Is loneliness a new epidemic amongst new mums? It’s a paradox because as a new mum you’re never alone (with your new baby with you every day and night) but you can also feel so very lonely.
A recent study by the Red Cross found that more than 8 in 10 mums feel lonely some of the time. Another survey by Channel Mum revealed that more than 90% of mums in the UK admit to feeling lonely since having children. A statistic that is shocking, but perhaps not surprising.
Loneliness as a new mum is something we don’t talk about enough. 3 in 5 new mums surveyed said they tried to hide their feelings and 38% have never told their partner.
In the past 18 months, as we’ve all gone through lockdowns, this epidemic of loneliness amongst new parents has surely got worse.
Nicola from Team Happity opens up about how much loneliness affected her after having her first baby. We hand over to her to tell her story:
How loneliness as a new mum took me by surprise
I’d done everything I thought possible to prepare for having a baby. I’d bought all the kit, read all the books, been to all the antenatal classes. But one thing I hadn’t prepared for was loneliness.
Loneliness as a new mum was something I’d never expected and something I hadn’t prepared for. And it hit me like a ton of bricks.
I hadn’t ever felt lonely before: through school, through university and at work.
I was the first of my friends to have a baby. All my friends were busy with work and with their own lives. Suddenly I found myself alone all day, every day with just my baby for company.
I felt lonelier than ever before. And it had a huge effect on my mental health and my confidence.
Where do all the other mums go?
I found myself with every day yawning ahead of me with nowhere to go. I walked with my baby in her sling or her pram finding myself in an unchartered daytime world. I passed pensioners, hurried people on their way to goodness knows where.
I also passed other new mums pushing their prams with more purpose than me. Where were they going? How did they know where to go?
I smiled at every other mum I passed trying to put out ‘Please be friends with me’ vibes!
Accosting the postie!
As the weeks went by I found myself craving adult company. Here I was, day after day, feeding, rocking and soothing, and talking to my baby (who at this age gave very little chat back!).
I used to head out to the corner shop and talk to the till assistant for longer than was socially acceptable. And when the postman rang the bell to deliver a parcel I would strike up a conversation and keep him on the doorstep. I was just so desperate to speak to another adult human being!
Plucking up the nerves to get out there and confront loneliness as a new mum
I eventually found out details of baby classes and baby and toddler groups near me and plucked up the courage to go along to one or two each week. After weeks of being at home alone with my baby, suddenly getting back out there was daunting.
I used to have to steel myself to go. And often had to pause at the entrance to try and settle my nerves before walking into a room full of other parents. Would they all be friends and would I be left out? Would my baby be the only one that cried and then would everybody judge me?
Slowly finding my tribe
I didn’t make friends instantly. Often I’d feel shy and awkward in groups and leave feeling a little lonelier than before.
Things changed when I found a lovely baby music group that was warm and welcoming. There was time at the end of each class to have a cuppa and chat.
Having babies is a great leveller. I think we were all feeling lonely to some degree and we all wanted to share our stories with other parents who might ‘get it’.
I soon found that over cups of tea we were sharing birth stories and breastfeeding struggles; tales of sleep deprivation and new mum worries. Over time we opened up more and more. Feeling OK to admit we were having a tough day or that we’d had a cry just before class after an exhausting morning where the baby just wouldn’t stop crying.
I began to look forward to Wednesdays as ‘baby music days’. And over time, as we swapped numbers, the other days of the week were filled with coffee dates and walks in the park.
Nicola spoke about loneliness as a new mum over on Instagram. You can watch the Instagram video here.
Loneliness: How the pandemic affected new parents
While loneliness is something many new mums feel, things got tougher still for new parents during the pandemic. Lockdown forced new parents to tackle the challenges of bringing up a baby without the usual support network of classes, family and friends to help them.
Talking to the BBC, one mum, Zunaira from Peterborough, describes how it felt:
“It’s lonely. You lose your own self, you forget about yourself – and all the focus is on another person. Your identity goes and I fel like I was suffocating. You just want to sit in a cafe, have a bit of cake and a talk.”
Talking to The Metro, Theresa Raymond, who gave birth to her daughter just before lockdown, said:
“Not being able to let my family see my baby or have face-to-face follow-up midwife appointments have been the hardest things to adapt to.
Especially as a first-time mum, I had this image of how it was meant to be which has been scuppered a little.”
Thank goodness that classes and groups are now back.
Find a baby class: meet others who are tackling loneliness as a new mum
Happity was set up by Sara Tateno after she herself felt lonely as a new mum. Emily Tredget, our co-founder, experienced severe PND and anxiety after having her son and one of the things that helped her recovery was getting out of the house and going to groups and classes to meet other parents.
One of our missions at Happity is to combat loneliness for new parents by connecting them though baby and toddler classes.
If you’re feeling lonely – do go along to a class or group. We know it can be daunting. But it’s definitely worth it.