dealing with other people in a socially acceptable way but even people like me sometimes get up in the morning and realise that their cat is their only friend and even she doesn't like them very much. So this week's mission was to accept that I could connect, that it isn't as big or as daunting a task as I sometimes feel it is and to try and initiate a positive interaction with a new person every day.
DAY 1: I go to my favourite coffee shop and order an americano to have in. The barista tells me he'll bring it over and as he lays it down I say, 'Thank you, Mike.'
'You know my name!' He says in surprise.
'Well, you're my favourite,' I say, 'so I took note.' He asks me my name. He recommends the eggs. He looks totally chuffed and I receive a warm glow from witnessing his joy.
DAY 2: A guy is sat opposite me on the train. He is wearing a ridiculously sharp suit. I ask him where he's going and he tells me to a wedding. I compliment him on his suit and ask him if he is in the wedding party. He says no, he wonders if he's overdressed based on my comments. I reassure him he is not. We wish each other a good day. Many pleasantries are exchanged.
DAY 3: My laptop needs a clean so I take it to the repair shop that brought it back to life recently. The guy in there looks harassed and doesn't have much to say to me as he sorts out my order. I tell him that he sounded so warm on the phone and that now he seems stressed. He shares with me that he's being asked to do the job of three people and feels under appreciated. I tell him I appreciate him and he gives me a discount.
It's at the this point I notice something. I am cheating. I am not really connecting, I am flirting. What my sneaky subconscious has done is found a way to connect whilst limiting the chance of rejection. Everyone loves someone thinking they're attractive, whether they're interested or not, they're likely to respond positively. The next day I am determined to connect without the sex.
DAY 4: I'm in the coffee shop again, I leave the barista alone. A woman comes in with a ridiculously cute baby. Like, Pampers ad perfect. He smiles a gummy smile at me as his mum gets settled. Once sat down she notices me looking and shoots me half a smile. I wonder what she's thinking, can she tell I'm a mum too? Would it make a difference? The kid continues to babble and wave at me. I imagine he's saying, 'Come here! My mum is friendly! She's just been up since 5AM!' I don't have the courage though. The woman seems engrossed in the paper - perhaps this coffee is her most treasured time of day...
DAY 5: I decide to get real, my real life real. There's a blogger I've been fangirling for weeks. She lives near me. I know from the (obviously completely accurate) representation online that we have much in common. I think she is the kind of mama I want to connect with. So I send her a message. I try and fashion it to be less stalkery than what is written above. You know I'm super casual and cool, like. She responds to my offer to connect with 'erm maybe'. I won't lie I'm gutted. I feel like someone has looked at my life, my style, my soul and stamped it with a big red NOT GOOD ENOUGH. I remember why I hated this connecting malarkey in the first place.
DAY 6: I still feel like crap. I'm trying to think about how not to feel like crap when I bump into my friend Nina. Nina is unashamedly positive. She tells me she has exactly 44 minutes before she has to catch a train and she wants to spend them with me! In this time she regales me with several hilarious stories about love and life and gives me a spiritual kick up the hiney. I realise that connecting with people is not like a game of Pokemon Go, you don't need to run around catching as many new people as you can. When you need to connect you can aim to strengthen the relationships you already have. So I message another mum I've been meaning to hang out with and get a firm date for Monday, 'only if there's wine' she sends back, much to my delight. I book in a dance class I've been promising I would do with my friend Rhiannon and I tell my Mum to come and spend the weekend whilst my dad is working the night shift. I feel like a girl who went all the way to Oz and only had to click her heels three times to get home. Connection may not always be easy but it's probably closer than you think.
Have you found parenthood lonely?
It's been pointed out to me that I'm about halfway through my mission so I'm having a review this week. If you have any ideas for future missions, let me know in the comments.