Mental Health

Behind closed doors: The isolation of stay-at-home mums

Stay at home mum loneliness

Like a bucket of ice cold water splashed onto your face, there are so many shocking things that happen after having a baby in relation to your body, your relationships with your partner, your family, and social circle and your career. You may find yourself at home with feelings of loneliness, unhappiness and isolation.

If you enjoyed a thriving career pre-baby, you could feel restricted and like life has settled into a new monotony. You may feel envious of family and friends who work, or if they have children, seem to cope so well with being a stay-at-home mums (SAHM).

There are numerous surveys that show SAHMs are more likely to report feelings of sadness and anger than working mums and the general population. There are strategies you can use to help you cope with being a SAHM and overcome your feelings of loneliness and isolation.

4 strategies to help you overcome the feelings of loneliness and isolation

Turn OFF the screens & get out there

One of the most self-destructive things for a SAHM to do is to scroll through Instagram or Facebook looking at other mums staged moments presented as real-life. Negative thoughts and depression sets in. Thoughts like ‘Why can’t you look like that two months after baby?’ ‘Why can’t you make that 3-course meal AND clean the kitchen AND look effortlessly like you’ve barely made any effort?’ enter into your mind and make it hard to see the positive.

While parenting comparisons are difficult to stop, know that what you see online isn’t real, it’s a small snapshot and you don’t get to see the rest of their lives. Turn off your social media, put the babies in their prams and go outside for a stroll. It will help your brain by releasing feel-good chemicals like endorphins and it has the added benefit of helping you lose weight.

Break the cycle by setting a goal

Monotony is a mood killer for SAHMs. You feel directionless and shut off from the day, you start disengaging from life by doing habitual activities. This can only contribute to feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Try to push yourself out of your comfort zone, challenge yourself and try something new. Whatever it is set a goal to accomplish it so that you feel like you have a purpose. Yes, you gave birth to a baby and love it and your family more than anything but if you don’t engage in your life and practice self-care, you won’t be the best mother/partner/friend/sister/daughter you can be.

Try things like leaving the baby in the gym’s creche or with a trusted loved one while taking a yoga or boxing class, swimming a length or taking a dance class. Whatever it is break the sleep-eat-clean-parent-repeat routine you have going on. You’ll find yourself looking forward to this time and will create a social life separate to being a SAHM. 

Read how this stay-at-home mum lost 13kgs and found a new passion for life. 

Phone a friend

Reach out, catch up. The old you is still under that isolated and sad facade. Call a friend over for a chat or if you feel too embarrassed about the house and are too exhausted to clean, catch up over a coffee or at the park/beach.

Humans need social interaction and connection, we need to feel like we are part of a group to feel valuable and needed. If we don’t have these connections, we can feel isolated and depressed. Studies show that people who have removed themselves from these social ties have a shorter lifespan. If you find you don’t have anything in common with your old friends anymore, it’s time to start making new ones.

Join a mother’s group, an exercise group or a reading group. The Healthy Mummy community is full of like-minded and supportive mums from all over the country, join today and you may just find a new friend.

Communicate

Whether it’s communicating with your partner, a family member or a friend, let people know how you feel. The people in your life who care about you don’t want you to feel this way. It’s perfectly acceptable to put your hand up and ask for help in raising the babies or taking a time out for yourself. 

Mums forget that parenthood should be a shared experience between parents or family members. If you have no one to call on, put your child in daycare once a week so you can catch up on housework or practice self-care by reading a book, watching a movie or having a relaxing bath. You’ll be a better mum and person for it.

If you feel depressed, have no inclination to do anything all the time and think of harming yourself or your baby, you may be experiencing post-natal depression. It is time to get help. See your GP to discuss your symptoms, visit beyondblue.org.au, call Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia (PANDA) on 1300 726 306 or Lifeline on 13 11 14 to speak to someone immediately.

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written by:

Shara Smith

Shara is a psychotherapist and a counsellor, who has over 12 years experience in the mental health, life coaching and self-care sector. While she loves her husband and three kids, she also loves watching re-runs of Sex in the City and baking decadent cookies that only she gets to eat.