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The loneliness of parenting: one parent’s perspective

The loneliness of parenting: one parent’s perspective

Judah Racham headshot

Judah Racham

Programme Leader for Family Work - Judah is a BACP registered counsellor, and Parent-training Mentor, who joined Place2Be in 2021. He has over 7 years experience delivering counselling and therapeutic services for adults and children. Judah has been supporting parents and carers, delivering parent training and supervising parenting practitioners within local authorities and the NHS for over 17 years.

The theme of Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 is ‘loneliness’. In this blog, Place2Be’s Programme Leader for Family Work, Judah Racham, reflects on the loneliness and isolation that parents can feel, and shares his advice.

In a Place2Be survey last year, we found that around half (52%) of parents of 4 to 11-year-olds felt isolated during the pandemic. This isolation, and loneliness, is a feeling I remember all too well.

I am a proud father of three boys. My oldest son is 14 now, but I remember becoming a father for the first time when he was born like it was yesterday.

When I think of the experience of becoming a dad, I remember the strong sense of being in unknown territory in my life.

Although I had a few close friends who were also new to parenting, it didn’t make me feel any more reassured about what it would be like to become a dad.

Throughout my wife’s pregnancy, I remember feeling a mixture of emotions which were very difficult to identify clearly or put into words. One thing that was present for me was a sense of isolation and loneliness within my own internal process as an expectant parent.

I remember thinking it was not a time to be focused on how I was feeling, as I needed to be a support to my pregnant wife. This was a message that was reinforced to me by anyone who we would interact with at the time.

I also remember that when we would go to the hospital for a scan, meet with relatives, midwives or other health professionals, the focus would rightly be on my wife. I would understandably be mostly ignored On the occasions when I was spoken to, I received the same message of the need for me to be a source of help and support for my wife at a time when she needed me the most. This message was completely justified, and this was the role I was supposed to play as a soon-to-be father.

There was no point during this time when I felt like I might need support or to share with others, and so I didn’t even consider it to be necessary – until my son was born.

As I stepped into the new and unfamiliar role of being a father, I began to feel a sense of isolation from the idea of being a new parent. I was unsure what I was supposed to do to help with this new baby, and, despite wonderful support and guidance from my wife, it still felt hard to process.

I have always had a good set of close friends, some of whom were also fathers at the time when my son was born, but for some reason, I didn’t feel like I could reach out to any of them to talk about how I was feeling. Looking back, I think there were two reasons why I felt like this:

  • My own concept of what I am supposed to be like as a man was one of not admitting that I have weaknesses or need support. This is what I call my own ‘superman complex’. This idea of needing to be the rescuer of others rather than the one who is rescued, was a major barrier to reaching out to others for support.
  • For me, the idea of becoming a parent meant that I should have somehow known what I was doing. Growing up, I never saw my parents talk to other parents about how to raise us (they may well have done this unbeknown to me), so I felt I shouldn’t need to speak to others about the subject of parenting.

I have learned over the years (and two more children in that time) that it is okay for me to network and connect with other parents.

It’s important to connect with others, who are also trying to do their best to raise their children, and to share what I am feeling and the things that I struggle with while on this journey.

It has taken courage to reach out, but I have found that it has been so beneficial whenever I have done so. It has reassured me that I am not alone and that there are others who can also understand my perspective and even have similar experiences.

There is a saying that comes to mind that ‘a problem shared is a problem halved.’ I can truly say that this is what I have experienced when I have been able to overcome my own doubts about reaching out and sharing the load I am carrying. Whether this is with a friend, a colleague or a professional, I now believe that I don’t have to face anything as a parent on my own.

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