June 23, 2019
When I was in my late teens, I had a vision of what life would be like when I grew up. We were always out at the weekends, people were always coming over to our house. My cousins would all meet up at my gran’s house on a Saturday and our parents would have the day to themselves. Sundays would be usually filled with tidying up and getting ready for the week ahead. My fondest memories are that we were always socialising and I have always been a social person. Between my late teens and mid 20’s I was always out. It was easy. I would spontaneously meet up with this friend or that friend for a pub dinner through to going ‘out out’ with the bigger groups of friends I had.
When I bought my flat at 26, I was excited about all the social engagements I would host. And I did. There was the annual BBQ which was always a hit. There were my birthdays and anything in between. It was so much fun to be host and design my parties how I wanted. I love hosting. There was so much love and laughter in my home.
But I was lonely. The loneliness when I was single was palpable. It was gut-wrenchingly awful. The tears I cried could have filled Niagara falls, 3 times over! No matter how much I socialised, I still felt so lonely. It was as if the socialising was just surface friendship and not real, deep friendship. Why was I so lonely? I thought that this loneliness would be filled when I had a boyfriend, a partner. To a certain extent it was, as I was able to fill the quiet times with him. However, co-dependency struck and I lost myself in the process.
You see, during this time of fabulous parties, enjoying my freedom and living life, I wasn’t really thinking about myself and my real needs. The fact that I thrive on intimate relationships and that I need them regularly in my life – even if to just check in that whatever is happening to me at a certain time in life, is also happening to my friends. When we distance ourselves from friendships, we can often think something is happening when in fact it’s not – like friends not wanting to see you because you are the one who initiates every time, or that your friends are too busy because of this that and the other but you never really know unless you speak with them.
When I had my kid, I thought again, things would change. Friends and family would be at my house every weekend…This didn’t happen. I did think there would be a little more effort because my son almost died, but no. Understandably, I became upset about this. Over time, I’ve worked on it and understood that no-one did or generally does anything intentionally to hurt us (unless they do but I’m not talking about those people here, I’m talking about the ones who genuinely care about your relationships.)
Essentially, people live in a bubble. Everyone has their own bubble and the bubble changes as life happens. Unfortunately, there is no guide for the different stages of life regarding relationships and just like marriage, all of our relationships require work, reflection, time and effort from all parties. There is nothing wrong with this bubble, it happens due to routine and more often than not when kids come along because parents are limited to what they can do. I am a house prisoner from 5pm every single day of the week, as we do dinner, bath and bed. If we want to go out, we have to arrange childcare. We either pay for it or it’s my parents. I don’t like paying for it and I don’t like taking the p*** with my parents. So we get choosy. We start prioritising social engagements so as not to abuse my parents. We start to prioritise family-life on days off and housework.
Then, the time that you thought would be filled with friends, family, their kids, their partners, becomes lonely. Single friends think you don’t want to go out. Friends with family think you’re busy with family and a viscous cycle ensues. Having family is great, but it has its moments when you need some familiar relationships regularly in your life. Being single is great, but loneliness there can be really tough so it’s important that we all know how to support each other, be there for each other and really show kindness. Also, having good, regular contact with those you like spending time with contributes to your overall well-being and therefore helps to balance your mental health.
Here are a couple of tips to overcome loneliness which both singles and families can adopt to make life changes just that little bit more bearable:
Singles – Your parent friends have a curfew. If they can’t come out, you need to come to them at least once a month. Kids generally go to sleep at a certain time, so it’s a great time to come over with a bottle and some laughs.
Parents – Your single friend needs you to care about them after the kids come along. They will feel the change so much more because your life gets filled with noise and additional responsibilities. Be there for them on the phone when they need (you can set boundaries, like after 8pm is perfect for a call and pay attention to them, don’t deal with the kids whilst talking to them) and see them at least once a month, without your kids or your partner.
Singles – Sometimes, it’s just not possible to meet you without the kids. Be more patient, know that your friend can’t give you their full attention but that just being with you gives them much needed sanity that they probably can’t articulate to you. Even an hour will give them some solace and normality that they are not just breeders!
Parents – Some of your single friends want to have a partner. Don’t neglect their needs because you’ve found yours. Spend time with them, listening to them and being there for them the way they need. Don’t talk about your kids, partner and dramas of family life. Be mindful of your conversations and focus on them more.