Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Monday 30 November |
The Feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

How I learned to deal with the loneliness of motherhood

WOMAN CLEANING GLASS

Dragon Images | Shutterstock

Sarah Robsdottir - published on 07/22/17

After years of wishing for the perfect support group, I'm trying something new.

Every single day, second by second and hour by hour, I’m surrounded by the company of my six charming sons. I’m rarely not being hugged. I’m rarely not being told I’m beautiful, so when it dawns on me that the hollow, empty feeling in my chest is one of loneliness, I’m always a little stunned.

“How can I be lonely when I’m never alone?” I’ve asked myself often.

The answer becomes clear as I listen to my 7-year-old passionately explain the differences between a pteranodon and a triceratops while I unload the dishwasher, wishing, wishing, wishing someone — anyone — over 4-feet-tall and preferably female would call to chat about anything (except dinosaurs).

Yup, more time with friends is what I need. And while making and maintaining such relationships should be simple, I’ve found it’s not. The reason could be I’m a total dork who talks too much (I am and I do), but I think the more likely reason is that times have changed, communities have scattered and have been largely replaced by cyber-communities (albeit badly, as screens and keyboards are no substitute for voices and faces and hugs and laughter). The demands of modern life have sent many women to work outside the home, some happily, some reluctantly.




Read more:
How to build more silence into your busy daily life

And for a long time I thought if I just found that perfect support group or if I just made a few more friends, the lonely feeling would go away. But there’s no such thing as a perfect support group, and I do have a couple awesome friends — they’re simply not available in person at 10 am on Tuesdays to join me at the clothes line. I’ve tried the phone. And while a little chatting with a mom-friend while I fold laundry is great, too long and I’m certain to find a wall plastered in permanent marker. Of course there’s Facebook, but too often I leave the site feeling less connected, rather than more connected to the “friends” I have there: Wow, look at all these stylish people going on great vacations and cooking amazing meals, I tell my rumpled-pajama-self as I sling back stale coffee and tune out a living room full of couch-jumping children.

So I’m trying something new. With God’s grace, I’m turning into the loneliness with short, little prayers. I’m offering up tiny aspirations when the hollow feeling strikes, like “Jesus, I love you” or “Jesus, I trust in you” or “I believe; help my unbelief.” This new habit is harder than it seems and is requiring extra self-control, as hopping on the phone or the internet when I’m lonely has been my practice for years. But I’m definitely sticking with it, as the peace I’ve found in switching out even one phone call or one Facebook scroll with mental prayer is proving to deepen my peace in a way other habits never have.

The other day I had the urge to call a friend while I scrubbed smudges from my sliding glass doors. I decided to say a prayer or two first — nothing profound. I didn’t hear an audible voice reply, but as I stood back enjoying the light pouring in brighter than it had in weeks St. Teresa of Avila’s description of the soul came to mind:  “A crystal castle made for God himself.” Her masterpiece The Interior Castle centers around each person’s duty and joy in developing and deepening one’s prayer life: “Mental prayer is, as I see it, solitary conversation with Him who, as we know, loves us.”




Read more:
Pope: If your heart isn’t ready for God, take courage. Jesus will help you.

And so as I stood there baffled by the sight of clean glass doors — ones that were certain to remain that way for a matter of seconds — the following thought shone through with the sun: At the same time my hands scrubbed our exterior castle, those simple prayers swiped a layer off the castle within.    

Sure, I’d love to have more friends. I’d also love to have more quality time with the ones I have, but this season of my life — one ruled by nap times, sports practices and endless meal preparations — makes it hard to catch coffee with the girls as much as I’d like. For now, I’m viewing loneliness as one of the small (sometimes big) purposeful crosses of my vocation. It’s a cross that will turn me toward Our Lord if I let it. And lately, the words of 14th-century Catholic author Thomas a’ Kempis have given this new habit wings: “If you carry your cross joyfully, it will carry you.”


To learn more about praying during the day and nourishing your interior life, see these reflections:

How to pray without ceasing? Pray in baby-talk

Praying the Jesus Prayer: Mercy with every breath

4 Spiritual lessons from Eastern Monasticism for everyday life

Micromanaging your family’s prayer life before tending to your own

Tags:
MotherhoodPrayer
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in eight languages: English, French, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
LUXOR FILM FESTIVAL
Zoe Romanowsky
20-year-old filmmaker wins award for powerful...
Eric Clapton, Luciano Pavarotti, East London Gospel Choir
J-P Mauro
Hear Clapton and Pavarotti sing a prayer to t...
John Paul II
Philip Kosloski
St. John Paul II's guide to a fruitful Advent
CATHEDRAL OF THE SACRED HEART
Fr. Patrick Briscoe, OP
6 Questions to determine if your heart is har...
FIRST CENTURY HOUSE AT THE SISTERS OF NAZARETH SITE
John Burger
British archaeologist confident he has found ...
PRAY
Cerith Gardiner
12 Things we can be grateful for this Thanksg...
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.