Could this be you?

You’re a parent to young children. Maybe you have one child, perhaps more. Your days are fully occupied with a combination of work and/or parenting responsibilities. From the moment you lift your head from the pillow to the moment at the end of the day when it drops back down, you are busy.

To do anything of a social nature requires forward planning of military proportions and a level of motivation you simply don’t have the energy for. Other mums and dads appear to be more confident and fulfilled. They have children who sleep through the night, eat all their greens and are in the top set for potty training. You feel you should be grateful that you have children and you are very thankful, but there is something else lurking within you, slowly smothering the pleasures of family life and making you feel very sad.

It’s loneliness.

Perhaps it seems like it’s only you. All those idyllic photographs of smiling families having lots of fun in your social media feeds prove that. Everyone else is having a great time – without you.

If you do feel lonely, please know that you are not the only one. In 2020, the Royal Foundation commissioned the largest public study ever conducted on the early years. They questioned half a million people and discovered that before the pandemic 38% of parents surveyed felt lonely. After the first lockdown, they asked the same question again and this time 63% felt lonely. It seems that a lot of people with young children experience this!

Although our emotions do fluctuate and the feeling of loneliness may not last for a long time, the pain of it can be highly acute in the moment. And yet it may be difficult for us to tell other people that we’re lonely because we may feel ashamed, or scared that we’ll appear needy or clingy, but speaking to somebody we trust can bring some relief. It’s only when they know how we are feeling that good friends can respond by keeping in touch more frequently.

Perhaps you feel that there is nobody you can tell at the moment. A good place to find support when our children are young is a parent and toddler group.

They may be run by churches, schools, family centres and other community organisations. Some are attended mostly by mums, but some are targeted specifically at dads. Most, however, are for all parents and carers. Friendships formed in parent and toddler groups can last a lifetime, so why not give one a try? You may find that others feel the same way as you at times, and this could help you feel a little less lonely.

Mark Chester

About the author

Mark Chester is the Parent Support Manager at Care for the Family. He is the founder of Who Let The Dads Out? and has been writing and speaking about fatherhood for over 20 years. He has two grown-up children.

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