When I first became a parent, no one warned me about isolation. It snuck up on me unexpectedly in those first weeks of motherhood when I was up at 3:00 am feeding my newborn. Sitting there in the darkness, I felt like the only other person awake in the world. But in those same quiet early morning hours, I started connecting with other moms who were up at odd hours too. They too were awake feeding newborns, or comforting sick kids, or just patiently waiting out another night filled with the struggles of insomnia. I had found a new community and suddenly I didn’t feel so alone.
In each season of parenthood, isolation – or at least the risk of isolation – has followed. And in each season the ways that I have received and responded to the isolation have changed as well. What has stayed constant is the fact that finding and staying connected to my “people” is something I’m never able to take for granted. While, in general, it is always the best practice to attempt to connect and build community whenever possible, sometimes isolation cannot and shouldn’t be avoided, even if it’s just for a time.
FOR SOME, ISOLATION IS UNAVOIDABLE. For mothers who have just moved to a new state or who are struggling with anxiety or depression. For mothers of children who have medical or behavioral conditions that make parenting a 24/7 task or make it difficult to go anywhere but home or the hospital. For the working mother who feels too thinly stretched to build community when she already feels like she is giving too little to both work and home.
FOR OTHERS, ISOLATION IS THE BEST OPTION – AT LEAST FOR A TIME. For the introverted mother who knows she needs to save her emotional energy for her family. For the mother who lives in a community that does not feel safe or supportive for her or for her children.
AND SOMETIMES, ISOLATION IS INEVITABLE AS RHYTHMS AND ROUTINES CHANGE. It takes time to learn how to reconnect again and again as life, children, routines, and our desires change.
If you have found yourself isolated from community in this season, you are still not alone. It happens to almost every parent at some point along the way. Whatever the reason and however long the season, isolation can be a unique space to explore and grow in ways that can be more difficult when we are surrounded by community.
While parenting in general is a busy business, some moms find it difficult to slow down at all. If you find yourself being driven by perfection, use the still moments in a season of isolation for practicing stillness. This can look like practicing deep breathing or even just accepting the mess your children make as you sit and eat or do crafts with them. Being still can help balance your perspective and help you see what is already good, even if it is imperfect.
DO SOMETHING JUST FOR YOU
As parents, it can hard sometimes to feel valued beyond the things that we do. If you find yourself questioning what value you have beyond being the cook/chauffeur/shopper/maid/planner, then in times when you find yourself isolated it may be time to ask yourself what you need. Show yourself that you are worthy outside of what you do for others by taking some time to give to yourself. Put your favorite meal on the week’s menu or put something in your home just because you think it is beautiful. Finding ways to practice giving to yourself can help safeguard you from losing yourself in the role of motherhood.
MARK THE MILESTONES YOU HAVE ALREADY CROSSED
Take the time to mark and reflect on all that you already done. Parenting is a relentless to do list and the measuring stick we (and other people) use to measure our success is constantly growing, shifting, and becoming more and more complicated. If you find it difficult to step outside of the expectations of others or chasing success, then it might be helpful to use isolation as a time to reflect on what you have already accomplished. Use the space of isolation to remind yourself of how valuable you already are.
CREATE NEW RHYTHMS OF DISCIPLINE
Sometimes when we are disconnected from community it can be easier to fall into habits of self-indulgence. If you find that it can be difficult to stabilize your emotions when you are in seasons of isolation, creating habits of self-discipline can help to ground and refocus you. Practice having a bedtime, develop an exercise routine, or start using a planner/calendar. Choose something that feels both doable and stabilizing.
BUILD YOUR CASTLE
There are things as parents that we all want to keep away from our kids and families, especially when it comes to the values and beliefs that you are trying to instill into your children. Use the times when you find yourself isolated to emphasize those values and beliefs. Create the culture in your home that you want your children to be a part of inside of your home.
BE FULLY PRESENT
Oftentimes we get so wrapped up in what comes next that we start to lose sight of what is in front of us. If you find it hard to be present and find yourself constantly planning the next outing or social event, it might be helpful to slow down and practice being fully present. Notice everything. Take mental pictures. Try to be completely in the moment right in front of you, not three steps ahead.
LISTEN TO YOURSELF AND UNPLUG
Sometimes it can feel easy to lose ourselves when we are always around or talking to other people. Use the space of isolation to take off the “shoulds” you have been carrying around like ‘you should really do this more…’ or ‘you really know you shouldn’t…” Instead, take the opportunity to listen to what you really want and who you want to be as a parent. It can be easy to try to fit into the mold someone else has created, but take the time to ask yourself if you believe or are doing something because it’s what you want or if it’s because someone else told you it was a good idea.
Do not let isolation swallow you up with its darkness. Instead, strive to be your own light in the dark spaces. The paths towards change, growth, and joy all begin exactly where you are at right now and they only take the smallest steps to get closer and closer.
In the joy and in the chaos,
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