Posted in isolation, loneliness, motherhood, parenting

Those What Ifs and Should Haves

Maybe you can pinpoint the reason you are disconnected from others, but what about those pesky thoughts that perpetuate you staying disconnected and on an island away from people? We want connection. We want to belong. Most of us want to do life with others. However, our internal voice often stops us.

The great news is that our brains are moldable and can be retrained to improve our inner voice, that constant self-talk. If we can improve our self-talk, we can also enhance our connection with others and feel less isolated.

The What Ifs

Ever psyched yourself up for an outing, event, or social gathering only to talk yourself out of it with a “what if” statement like one of these?

What if my toddler throws one of his famous tantrums that turns heads?

What if my nine year old can’t control his hyperactivity and they judge my parenting?

What if they’ve heard about the recent choices my teenager made?

What if I just don’t fit in with this group of women?

Those “what if “ statements are really good at keeping us in the dark and prohibit us from doing things that will help us connect. Can you hear the anxiety in the “what ifs”? I often remind clients and myself that most of our “what if” thoughts do not come true.

If one or two of them does prove true, we will survive it. I often ask clients, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” and ask you the same question. When we frame it that way it does not seem as scary. If you are sure one of your “what ifs” will come true, like your child being defiant or having a rough moment, prepare yourself for it and have a plan. In spite of the “what ifs” swirling in your head, go to the play date, meet up with moms for coffee, or attend the event. You will likely find that you have a much better time than you thought.

When we recognize our “what ifs”, we also have the power to stop living in the “what ifs.” One of my favorite quotes is from Corrie ten Boom. “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.” Take it from someone who knew suffering and may have felt isolated during her immense hardships. Don’t let those “what ifs” steal the strength you have today.

The Should Haves

Ever talked yourself out of going to another event or staying connected with a group of people because of the “should have” thoughts that followed afterwards?

I should have kept quiet when they discussed that controversial topic.

I should have been less vulnerable and kept my conversation on a surface level.

I should have worn something else.

I should have used a different parenting approach in front of them.

Can you hear the anxiety, self-defeat, and even shame in those “should have” statements? In cognitive behavioral therapy, we call “should statements” a cognitive distortion. This means it is an unhealthy pattern of thinking sure to produce negative emotional results.

If you got out of your house and connected with people, you succeeded. You did something healthy and maybe it was vulnerable, so don’t let the “should have” statements rob your joy. Brene’ Brown reminds us, “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” If a moment is awkward or you could have done something differently, take note and move on. Replaying it in your mind a hundred times probably won’t make you feel better. Retreating and not engaging because of a perceived negative moment will not produce healing either, only more hurt.

Encouragement for Introverts

As an introvert, I understand thinking about connecting, doing something social, or even sometimes picking up the phone to call and check on a friend out of state feels like too much after you’ve been interacting with your family or people at work all day. You need to be alone to recharge, and that’s okay. Consider setting a weekly or biweekly goal for connecting with others. If you don’t have a group or people you consider “your people,” start working to build one with a couple of people you trust or can learn to trust. When I became pregnant with my first child, I did not have a network of close mom friends who lived near me. My close friends were in different seasons of life or located hundreds of miles away. I had to seek out new people, connect with others, and build friendships. I am so glad I did the legwork to build friendships with other moms who have children similar in age as mine. These women have been such blessings in my life. When you start milling through the “what ifs” in your mind, remember connecting and meaningful relationships are worth it.

Charge to Extroverts

How great is it that you get your energy from being around others! Your love for people and energy can be magnetic. Continue to be mindful not to let those “what ifs” and “should haves” get you down. Your energy is needed. I would encourage you to invite others in, especially those who you know might reach out on their own. Be an includer; no one wants to be on the outside. If you are an extrovert who finds yourself in a season of loneliness or isolation, I would encourage to reach out and make the connection with a trusted friend. You will likely be glad that you did!

Final Thought

I encourage you, introvert or extrovert, outgoing or shy, to make one stride against isolation and towards connection this week. Call that friend out of town. Invite someone over. Arrange a play date for your kids so you can spend time with another mom. Attend something social. Check on a friend who you know has had a hard time.

When those pesky “what ifs” or “should haves” come to mind, picture a red stop sign in your brain, stop the thought, and show up anyway. The more you do this, the less consuming those thoughts will become.



Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be a replacement for counseling or medical services. The information on this site is intended for general and educational purposes only. Before taking action based on the information you find in this blog, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. The use or reliance on any information found on this site is solely at your own risk. You are welcome to contact us in response to this post. We will not provide online counseling services via our contact form. We encourage you to seek counseling services of your own if you are looking for more support, help, and advice. If you are in crisis or have a mental health emergency, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

Posted in counseling, isolation, loneliness, motherhood, parenting, summer

Uprooting Isolation

Isolation.  The feeling of being separated from others.  Have you ever stood in a room, completely surrounded, but aching with loneliness, discomfort, and an intense desire to connect?  I have.  And I think it is prevalent for moms, even in the moments that you have escaped from “nap jail” as a dear neighbor humorously commented to me.  Sometimes it is so difficult to connect – to know and be known by others.  Maybe it’s the fear of being judged for our frazzled mom appearance or our parenting habits.  Maybe it’s because we are just out of the loop and don’t know where to begin conversation.  Maybe it’s because we have spent all of our “energy bucks” on our family and can barely muster concern for the intricacies happening in the lives of others.  Whatever the cause, we must deal with the internal root of isolation. 

Isolation is a nasty weed that can grow from various root systems.  Recently we had a plant that we just could not get rid of in our back yard.  I cut it down… numerous times.  I poisoned it… numerous times.  And I complained about it a whole lot.  But the green bushy plant kept coming back.  It was relentless.  Nothing worked to get rid of this plant until we finally dug it up by the root.  I find isolation is very similar to this plant.  It digs deep.  And we can deal with all the impacts that grow above the surface, cutting it back every few months.  But until we address the root, isolation will return.  I have found that isolation, when present in my life, has a much deeper and widespread root system than what one might think.  When I feel lonely and the deep, aching longing to know and to be known, I can usually- if I have the insight and discipline to stop and reflect- identify a few of the roots that are contributing to the isolation. Here are just a few I’ve noticed in my life. 

1. Unresolved Hurt: Whether in friendships, community groups, marriages, or work relationships, stuffing emotions and avoiding real conversations about valid hurts affirm the harmful message within that connection is dangerous and not worth the risk and effort.  You teach to yourself the false message that you are not worthy of love and belonging. Full disclosure, this is a tough area for me.  It’s a vulnerable experience to give someone your heart and share how they hurt you (see below for my distaste for vulnerability).  Fearful of rejection, denial of harm, or being exposed for our own flaws, us mamas aren’t so great at confronting hurts in a gentle, respectful way.  Our kiddos must see this modeled and must learn how to navigate conflict when relational roads get bumpy.

2. Insecurity and Unwillingness to be Vulnerable With Others: In his book Caring for One Another, Ed Welch says, “Our pride resists being vulnerable.  Even more, if you have ever confided in someone and received comments that were hurtful or less than supportive, you might have decided on the spot never to let that happen again, which means that you keep your troubles to yourself.”  Our unresolved hurt and insecurities create a wall of self-protection  and we begin resisting the risks of being vulnerable.  It’s so hard to be vulnerable, to let others know you.  But friend, let me urge you, cannot know unless you are known.  Yes, vulnerability will inevitably allow others to get close enough to hurt you.  But it will also let the sweetness of companionship, support, and belonging to be known by you.

3. Unhealthy Standards and Expectations:  The final part to the root of isolation that has taken up residence in the yard of my life (cue the uncomfortable vulnerability) has been unrealistic expectations and idealistic dreams of what friendships should look like.  Only when I have abandoned the thoughts that all my friends should parent like me, live lifestyles like me, find the same humor funny, and spend money like me have I been able to enjoy the sweetness of friendship.  When I let that idealized picture of friendship go, I’m free to truly enjoy my friends’ differences, have meaningful conversations, and reciprocate vulnerability.  Friend, if we are unwilling to be authentic and vulnerable, we cannot expect others to be authentic and vulnerable with us.  Let people in, whether that be into the messiness of your heart or the messiness of your house.  Welcome people in to the mess of life and ask, “Will you sit with me here for a while?”

To be sure, you may find the root system of your isolation to be comprised of other factors: a move away from your family and support system, loss of a loved one, or circumstances outside of your control.  If you find yourself in this predicament, let me encourage you, there is healing in connection.  It takes bravery, energy, and planning.  But you are worthy of love and belonging.  Ask someone for help to dig that root up, and rid the isolation that is persistent in your life.  With equal importance, when you pass someone else’s yard of life and see the isolation growing out of control, offer to help dig it up.  The root of isolation, by its very nature, cannot be dug up alone.  I recently had a sweet friend of mine say to me, “Don’t let me isolate myself.”  We tend to do that, don’t we?  Don’t worry Mama, I’ve got my shovel.  

A few reflection questions for you to assist in digging up your root system of isolation:

How have you found yourself responding when hurt by others?  Do you move near to talk it out?  Or are you more likely to withdraw to avoid being hurt?

What are the insecurities that keep you from being authentic and vulnerable with others?  Who is a safe person you can be vulnerable with this week?

What are the judgements you pass on other friends?  How might you let that go so you can enjoy their differences and sweet fellowship with them?

In the mess with you,

Tiffany Raley

Posted in isolation, loneliness, motherhood, parenting

Standing Strong…alone

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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,


Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be a replacement for counseling or medical services. The information on this site is intended for general and educational purposes only. Before taking action based on the information you find in this blog, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. The use or reliance on any information found on this site is solely at your own risk. You are welcome to contact us in response to this post. We will not provide online counseling services via our contact form. We encourage you to seek counseling services of your own if you are looking for more support, help, and advice. If you are in crisis or have a mental health emergency, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

Posted in isolation, loneliness, motherhood, parenting, summer

Fighting Against The Shadows

As the sun sets, you prepare for night feedings. As you pass the toy aisle, you prepare for the tantrum. As you make your coffee, you expect it to be cold by the time you finish. 

Motherhood (primary caregiver-hood) can be an exhausting endeavor. However, the greatest “thief”, is often isolation. There is a growing struggle to connect. When screened in porches and sunrooms began to let in light while keeping out our neighbors, something was lost. Rarely do people sit in a way that invites spontaneous conversation. The village is now inaccessible. The village can now be shaming. The village is a scary place. 

The vulnerability that is required to parent with others, often keeps us alone. In the hot days of summer, it becomes more difficult to spend time where others congregate. In the south, going to the park almost seems like an invitation for heat stroke! It can become so easy and so harmful to hole-up in the air conditioned house and parent alone. 

Friendships in motherhood look very different than ever before. There is often the obstacle of crying (when they are infants), tantrums (when they are toddlers), extracurricular activities (when they are school aged), etc. Reasons will always exist to excuse us from breaking our isolation. 

Where to go from here?

Here are four important things to remember when attempting to embrace the idea of community.


LIFE. IS. INSANE. Busyness happens and when you look up from the day, you realize a month has gone by without speaking to your best friend. Set some kind of reminder to send a text or make a phone call to check-in and engage with someone. It can mean having alarms on various days with someone’s name attached. It can mean sticky notes on your mirror or in the car. It can even mean scheduling a FaceTime date monthly. Time will not magically appear for friendships, you must make time. 


When someone you trust asks how life is going? Do not- DO NOT- say “fine”. Is life ever really fine? If you are not struggling with lack of sleep or lack of time for yourself or budgeting or grocery shopping or the Everest that is laundry, you are worrying about your kids. There is always something on your mind. Always something you can gain another’s perspective on, or experience solidarity in the struggle.


Be the type of friend you need. Mom-shaming is one of the most damaging, soul-crushing, frustrating trends in our culture. This can come in the form of out-right guilting, advice giving or even dismissal of someone else’s experience. There’s a great tool that you can use when someone is sharing their struggle. Ask what they need. “Do you want advice or do you want me to listen?” Often, if we model the type of friend we need, others reciprocate.


Make the first move, even if it is outside your comfort zone. Ask for the playdate with moms you know or engage in conversation with the other parent in the play place. Concern for our kids and having a similar passion in life, can be a connecting point. It is terrifying and rejection is real. Someone has to start the conversation. Why not be that person?

Do not let your days be filled with longing for community and support. You can be an active participant in fighting isolation and loneliness. It is not an easy process. Many of these ideas are easier said than done. That is ok. Please take the first step and find what you need. We must be an army of light against the darkness of isolation. It is a real enemy. Let us fight this together.

Fighting for you and with you,

Allyson Pitre

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be a replacement for counseling or medical services. The information on this site is intended for general and educational purposes only. Before taking action based on the information you find in this blog, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. The use or reliance on any information found on this site is solely at your own risk. You are welcome to contact us in response to this post. We will not provide online counseling services via our contact form. We encourage you to seek counseling services of your own if you are looking for more support, help, and advice. If you are in crisis or have a mental health emergency, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.