The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Mother
My latest blog post is one I’ve been mulling over for a while but I’ve never quite known how to start it or how it will be received. It’s about something I’ve been a little reluctant talking about but has suddenly become such a major thing in my life I have no choice but to. I am a talking about that demon – loneliness. My name is Afua and I am lonely. There I said it. I have been lonely for a good deal of my life. In my marriage I was very lonely. I learnt (learnt – that the right word?), maybe realised how you could be lonely when you had stood up in front of 200 people and said vows to a person who clearly never loved you, I learnt how when struggling to conceive I felt like I was doing it on my own, and how when preparing for baby I may as well have been the solo-parent I am now. When Naima came along I was too busy to be lonely, surviving on two hours sleep a night, whilst breast-feeding and plotting a way out of a dead-end marriage is way too time-consuming to be lonely. Even after The Break-Up I haven’t really felt lonely – until now. I think for the past two years I was so focused on survival I didn’t have time to be lonely. Now the fight or flight instinct has subsided because we’re settled, in the past few weeks loneliness has wormed it’s way back into my life. When Naima’s bedroom door closes, after I’ve done the obligatory running man that she’s finally settled four stories and 57 cuddles later, the house falls silent and it’s just me. Sometimes this is great. After a busy day on radio and then producing TV, the silence can be lovely. But more often than not it’s oppressive. I turn on the TV or Spotify but I can still hear it. The emptiness. It’s shouting at me, “this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be!” “I know!” I shout back. But this is how it is.
Please don’t get me wrong – I have a great partner. But circumstances beyond our control have meant time together is sporadic at best right now. It’s temporary, but it sucks nonetheless. That’s a major part of this feeling. I don’t mind admitting I’m a girl that likes to be around her guy. I don’t need him but I want him. I have wonderful, lovely friends. My two best friends in particular have been amazing. They’ve caught every tear, picked up every wailing phone call, brought round wine and dessert, just been there. But they have their own lives. I don’t have any other close friends who are solo-parenting so there isn’t really anyone around who gets the single mum experience. It’s very isolating. When little miss has gone to bed there’s no one to turn to and say, “wasn’t that thing that she just did so sweet/funny/disgusting/unbelievable (delete as appropriate). There’s no one to discuss vaccination options, or vacation options, or just DVD options. The one other person who helped you make that incredible little piece of human just isn’t there for you – or her. That’s isolating as hell. No woman is an island unless her name is single mum.
I’m a born extrovert, I crave rest through being around people I love. Being alone is a special kind of torture for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fine in my own company but not all the time. It’s boring laughing at your own jokes. I’ve taken all the advice for combatting loneliness that I’ve read online – keeping busy, reaching out to people and trying not to dwell. But it doesn’t make it any easier. Ultimately, last thing at night, I would love someone to say goodnight to. Not on the phone, not via text – a real live person. I’m hoping that I won’t always feel this way. I’m hoping that working through temporary situations will lead to the type of companionship that I so desperately crave. In the meantime, I soak up all the Naima joy that I can when she’s awake and hope it carries me through to bedtime each night. I’ve stocked up on crime thrillers, I’m going to tear my way through Luke Cage and I’ve banked a steady stream of prayer with the most high. Everything is temporary right? Answers on a postcard…
*Header image by Fabiola Jean-Louis