Staying Home Instead
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 16 No. 2, March-April 1999, pp. 49-51
We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time.
"Staying Home Instead" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help parents who choose to stay at home with their children. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's life-style. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.
I was really looking forward to staying home with my baby. I figured I'd have plenty of chances to get together with my friends from my old job so I wouldn't be lonely. Somehow though, that hasn't happened. There aren't other stay-at-home mothers in my neighborhood and I feel so alone all day with just my baby to talk to. What strategies do other mothers use to connect with adults during the day?
I think it is important to find other mothers with babies close to your baby's age to hang out and share experiences. Look into your community and check out the mother/baby activities being offered and attend one or two that you would enjoy. Before my first son was born, I met two women I liked at my water aerobics class at the YMCA. I also attended my first LLL meeting. Through those contacts, I made some friends and started a playgroup. We also arranged other times to meet. I also met people at swim classes and other infant/parent classes at the YMCA. Check your community to see what is available. Best of luck in your situation.
I, too, was lonely the first couple of months home with my newborn son. Although I had really looked forward to being a full-time mom, I didn't anticipate the isolation. Because Nathaniel slept little and cried a lot I wasn't motivated to go out to public places to entertain myself. My solution: I started a new mothers' playgroup. I called all of the women that I had met at my prenatal water aerobics class and a childbirth education class and opened my home to them. I told everyone to invite any other new mothers they knew. We started getting together once a week for a couple of hours when our babies were about three months old and have been going strong for six months.
In the first months, the babies mostly ate and slept, but we mothers got valuable support from each other. I find I have developed stronger friendships than I have had in many years and I value each of my "mommy" friends dearly. The playgroup has been a mental blessing for me because each week for a couple of hours we have a social time together. We also trade babysitting!
My other coping mechanism is to take an exercise class at the YMCA two nights a week. My husband comes along and walks with Nathaniel in the sling or backpack while I swim for an hour. We both get exercise and I have two hours a week just for me. It's good for the body and the mind!
This sounds like much the situation I faced with the birth of my first baby. Everything was so new. I felt like I was sailing into uncharted territories with no crew to guide me. I sought out any mother-baby activity I could find. I attended a postpartum series run by the local health department for new mothers and met mothers with whom I became friendly. I attended drop-in play times at the park district, programs at the local library, parent and tot swim sessions, and of course La Leche League. With my second baby, my support network was already in place. When we moved across the country 14 months later, I found it was much easier to find other adults to connect with. LLL was my ready-made invitation and a great way to find out about all the resources in my new community.
British Columbia, Canada
I could readily identify with the mother who wrote about connecting with other adults while she's staying home with her baby. Besides my leaving paid employment at the time we became parents, my husband and I were also new to the neighborhood. I looked actively for other moms and babies to spend time with and found several opportunities. The Newcomers Club in our town sponsors a Moms and Tots playgroup. The YMCA has a postpartum exercise class. Our pastor introduced us to other stay-at-home moms in the church community. The library has a children's story hour. The local chapter of a national organization called F.E.M.A.L.E. (Formerly Employed Mothers at the Leading Edge, 630-941-3553) has activities for moms and babies. From these groups, I've met other stay-at-home moms (most are also breastfeeding) and now my son and I have places to go every day, if we choose. I also enjoy staying home some days, and think it's good for both of us to have quiet days when we aren't going from place to place.
I remember the days, weeks, and months after my first son was born for being filled with lonely times as well. The friends that I had with children lived far away, but the best advice one of them had was to make sure I got out of the house every day. Instead of trying to cram five errands into one day, she suggested that I do one errand every day. This gave me a purpose to get out into the world of adults, and even if it was superficial contact, it left me feeling better! At my local LLL Group, I met several moms who lived near me, and we started a weekly playgroup.
Recently, we moved to a new area, and I felt even more alone. Going out and doing errands was a bit more complicated since I had two children by then, but I tried. I also started looking through local resources to see what was available at the churches, malls. colleges, and the parks and recreation department. I talked to mothers I saw out shopping with children of similar ages to find out about other clubs and organizations, and scanned the local paper for its daily listing of activities. I quickly hooked up with a couple of activities, including, of course, the local LLL Group!
I found that with my own experience it was often much easier to just wallow at home and be frustrated and lonely. However, when I tried to connect with other local mothers, it paid off with many good friendships, and a couple of truly great ones!
I have found the Internet to be a valuable resource for connecting with other mothers. There are parenting forums everywhere such as Parent Soup (with advice from Dr. Sears and LLL) and personal home pages of other mothers. I use America Online and run several email loops including two dedicated to local mothers. I've met several stay-at-home mothers online and have received incredible support from women all over the world. I credit the mothers I met on the Internet with helping me choose to breastfeed by giving me moral support and valuable advice. I even maintain several web sites of my own including parenting, breastfeeding, and local information sites. The internet is a great way to find support from like-minded people.
You can't rely on your friends from work to provide adult companionship now. They are at different stages in their lives and can't relate to what you are going through with your newborn. You need to find some mothers with babies the same age as yours. I was in the same situation. I am a physician and closed my medical practice when my son was born. He needed me more than my patients did. I too felt "friend-less." Why don't you start a playgroup? This may seem difficult if you are a shy person, but you can do it! Make up some cards with your name, address, phone number, photos of you and your baby, time of the playgroup (since you're the founder, you can pick a time that's good for you), and any other details. Every time you see a mother with a baby about the same age as yours (in church, at the store, or at the library), strike up a conversation. ("What a cute baby! How old is your son?") Mothers love to talk, especially about their babies. Talk to them about starting a playgroup. Every meeting, encourage each person to bring new people. We found that about eight mother/baby pairs were enough to sustain the playgroup (since someone will always be sick or absent for some other reason), but was not too big to meet in the average home. Rotate the meeting locations weekly. Good luck!
I, too, was surprised at how lonely I became in the early months at home with my first baby. Visiting the people from work was fun but I wanted regular contact with other stay-at-home mothers. Looking back, I see that those first few months were my first ones not only as a mother, but also out of the paid work force-no wonder I found the transition tough!
Because I found it difficult to leave the house, I connected with other women by telephone. At a La Leche League meeting, I began talking during the second half of the meeting with a couple of people and one day one of them called me. Soon there were a few of us who would talk on the phone nearly every day. This became an important link to the outside world for me as we would discuss community events, the history of our LLL Group, even upcoming stores' sales! It made me feel a part of the world and was also comforting when I needed reassurance about my baby's stages of growth.
Slowly, as my baby grew and I became more confident, we ventured out to swim classes, parks, the local library story time, and even to a moms and tots gymnastic class. I also helped with a small job in our LLL Group that helped me get to know many other women and their children. One day I realized that my baby and I had many friends and I wasn't lonely anymore. I hope this helps give you some perspective.
British Columbia, Canada