I was overwhelmed with the life-transforming fact of having a baby and all it entailed. I was overwhelmed with love, with exhaustion, with questions about whether I’d be able to pull off this motherhood gig, with sleep deprivation and with loneliness.
I found that being a new mother, despite the many classes at the Y, and Gymboree and Music Together, I was profoundly lonely.
And I was lonely in a way that I didn’t ever recall being as an adult before.
I still had friends, of course, people I’d gone to school with, people that I worked with, but they now belonged to the world of showering in the morning, a schedule that centered around meetings and lunch dates, and sleeping through the night. I couldn’t relate to them at all.
I’d had friends who had children before me, so I was very well aware that I didn’t invent motherhood. I remember a friend telling the childless-me about the changing consistency of her child’s bowel movements and knowing right there and then that I could never be that person. I would never, ever tell my friends about potty issues. I would never presume to think that the minutiae of my child-rearing experience would be interesting to anyone outside of my immediate family, I would never inflict this on the world at large. (No, the irony of writing a blog about my experience as a mother, detailing the very minutiae is not lost on me, why do you ask?)
But that alienation left me lonely.
I longed for a meaningful connection, for one that wasn’t completely baby-centri in the “is she sleeping through the night?” or “what milestones is she hitting” or “it’s really exhausting, isn’t it?” wat that I got from other new moms. Because while I absolutely needed to have those connections as well, they didn’t alleviate my loneliness.
But laundry did.
I lived (and still do) in an apartment building with a communal laundry room and whenever I went there, I’d usually run into one of my many neighbors.
I’d have my baby in a stroller, and as we sorted our respective loads, we’d chat. Depending on who was there, we’d talk about politics, or what’s on TV, one of the building’s doormen or what was happening in the neighborhood. They would ask about my baby, of course, and in some cases tell me what it was like when their own kids were younger. One woman, in her early 70s told me how much she loved seeing her grandchildren visit and how great it was that they got to go home at the end of the visit and she didn’t have to deal with bedtime and other less savory moments of parenting.
And through those conversations, I felt like I was able to rejoin a world where I wasn’t so lonely. Through these laundry room chats, I rejoined the world that children were part of, but remember that I was a person too. Through the laundry room conversations, I was able to enjoy a task that had to be done while getting a glimpse into the world beyond the 24/7 one of infanthood.
I wish I had a more glamorous story. I wish I had a story of shedding my loneliness when I was discover at a lunch counter by a movie producer or Brad Pitt or something more scenic.
But the truth is that it was my building’s laundry room that chipped away at my loneliness.
And I’ll always be grateful.
Photo source: iStockPhoto
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