Think you might be experiencing parental isolation?
You may have no clue about what’s going on in the outside world when you used to keep up to date with news and trends. It might have been days since you’ve had any proper adult conversation (how do you find the time when your sole focus is on caring for your little human?). Your life may feel so different now than it did pre-parenthood that you feel completely detached from who you are. If you’re worried about your mental health or need support, reach out to your healthcare professional for advice.
How can it feel that parenting is lonely if you’re doing it with a partner?
People can often have idealistic views of parenthood, after all what can be more romantic than creating new life with the person you love the most? However, when the realities of caring for baby and financially supporting your family set in, you may find that you don’t actually get to see your partner for one-on-one time very much. Some couples take a divide and conquer approach to parenting, with one working and the other looking after baby. Although you’re both very much focused on the same end goal, it can feel like parenting is lonely with a lack of companionship.
If there is one partner who is working, they may feel cut off from daily family life and worry that they’re missing out on key stages in baby’s development. Equally, if there’s a partner at home with baby, they may feel disappointment that they’ve had to make such huge adjustments to their life and they’re not able to go out to work. This can lead to both partners experiencing parental isolation and feeling distanced from one another.
Tackling parental isolation with shared parenting
Although dads are much more involved in parenting responsibilities than they used to be, in most countries around the world it’s usually mum who’s at home looking after baby in the weeks after birth and experiencing the highest levels of loneliness.
In China, for example, it’s tradition for new mums and their babies to undergo a one-month postnatal confinement—they don’t leave the house, see visitors, or even shower. The idea is to protect them from getting ill after birth when their immunity may be low. It’s understandable in this situation to be concerned about the effect this could have on new mums’ mental health and an increase of loneliness in motherhood. This can perhaps be seen in 37% of Chinese mums saying that it’s easy to feel lonely, despite living in a hyperconnected world.
In Nigeria, where there are low levels of shared parenting, nearly half of new mums (46%) say it’s easy to feel lonely with a baby in your arms. This is in contrast to Spain, where parenting is more equally shared with the length of paternity leave now matching maternity leave, and only 20% of parents relating to feeling lonely.
What effect can loneliness in parenthood have?
There’s a widespread expectation that becoming a parent should be the happiest, most fulfilling time of your life. New mums and dads may not therefore admit to feeling lonely because they feel ashamed. They might also experience guilt for their emotions meaning they don’t ask for help, which can escalate the problem.
Data analysis from the Parenting Index shows that loneliness strongly correlates with baby blues. This can make you withdrawn, meaning you feel increasingly isolated and lonely, creating a vicious circle. If you are feeling this way reach out to your healthcare professional for advice.
Breaking the lonely parents vicious cycle
When left to our own devices, niggling self-doubts can get the better of us, making us feel more detached and heightening our feelings that parenting is lonely. Read our checklist on reframing negative thoughts to help break the cycle.
The Parenting Index, First Edition 2021, theparentingindex.com
Last revised: June 2022