Modern motherhood leaves women 'lonely'

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The Independent Online

What should be the happiest days of a mother's life are actually the loneliest, according to a survey that has looked at the year which follows having a baby.

Two-thirds of mothers said their new babies wreaked havoc on their personal and social lives, while more than half said they were left feeling "lonely and isolated". Modern lifestyles are making motherhood more of a challenge, as people live further and further from their support network of friends and relatives.

Mothers with new babies spend an average of just 90 minutes a day in the company of adults, according to the survey by Mother & Baby magazine, which said that people no longer lived in the type of close-knit communities where friends all live near by.

And for those who think parents share the burden these days; think again. While the mother spends her evenings at home alone after the new arrival, it seems fathers are still likely to be found in the pub.

The investigation into motherhood said: "Hour after hour with an adorable but demanding baby who frequently cries and rarely sleeps is a considerable challenge for all new mums, but feeling isolated from their family and their old life is the hardest thing to cope with. Less than a third of mothers with a baby get hands-on support from their own mum at least once a week. On the in-laws front, more than a third never help."

The survey questioned 2,000 new mothers, whose average age was 29, to see how they were coping with motherhood under the pressures of modern life. And the picture is bleak. Seven in 10 of those questioned said that their social life was either "non-existent" or a fraction of what it was.

This detachment from human contact bred resentment between mothers and their partners, with more than two-thirds of mums saying they were annoyed by the fact that their partner's social lives had not had to suffer as much. As a result, a quarter of new mothers said their relationship had "gone downhill" since having a baby, with one in 20 splitting up as a result.

Elena Dalrymple, editor of Mother & Baby said: "Leaving work and having a baby is a huge physical and emotional adjustment for women. It's a whole new ball game and a totally different way of life to the one they knew before.

"Friends without babies drift off, grandparents often live miles away, neighbours are barely on nodding terms, other mums you bump into at the shops aren't your type and the social life you once knew has ground to a halt."

How was it for you?

Kathy Lette

Novelist

"No matter how bad the birth, it's a doddle compared with what follows. Cracked nipples, constipation, sleep deprivation, mastitis, mountains of haemorrhoids. (Edmund Hillary couldn't climb those ratbags.) Hubby can escape down the pub. But as a mum, you are tethered by the tit."

Meera Syal

Comedian

"The first year is definitely the toughest; they're so tiny and vulnerable. It's a completely new experience and everybody else seems to be doing it so much better than you. Like everything else now it's competitive, so if your baby is not sleeping or feeding properly you feel inadequate."

Katie Derham

ITV Newsreader

"I loved being on maternity leave and relished the time I had with thetiddlers. Is it tiring? Yes. Is it hard work? Yes. I understand how people do get lonely, because they're vulnerable and knackered. But I'm a believer taking children with you, so I used to put my baby in a sling and go out."

Virginia Ironside

Novelist

"It rings true with me. There's a feeling ofisolation and helplessness, and I think a lot of people get post-natal depression in one form or another. You also feel totally exhausted and don't feel like sparkling with other people; all that combines to make you feel totally isolated."

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