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Lonely, but never alone

At any time, becoming a parent can feel really isolating. You may be in touch with people from work but your time is spent doing very different things to your colleagues. Your mind is thinking about very different things to your colleagues; sometimes we may even feel like we have lost the ability to converse as we can't even remember what day it is! Chatting with people who you used to spend a large part of your day with can be isolating in itself. You hear what "Sally" got up to at drinks on Friday night, or what "Dave" said in the office, and you can realise that life in your workplace is just carrying on without you. You no longer know the "in jokes" and there may be someone else doing your job.

At first there can be lots going on, people visiting to see the new baby, partners on leave with you to support you through the first couple of weeks, but as life at home with a new baby becomes a new rhythm and partners go back to work it can start to feel quite lonely.

I think the most important thing to bring to mind if you start feeling alone is that your feelings are very normal. In research conducted by Action for Children, it was found that 52% of new parents felt both lonely and socially isolated. There has been a huge change in your life and it can be a shock to the system. We can feel very prepared for a new baby but it is very difficult to predict how you are going to feel. Having a baby, actually being responsible for literally keeping another human safe, warm, fed, clean and nurtured is not something we can begin to imagine until it actually happens. We have to get used to a new normal, and when we find that for hours at a time we only have a baby for company it can be a struggle. Even when other people are around we are often feeling too tired to make proper conversation and as we struggle to communicate we can also feel resentful of a partner who still has colleagues and life beyond the house.

Of course this year, 2020, has been unique, with everyone being isolated at home. Being told to stay home can be just as hard especially when you have been used to spending time away from your partner for several hours a day and now perhaps they are working from home. Whilst that may, on the surface, have seemed like a great thing, you can be just as alone because they are not available to you, there is just a physical presence but not a shared experience moment to moment.

We all have different ways of coping when we feel alone. Technology and social media have been amazing tools at giving us ways of staying in touch with friends and family and a complete necessity during months of being shut away from physically meeting with people. But it can also lead to a false impression that everyone else is having a great life and make you feel more isolated when you are not able to join in. Or perhaps you are seeing other parents posting about amazing things their babies are doing or they are achieving and you start to make comparisons.

To me, I find I feel most isolated when I am not able to connect with myself. When time alone is something I seek to avoid it is a flag to me that I am not listening to what is going on for me. I am avoiding connecting with myself, listening to myself and being honest with myself. Yes, life has changed and now you have another human being to be responsible for; but the best way we can do that is by also looking after ourselves.

When you are feeling alone, even if there are people around you, it's important to be honest about how you are feeling. If you are struggling to put things into words maybe just try writing things down. It is amazing how much physically writing how we are feeling on a piece of paper can help sort your thoughts out. I find that when I write about my feelings, things come out onto the paper that surprise me. I have often been focused only on the feeling part of what is going on and feel consumed by it. By writing what I am feeling I am able to make way for thoughts which are contributing to how I feel and even things I am believing which, when written on paper, can be seen more clearly. The simple act of writing can be cathartic and organise our thoughts and even give us new perspective.

If you have never tried journalling then it might be worth trying. No one but you ever has to read it, and it is just the act of writing that holds the benefits. Having written you never need to look back at it, but it could be a wonderful documentation of your transformation into the parent you aspire to be.

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