Midway through June, I hit a stretch of empty calendar squares and quiet days at home –the kind of days a woman longs for. But I soon became very lonely. As a teacher, I had the summer off, and my son was home from college but not actually home, you know.
I got into the car to go to the grocery store, and I found myself excited to see people. Any people.
A memory from two decades ago slammed into me. There I was, a young mom with my first baby, far away from home. My husband was finishing his master’s degree, which meant he was going to classes, doing clinical hours, and working 40 hours on the weekend at his job. The few hours he was at home were spent with his little girl in one hand and a textbook in the other.
The loneliest weeks of my life.
I would go almost crazy at home –just me and this beautiful little girl who didn’t sleep well, day or night. On the longest days, I would load her into the car and drive to the store, hoping some adult–any adult–would talk to me. We were dirt poor, so I didn’t even have a penny to spend, but I would walk the aisles and then buy a tiny something so it would seem legitimate for me to be there. Sometimes it would help just to overhear other people talking to each other.
Now the very sad part of the story is that I went to a large church full of older ladies. And you know what? I never thought to ask those ladies for anything. Instead, I lived in social poverty, barely staying sane.
And those ladies never thought to offer me anything. They absolutely adored my little girl. I would get to church and hand her off and then go find her again when church was over. They bought my Jayme so many clothes at her baby shower that I barely had to do laundry for the first three months of her life.
But it never occurred to them to ask how I was doing, to see if they could be of service. I went to church every Sunday for months, surrounded by women who had done this mothering thing before, and I never asked them how to handle a baby who wouldn’t sleep. I never said, “I’m lonely.”
I could have gone up to one of those sweet women and said bluntly, “Friend, I am going to lose it here. Do you think you could invite me over for a cup of tea for an hour sometime –and you could hold the baby while you talk to me about how to be a mom?” I know that if I had reached out for help I would have had women lining up, to offer their wisdom and to hold a sweet infant for an hour or two.
I’m an empty nester now, and I can tell you that two hours can be hard to fill if you don’t have little ones at home. And it feels good to hand down my hard-earned wisdom to younger women.
So to the new mom: Be brave. Ask for help. Your own need might even meet the need of a lonely empty nester who misses those sweet baby days.
And to the lonely older woman: Keep your eyes out for the new mom who could use a hand.
We need each other, girls.
With love from Montana,