At times, I can feel lonely when I am out with my children at various activities. Even as I sit amongst other homeschool moms and families, while the cacophony of children’s voices, laughter, the dropping of books on tables, and sliding of chairs on floors swirls around me, loneliness can set in. I feel isolated.
Parenting a special needs child is a challenge. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually demanding, this challenge often takes all that I have in me. I feel drained. Sad. Filled with self-doubt. Am I really up to the task?
Perhaps you feel the same way? Maybe you are not homeschooling a special needs child. Parenting has its challenges whether your children are all neurotypical or if you have one or two who struggle with physical, emotional, or social delays or limits.
I have also found that I sometimes feel lonely in other settings, even when my daughter is not around. Is this because I’m so used to focusing only on her? Or have I begun to lose my own social skills as I’ve sought to simply keep her happy and from disturbing others when we’re out and about? We do end up isolating ourselves.
Dear Homeschool Mom Who is Lonely
At this very moment, we are at our homeschool co-op. We’ve attended for three years now, as my older four children enjoy the classes and social interaction. I know several people here. A few I really seem to get along with and hope to come to know them on a more personal level. Yet, conversation is often difficult to sustain when I have my daughter with me.
I feel as if I need to keep my eyes on her, check her behavior often, either to curb undesirable behaviors or go help make sure she understands what is being asked of her or expected of her in any given situation. She doesn’t always respond when spoken to, and she doesn’t necessarily “get” unspoken social cues. Hence, any interactions I’m having with other adults are rife with interruptions.
Now, near the end of another homeschool year, we find ourselves sitting by the front windows. Isolated from the others. My daughter is happy to play alone. In shadow and light and warmth, she is more lively. I would even say she thrives in her isolation, in this particular environment, with mom right by her side. As a child approaches I can feel my daughter pull back and I encourage her to engage, to share.
That’s something I don’t struggle with- relating to and talking with young children. They like me. It must be all my “child-like faith” or some such thing. ? They want to play, and talk, and they will ask me for help. They don’t seem to mind the interruptions, and they interrupt plenty themselves.
I don’t blame the other moms. I’m not bitter or angry at all. I understand. Many of them already have their “clique,” and even if they don’t, it is difficult to speak with someone who cannot keep her attention on you. I. Get. It. But I’m sad all the same. This is my life and I’m grateful for it.
God has used many painful and trying events in my life for His glory, and my own good, so I know this time will be no different. I’ve learned that “God wastes nothing,” as Rachael Carmen has mentioned several times when I’ve heard her speak. But that knowledge doesn’t mean it’s not difficult.
There are a few things we can do when we find ourselves in a lonely spot. I’m sharing what is working for me here in hopes that these strategies will also help you when or if you are in that place of loneliness and isolation.
How to combat loneliness as a homeschool mom:
Immerse yourself in God’s word. Turn to the Bible. It is filled with truth. The enemy would like us to believe his lies that we are unworthy, unloveable, weird, too much trouble, and whatever else it is that he tries to tell us. Even when it feels you haven’t a single friend on earth, you still have a friend in Jesus and He is closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24)
Find your “tribe.” If you are a mom with a special needs child, are there other special needs families around with whom you could connect? Perhaps at co-op you could sit together, chat, help watch one another’s kids.
Realize this is a season, maybe even a long one. Sometimes we experience periods of loneliness in our lives. I have experienced this once before in my homeschooling years, when we moved thousands of miles away from friends and family. It was a difficult time but also a needed time of growing, learning, and stretching for me and my children.
We learned how to rely even more fully on one another and on God. Even though it was hard, I wouldn’t trade that time of isolation or the feelings of loneliness because God used that period of time to change me. Even if this time of isolation is a long one, God will use it. Do not lose hope.
Notice and engage with others who may be feeling isolated. As I looked around the room today, I noticed that there were several other moms who were “isolated.” Some were alone, others were with a child. I do not know if they had chosen to sit alone because they relished the time away from kids and chores and duties, or if they would have liked a friend to talk to and simply did not have one near.
I do know that my observations helped me to realize again that I am not alone. And I have a choice. I hope to gather the courage to approach some of these moms next week, even on our last day of co-op, to introduce myself, chat for a moment, and perhaps make a difference in their day….just in case they are feeling lonely as I have been.
Start your own like-minded group. Sometimes, a co-op or certain class or activity simply is not a good fit. Our particular co-op has been great for my children in many ways. They have gained excellent skills in their art and media production classes, and my middle child has had the best time in his science class with all of the hands-on activities that I know he would not get here with me! However, for me, the co-op has been a struggle. It is no one’s fault, that is just the way of things.
I have continued to go because my children wanted to. They like their teachers, they have made some friends, and they have learned a lot. That was enough for me to continue, despite being uncomfortable. But what do you do if yours is not a good fit and you cannot stay?
Perhaps you can start your own group. Do you have a handful of friends who are looking for the same things as homeschool moms? Or perhaps you are all in the same season of life or would like a co-op specifically for children with special needs. Whatever it may be, this is an option for you! It’s something I am in the beginning stages of exploring myself, as we learned this semester that our co-op is disbanding.
I see it as an opportunity to craft the perfect environment (well, as close to perfect as an imperfect soul like me can get) for my children to engage in fun activities, to share conversations and learning opportunities with friends, and for moms like me to find their “tribe” and whisk away that loneliness and isolation in which satan would like us to become entrenched.
Have you been feeling lonely or isolated as a homeschool mom? How do you combat those feelings?