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08th Jun 2017

Can we all please remember how lonely motherhood can be?

Alison Bough

I’m breaking the taboo: motherhood is lonely.

The lucky ones – the mamas with sisters, cousins, friends, and even work colleagues who had babies at the same time as they did – won’t know what I’m talking about. But, for those of us who sat alone in a play centre, mother and baby group, or baby massage class, smiling at strangers with babies in a desperate bid for conversation or friendship, will know the awful feeling all too well.

I had three babies very close together in my twenties. Yes, on purpose, yes I know how it happens, and no, my telly wasn’t broken. I was the first of my friends to get married, the first by a country mile to have a baby and certainly the first to have three in quick succession. I may as well have moved to a different planet; at the time I felt completely and utterly alone.

Although my children are now at the (slightly) more manageable (not to mention school-going) ages of eight, six, and four, there was a lengthy period in my life when I didn’t get out that much. For the record, I never counted baby-music-yoga-bonding or whatever it is called as ‘getting out.’

During that – rather extended – period, Facebook was my saving grace. On some days it was my ONLY point of contact with the outside world, my only adult ‘conversation’, my only source of gossip, my only way of knowing what was going on out there, in the real world. But Facebook ‘friends’ don’t quite cut it when you’re so desperate for adult interaction that you terrify the postman with your neediness level.

In my desperation, I internet dated other new mums. Yes, I responded to the new mum equivalent of a personal ad. I bit the bullet and showed up, an hour early and way too eager. As per real-life dating, some of us had absolutely zilch in common (bar the fact that we had recently produced a child). Some of my mum-dates were downright terrifying. But some of those women are still close friends almost a decade later.

Nowadays, I avoid play centres like the plague, except for the odd birthday party. Nothing personal play centre owners, just that I’m not a fan of the abject loneliness flashbacks that such places induce. Back in the throws of full time work, with all my kids in school, it’s all too easy to forget the time when I genuinely believed that I would be friendless and covered in dried baby sick forever.

If you’re that mum now, take heart, life will be normal again. If you’re one of the lucky ones and you see a mum sitting alone smiling manically at you and your friends, invite her over, she’s (probably) not a serial killer.