Mind the Mom Gap: Overcoming Loneliness as a Mother

Mind the Mom Gap: Overcoming Loneliness as a Mother

Loneliness as a mom isn’t a new concept, but when you are alone, it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that you’re the only one.

A few years ago, when our son was only 6 months old, my husband and I made the choice to have a second child. Why get used to sleep again, right? And while I’d never ever change the choices made, I also never realized I’d be trapped…in the mom gap.

It all started the other night as I scrolled across a Facebook post about a sorority sister being in town for our college’s homecoming, she and another sister had gone out to one of our favorite local breweries.

First, I was jealous.

Then a little bit angry.

And most definitely hurt.

Now I’m not so conceited to feel they should have automatically invited me along, but they’d both just been in my wedding a month prior and neither could make it to my 30th birthday a couple weeks ago, so I was a bit hurt. Maybe I was just being dramatic, though, so I messaged a mutual friend to ask her as much.

And that’s when she introduced me to the term “mom gap.”

Apparently “mom gap” is used to explain why childless friends might not think to invite their mom friends along on weekend shenanigans – it’s nothing malicious, but rather they simply don’t think about it, because you have kids and therefore you’re almost certainly busy.

“Oh they’re not being mean, they literally just don’t think about you.”

Given that I was either pregnant or breastfeeding for four years straight, I get that I’m not anyone’s first choice when it comes to thinking of someone to grab a drink with; I knew that becoming a mom meant saying goodbye to the girl I once was and to the boobs I once had but I guess I didn’t quite realize it also meant saying goodbye to the friendships I was used to.

When I woke up the next morning, again seeing posts on the fun my friends were having this weekend, I realized that the anger and jealousy were really only there because they were easier to face than what I was really feeling — lonely.

When I quit my job last April to run my own online business, I knew there would be obstacles to overcome (aren’t there always?) but I never thought that loneliness would the worst of ’em.

I truly believe that being a stay-at-home/work-at-home mom is one of the loneliest jobs in the world. 

It does get easier as they get old – at least I hope so – but treading water in the mean time can be exhausting.

I started asking around my favorite Facebook groups morning and almost every work-at-home/stay-at-home parent I spoke to said they get less than 5 (and often 0) hours of adult interaction each week. Heh at least we’re not alone in our loneliness, right?

If you’re on my e-mail list, you may have read my e-mail last month about how I’ve started working to overcome the emotional struggles that have (mostly) stemmed from being a work-at-home mom. (missed it? Check it out here!)

Within that e-mail, I wrote about how I literally didn’t leave my house for 30 days straight, save for going a few steps down the street twice a week to pick up my babies from daycare. And oh my gosh, the number of e-mails I got back saying “Been there!” “This is me!” or “It’s been TWO months for me…” It was just so eye-opening, comforting, and heartbreaking all at once.

I found comfort in knowing I wasn’t alone, but sadness in that there are so (SO!) many other women (and men) out there struggling with the “mom gap” and similar issues of loneliness. I had literally dozens of people asking me how I’ve started to better my own situation and while I’ve personally responded to all of them, I did promise to go deeper into what I’ve done to make a change.

The first step is of course ACCEPTANCE —

Accept that you NEED a tribe. Believe me, I get it, we want to show the world we can do it all on our own and we’re super women and yada yada. I’m a stubborn control freak, so I know how hard it is to say “I need help” but we do. And that’s not a bad thing.

Also accept that times have changed and we have to work harder to form said tribes. With the “miracle of technology” that is social media, we feel connected to our friends at all times, even when we’re not. So going back to the “mom gap” thing, it may not be that your friends are ignoring you, but rather they just don’t realize how disconnected from you they actually are. This leaves you with two choices – make that first step to reconnect or accept that you’re in different life stages and it’s time to work on building new connections with new friends.

Then LOVE (yourself) —

When was the last time you gave yourself space to just enjoy the company that is you? I know that being alone isn’t exactly a great cure for loneliness, but hear me out. If you have young children at home, you’re all the more likely to be wildly unfamiliar with this new person that you are outside of being a parent. It’s so easy to become lost in the life that is parenthood, even if you’re lucky enough to have a strong partner and/or family help. It’s already hard to make friends as an adult, don’t make it any more difficult by feeling like a stranger to yourself.

Find the joy —

Try to remember the beauty that is this season. I know how hard it is to feel grateful when you’re constantly bouncing between a dark shroud of loneliness and the guilt that comes from having fun on the rare occasion you’re without kids, but look for the joy. Take a few moments before bed each night to journal out a bright spot of your day, even if all it was was you putting your bra on this morning. You could also take a couple minutes to write letters to your babies in journals of their own, something for them to read as they grow older. It may not seem like much, but spending just five minutes every day focusing on the good can make all the difference during times of bad.

Know that social media is a lie —

As an online entrepreneur, I’m well aware that we often only post the good. If you were to look at my Facebook, you’ll see photos of my beautiful children hugging, a clutter-free playroom, and healthy meal choices made.

What you don’t see is that they spent the last ten hours screaming at each other, the clutter is hiding behind me, and they threw that healthy meal on the floor while crying for corn dogs.

Likewise, when you see a friend posting statuses on the fun and free weekend they’re having, remind yourself that you don’t know the whole story (particularly if we circle back to feeling connected without actual connections). You can’t know the struggles someone else is experiencing unless you ask them and they can’t know yours unless you tell them. Rarely do we show the whole truth online or off, but if we at least recognize that fact, maybe we can begin our climb out of the “mom gap” and away from the loneliness that surrounds us.

 

You. Are. Not. Alone.

Maybe you know me. Maybe you don’t. But either way — know you’re not alone.

Going back to our social media point, I know that it can be easy to look at someone online and think there’s no way they can relate. I recognize how blessed I am to be able to make a significant income while not having to put on pants or even brush my hair, but don’t let that fool you into thinking things are easy.

This blog post, for example, took me an entire morning to write (and mind you, I type nearly 100 WPM with a 98% accuracy).

What you can’t see behind the screen is my high-needs daughter wanting to be in my lap every two minutes —

See what I mean about not brushing my hair?

She’s in a different shirt because she “needed” to take a bath this morning.

> Have you read the med- free birth story of my daughter? It was AMAZING! <

And again, please let me reiterate — I would not change having my babies for ANYTHING in the world. There’s no doubt you feel the same, we all love our babies more than anything, but I bring it back up because I need you to recognize for yourself that it’s okay to say “I’m lonely” without then feeling guilty for it because you think you “should” feel something else.

We’re human. We feel. And that’s a beautiful thing.

 

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Financial Freedom and Mental Health

Financial Freedom and Mental Health

Do you always find yourself with more bills than money? Feel like you are a slave to your debt? It’s no surprise. One of the biggest things us grown folks freak out about is money. Not only is money ruining our fun but it’s also taking a toll on our mental health. Let’s see if we can get your financial freedom and your mental health back in good shape.

It’s all about the money

Money is a driving force for most adults. We need it to eat, feel safe, and care for our family and ourselves. Almost everything we do leads back to money. The decisions we make: if we are having steak or ground beef.  Whether we can go to a movie or go home.  What we can give our kid for birthday presents?  Money has a lot of control.

What happens when money is in control? Our mental health goes downhill.

Stress

Money straight up stresses us out.  And why wouldn’t it?

Stress can cause health problems. You may forgo health care in order to save money.

Spend sleepless nights thinking of all the bills you need to pay.

High stress levels can even effect your appetite. Some people like me crave all the sugary feel good feelings from food, while others forgo eating period.

Stress can cause you to lash out at friends and family.  This will leave you lonely and the people you care about most upset.

Stress can cause you to be unhappy about events or purchases that would normally be seen as positive.  A new pair of shoes, a birthday present from your spouse, going on a date not any fun due to money woes.

Depression

If you are short on cash you may start feeling as if everything is hopeless and fall into depression.  Depression can lead to weight gain, an unhealthy social life, speech problems, and a host of other health issues.

Anxiety

Money problems can make you extremely anxious.  How will you make ends meet, how will your child have a good birthday? Can you really afford to spend money on the extra bottle of shampoo? How will you pay for childcare during the summer?  How will you make ends meet when you are always one step behind?

Overwhelm

Feeling overwhelmed by the amount of money that is always being asked for?  You are not alone.  College loans, medical bills, and mortgages can leave us all with more debt than we can even imagine.  It’s tempting to shy away from the mountain of debt that is looming in front of you.

Resentment

Resentment comes to the table once debt becomes part of a partnership. Partners can start to resent each other if their spending styles are different or if one has more debt than the other. One of you is a spender and one is a saver?  This can cause all kinds of problems in an otherwise healthy relationship.

Anger

I think everything you just read should have made you angry.  You should be, you are busting your booty most days of the week for what?  All this stuff?  All these services?  It just isn’t fair and you are probably about fed up! How does money always have the control?

Fear

What if there is never enough? What if I lose my job and lose my kids and my home?  How will I keep my family safe?  What if they take legal action against me because I cannot get this money monkey off my back?

What if there is no way out?  What is the point of being an adult? It’s awful, such a grind.  Get up get your family ready, go to work, come home and work more, pay bills.  Rinse and repeat.  You may ask yourself, what in the world is the point and why am I living like this.  There has to be something more.

Denial

While some folks think of how much money they don’t have every minute of the day others bury their heads in the sand. Denial only offers a Band-Aid and often leads to a debt avalanche.  What once might have been an easy fix could now take over your entire world.

Shame and embarrassment

Life wasn’t supposed to be like this.  As kids, no one ever told us how much money would control our lives.  Not going out to social events that seem fantastic because you might not be able to pay bills at the end of the month.  Embarrassment when your friends seem to have a glamourous life and you are sitting at the table using a candlestick for light and slurping down some 15 cent ramen because that is what’s left in your budget.

Affecting your quality of life

If you haven’t guessed it, money really screws with your quality of life.  If you let it.  I’m not sure why they don’t teach us this important life skill in school.  We have to learn how to turn the scenario around.   We need to be controlling the money, not the other way around.

How do we make life about enjoyment and not about money?

We have to gain financial freedom. Financial Freedom means something different to everyone.  What you have to do is not let it be a frivolous thought that you are striving for never to reach. Figure out what it means to you:

  •  Go on adventures
  • Learn to play guitar
  • Bake A Cake
  • Curl up and Read a Good Book
  • Take a Hike in the Mountains
  • Travel the World

Balance your monetary goals with your happiness goals for a custom path to financial freedom that is just right for you!

Positive Effects of Financial Freedom

Relief from the money hound breathing down your neck.

Happiness.  You can be thankful and grateful for the gifts you give and receive.  Go out and spend time with friends and family and enjoy yourself to the fullest.

Less worry.  It’s a great feeling not to have to think about your next set of bills putting you one step away from living under the freeway.

Improvements in physical and mental health.  You will have more energy to get up and exercise and you will be in a much better mood.  Good moods breed better sleep, more fulfilment in daily activities, a greater peace of mind leading to less stress and anxiety.  Feelings of safety and security will be yours.

Every day can feel like Christmas.  Wake up early with excitement and wonder.  Not able to contain your joy just to live and experience every day in the moment.

You worry less about being fired, about someone else always controlling your happiness.

To give gifts, travel, help out financially and feel happy and not resentful or worried about it the contributions you made.  Won’t it be great not to worry about paying off the Christmas season for the next six months?

Pay for emergencies. What about the next time an emergency comes up?  Hot water heaters break and can cause havoc, wouldn’t be awesome to have the extra funds so there is no extra burden put on your well-being?

Here are a few tips to get you started on your journey:

  • Pay Bills On Time
  • Don’t spend Money before it comes in
  • Don’t spend all extra money frivolously
  • Try building a safety net, this security blanket will give you some peace of mind and allow you to relax a little, knowing that if an emergency happens you will be somewhat prepared.
  • Make debt payment a priority
  • Don’t owe anyone you don’t have to
  • Make a financial budget and start cutting the fat
  • Pay off the smallest debt first and get yourself a win. Use the payment for the bill you paid off plus the monthly amount for your next smallest bill to make a larger payment and payoff your next smallest bill quicker.

Your Financial Freedom

After food, shelter, and well-being are taken care of what does it take to make you happy? Where are you content? There is only one way to get away from always needing more.

There is no magic number or special level you have to reach.  It’s about what matters to you.  Your financial freedom may be completely different from everyone else you know.  See if you and your spouse can meet in the middle or work toward some common goals and respect each other’s individual goals.

A happy medium is needed to enjoy life because only right now is guaranteed.

You also need to have a safety net because you will most likely have many tomorrows.

I have included some worksheets with this article so you can get started figuring out what financial freedom means to you and how to start seeing improvements in your mental health!

After you have filled out the worksheets you can make a game plan for achieving goals.

Planning with Your Significant Other

Sit down and brainstorm.  This can be silly or serious, hopefully a little of both.

Compromise and plan.  Share your lists and see where they overlap.  Communicate with each other to come up with solutions to difference of opinion.

Guidelines.  Set some rules. You have to stand up for what you believe in and you have to be willing to honor your significant others values as well. In order for the compromises you all reached set up ways you will respect each other’s decisions.  Stick to the rules.  Don’t bully your spouse and don’t allow yourself to be bullied.

If you don’t stick to your guns and allow the other person to take, take and take you will be resentful.  This goes both ways.

Keep the Peace With Your Partner

A solution we have used in the past that has worked really well for us was separate checking accounts for play money.   Make it 100% just yours or 100% just theirs.  This gives everyone some freedom and control.  This is especially great if you and your significant other are very different in what is important and what isn’t.

Everyone will have different opinions just make sure you both stay out of each other’s freedom of choice money. This allows you to buy the new yoga pants you want with no guilt and them to buy that new fishing rod they have been after for so long without getting a tongue lashing about spending bill money.

It’s important that these accounts are used for playing and not your bill pay accounts! This will go against what you are trying to do.  If you spend all your money be patient more will come. Play fair and don’t cheat the system or you will cause more stress and financial unrest in your relationship.

If things aren’t working out maybe your values have changed and you need to refresh your worksheets and have another meeting of the minds.

This is a journey that should develop as your life goes, it isn’t set in stone and can be adapted as long as each party is remembering to respect the other.

This isn’t About Saving Everything Right Now and Being Rich Later

Why I don’t think all your hard earned cash should go towards someday? Three months ago we suffered the most horrible loss of our lives when our son and our best friend died in car accident. Tomorrow is not guaranteed and if you spend all of your time waiting for some day, you are going to miss out on so much. Find your Zen, your comfort level. Learn what you can live without and what you need in your life. Be happy right now.

A glimpse of Financial Freedom through my eyes:

This morning about half way through my shower I stopped to enjoy it. The warmth, the water running over my face with my eyes closed. Being completely at peace and enjoying the moments. Don’t let your life be about someday, make today count.

Enjoying life is the key to mental health and finding your answer for financial freedom is a huge piece of the puzzle. I hope you enjoyed my take on financial freedom for mental health. Check out the free worksheets I created HERE to help you conquer your monetary woes and start creating your financial freedom for an awesome life.

Xoxo, Cynthia

Cynthia Devening is the creator of Devening Fitness, a health and fitness blog sharing weight loss and health tips for busy ladies.  Get started on your health and fitness goals today by signing up for her free beginner’s workout plan.Better your mental health by striving for financial freedom Better your mental health by striving for financial freedom Better your mental health by striving for financial freedom