STRESS is the focus of this week’s Mental Health Awareness campaign. We all know that life as a working parent is incredibly stressful, so we’ve been contemplating on what stresses us the most. Yes, the logistics, lack of time and the unexpected last-minute problems are all at the top of our lists. But if we go deeper than this, loneliness and isolation can be the underlying effects of our day-to-day stresses.
Reading through all the mental health awareness news this week, I came across a fantastic organisation called ‘Mummy Social’, whose aim is to unite mums for friendship and support and to make a real difference to lives of families. What struck me is that their experience has found that it is natural to feel loneliness as a parent of children of ALL AGES. This was something of an ‘aha’ moment for me. Mummy Social’s research has found that feeling ‘left out’ at baby groups or at the school gates is the most commented on experience of loneliness. What are other isolating experiences for working parents with children of all ages?
Here are some of the examples we have heard and experienced ourselves of lonely moments:
- ‘I was the first dad ever in history to take Shared Parental Leave’
- ‘arrived at work having left my child crying at the school gates – no other parents in the team so didn’t feel I could talk to anyone’
- ‘dropped off at school and saw a group of mums going for a game of tennis on a summer’s morning’
- ‘my son asked me why I never help on school trips’
- ‘left my team in the middle of an important and stressful project to pick up my daughter who has been sick at school’
We can all identify with these moments of isolation – especially when we feel like we are the only ones experiencing this as everyone around us appears to be coping so well. But do we recognise it as loneliness? After all, loneliness isn’t necessarily about ‘being’ alone – more about ‘feeling’ alone. It’s essential that we find people we can confide in at home or at work – does your organisation offer working parent networks or a mentoring scheme? If not, can you make your own connections?