I always knew I was going to be a stay-at-home mother.
My mom was a SAHM, my sister currently is, I always imagined I would be a SAHM, and I was raised in a family that really supported that decision; so I guess you could say the decision was already predetermined for me in a lot of ways.
When I brought my first child home almost four years ago, I had no idea what was in store for me. Not only being a mother for the first time but also being home full-time now as well. The first couple of weeks I struggled with the baby blues (I may have legitimately talked to a tree in my backyard and cried to it because I was so overwhelmed-don’t judge). However, when the baby blues finally lifted, another weight and emotional roller coaster crept in…the feeling of isolation and anxiety.
I have always been an extrovert. I love being around people; big or small groups. It doesn’t matter what is going on, I just love being in a community. So you can imagine, (and I am sure there is plenty of you that know exactly what I am talking about) when I say that the weight of isolation I felt was crippling, as I accepted this new role of staying home and raising my son. The life I had before of spending time with friends constantly and going to events were not going to be my “new normal” anymore with having a newborn. Quite honestly, I was too afraid to leave my house to even attempt to break this cycle of isolation.
Anxiety was the culprit of my lack of community, and lead to my feeling of isolation.
I would watch other friends getting together with their children for play dates or park dates, and I would envy their carefree ability to do those things. If someone asked me to come to their house with my kids, instant panic would flood my whole body. I would go through every scenario of how something could go wrong, or why it wasn’t a good idea, or I would dread how much work that would be on my part to load up everything that the kids would need. The list went on and on in my head until eventually I completely talked myself out of the possibility of going. And every time I would regretfully decline their offer, I would instantly feel this deep despair in my heart, wishing I was able to conquer my anxious thoughts and to break the cycle of loneliness I was allowing myself to experience.
This domino effect of anxiety and isolation continued on for about three years within my motherhood journey. Sure, I eventually got comfortable enough to take my two kids out to the stores alone and run errands ect., but I was three years deep into motherhood without any community or mom friends to do life with, or raise my kids with. It became my new normal, that I numbly accepted, and I came to terms that this must be what motherhood looks like for me.
Until this one particular day…
About a year and a half ago as I was leaving Target with the kids (probably the fourth time that week) I climbed into the driver seat after loading up the kids, took a deep breath, sighed, and stared blankly out my window. Still to this day I remember the weight and sadness I felt. I missed friends, laughing and making memories, and building relationships. I missed and longed for something to change within my life and to start feeling like ME again. And as tears started to fill my eyes, a text came chiming through my phone. It was a mom that I vaguely knew, asking me if I wanted to be a part of her summer Bible study at her house, with her children, and other moms and their children. I remember staring at my phone with tears rolling down my face, knowing I had two options within that moment:
- I could either nicely decline, like always, because my anxiety of pushing myself out of my comfort zone was too much for me to handle.
2. I could say “YES!” before I allowed my anxiety and doubts to trickle in, and realize I needed to push myself if I wanted to make a change for not only myself but for my children as well.
On that day, in my car, with mascara all over my face, I responded back with a big fat, “YES!”. And little did I know that one simple text, that one “yes”, would start the process of breaking my anxiety cycle, and ending the isolation that kept me captive for so long.
I attended that Bible study for the entire summer, and boy, was it difficult for me to push myself every week to follow through on that commitment.
But every week I did it. Every week I went to her house, made some amazing mom friends, allowed my children to play and socialize with other children, and somehow still miraculously, I grew in my faith in the midst of the chaos and craziness with at least 20 children running around us.
I determined that I was DONE with allowing anxiety and isolation to label my journey of motherhood. I was done with allowing those two very strong and real words and feelings keep me in bondage and to not allow me to live within the joy of sharing motherhood with other friends. And I was done with allowing those words to hinder my children, by them experiencing a mother that didn’t live in the freedom that was designed for me.
Mama, if you struggle with isolation, I hope and pray that as you read my words you don’t feel isolated any longer.
I hope that you know that there are countless other mothers out there who desire community and friendship as well. But, we can’t sit still and do nothing and expect our community to come to us. Sure, I was offered the chance to be a part of a study. But if I wouldn’t have gotten ready every week and drove myself and my children there, then that community of moms would have moved on without me. Not to hurt me or forget about me, but because other people can only do so much. YOU are the one that is going to have to take the initiative, get out of your comfort zone, and choose to break your cycle of isolation you are feeling.
And mama, if anxiety cripples you just like it did for me within the process of building community, then I would say to you that your anxiety, unfortunately, isn’t going to go anywhere unless you react against it. It will always linger in some way or another until you take ownership of your life and don’t allow it to make your decisions for you.
Sure, I definitely still do struggle with anxiety and all of the endless thoughts of “what could go wrong”. But what I have learned to do when those thoughts start spiraling in my head is to hold them captive. I push those negative thoughts to the back of my mind, and instead, focus on what good can come of this scenario if I follow through. If the “good” outweighs the “made up bad” ideas in my mind, then despite my anxiety and emotions, I do the opposite of what I feel and push myself out of my comfort zone.
It will take daily discipline to keep at this and to not allow your natural thought process to come flooding through again.
But I can promise you, from my own experience, the more you push yourself as a woman and a mother, the more comfortable you get with trying new things. Before you know it, living a life with a community again and allowing yourself to call the shots instead of your concerns, will become your “new normal”. I promise you, once you experience this new normal in your life, you’ll never allow yourself to go back to who you once were as a captive.
Not only do you, yourself, deserve a life full of relationships, laughter, joy, memories, and community, but so does your children. However, your children can only experience that abundant life if you as their mother live that type of life out for them.
I look back at the woman and mother that I once was sitting in my car almost a year and a half ago, and I am so thankful that I can hardly recognize her anymore. Over this period of time, I have pushed myself more than I ever could have imagined. I have taken my children to play dates, and park dates, events, etc, and we have made so many fun memories together. I now have a beautiful, life-giving community of mom friends who I love and cherish doing life with; all because I CHOSE to experience a better life for myself and my children.