One of the biggest challenges I faced when rearing small children, one of whom has special needs, is staying connected with the outside world. Even while being a borderline extrovert/introvert, I struggled with the daily isolation of motherhood. Unfortunately, in our society, stay-at-home mothers are all too often left to rear their children independently without the support of community or extended family. Being transplants in a city where we have no family and living in a neighborhood where people often keep to themselves, I found myself struggling. Certainly, I loved being with my young children and had chosen to stay at home with them, but I never imagined the isolation would affect me to such great a degree.
Just the mere attempt at trying to get out the door with little people easily felt overwhelming. I often would quit even before I began, saving my dwindling energy for more important things. The house was usually a wreck and when the phone rang, it was never a convenient time for conversation without children vying for my attention. The hurdles in place between a new mom and the outside world can seem insurmountable.
Yet, there were a few things that helped encourage my re-engagement with the world. These were learning the art of short phone conversations and hospitality. I admit that neither was of much interest to me prior to having children, yet afterward pursuing them became lifelines. I had never been one for talking on the phone at length, but the art of short phone conversations became an attainable goal. If I wanted to have any deep, meaningful exchanges, they had to be scheduled for another time, such as when the kids were napping. Timing was key, as well as the adjusting of my expectations.
Certainly, I loved being with my young children and had chosen to stay at home with them, but I never imagined the isolation would affect me to such great a degree.
Take note: You have the power.
Instead of always being so bummed about having to frequently turn down invitations others had extended to us due to parental responsibilities, I began realizing I had the power to invite people into my world when it would be most conducive to our schedule. This felt so freeing and provoked me to learn the art of hospitality. By this, I don’t mean the Martha Stewart tips for setting a perfect table and brining a luscious chicken, but more along the lines of inviting people into my home and doing my best to make them feel welcome in spite of my mess. This happened at first very naturally with other new moms. Women who understood and felt the same, and didn’t wince at the spit-up on my shirt or the breast pump sitting on the coffee table. In fact, I soon realized that inviting people into my mess created a better foundation for building authentic friendships. Certainly, I didn’t use this as a license to live in squalor; hosting provided good motivation for minimal house cleaning, occasionally.
I came to the conclusion that if in this season my going out into the world proved challenging, I could always invite the world to me within increments I could handle. Inviting the whole world of course is a bit of an exaggeration; one or two people were much more manageable. As I built my hospitality stamina, the number of people I hosted and the frequency of get-togethers increased. Along with the practice came better planning, less stress, and more joy. It not only began to fill my tank, but also the tanks of my kids and those we hosted. Before I knew it, my re-entry had been on a gradual increase and my ability to re-engage with the world wasn’t as daunting as it previously seemed. These small acts became profound keys for saving me from the life of a mommy recluse.