Middle-aged mums: rarely alone, often online and increasingly lonely

Middle age is a busy time. He is also a lonely person. The demands of work and family require little time to develop friendships, especially for women.

In the pre-pandemic period, conversations about loneliness often centered on men, with talk of an “epidemic of loneliness”. But during the lockdown, Generation X women, ages 41 to 57, reported the largest rise in loneliness, according to the Survey over 1000 adults It was conducted in the spring of 2020 by the Unity Roots Project, a research organization. The increase in social isolation reported by women living with children was also greater among those from Generation X, according to an unpublished portion of the survey shared with the Wall Street Journal.

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For women who feel overwhelmed with maintaining family life and working together, social media has usually been the most suitable place to vent and seek connection. But getting online Feelings of inadequacy and loneliness surfacedSays a lot.

Miranda Reinhardt, of Pueblo, Colorado, with two of her three children, Caden and Willie; She says she struggled to find friends in person to connect with.

“Less isolated, but more isolated’

Miranda Reinhardt, a 38-year-old photographer in Pueblo, Colorado, with children ages 11-20, says she hasn’t found a “mother’s tribe.” She said she never got along with the mothers of her children’s friends, as she was either the youngest father in the group or among the oldest.

She said that the fact that she homeschooled her children – because her husband traveled a lot when they were young – made it difficult for her to find friends with similar interests and situations. She doesn’t feel like she fits in with the other stay-at-home moms in her area, because she said she feels their views are more conservative than hers.

“It’s weird to think of feeling lonely because I’m not alone,” she said. “There’s always someone around, but I feel like I miss that connection with moms who are going through similar things.”

Ms Reinhardt and her best friend, who has a 6-year-old and another child about to turn three, watched “This is Us” TV together before the pandemic, but as work and life got busier for both, they paused, thinking they They will pick up again later. They haven’t yet.

Reinhardt, who works as a photographer and homeschools her children, says social media makes her feel less isolated, but more lonely.

“Where is the time? Where is the energy?” she said. “Covid has added so much to the mothers’ mental burden, which was already high, that at the end of the day we feel exhausted.”

Mrs. Reinhart said to her,

Facebook social networking site

He helped her maintain relationships with old friends but left her with mixed feelings. “It’s a link to people you haven’t spoken to in a long time. I can see their lives, but I’m not a part of them,” she said. “Social media has made me feel less isolated, but more lonely.”

Ms. Reinhardt has tried using Facebook groups to find moms at similar life stages, but because she hasn’t found a group of personal friends, she sometimes feels left out. When she sees posts of women getting together for a girl’s night out or going on a trip, she’s bored. She said, “I want to.” Sometimes I stop and ask myself: What did I do wrong? “

She added that social media can make it seem like everyone has a group of friends. “Some days I feel like a teenager again, wondering, ‘Why can’t I find a group like this to fit in?'” Aren’t you funny enough? Am I too introverted? “

“Everyone was in their bubbles”

When I posted a question about loneliness in middle age in my big Facebook parenting group, I immediately heard from over 300 women, most of whom expressed similar feelings.

Deb Fabrizio, 55, a divorcee and mother of two, became an empty nest last summer after her youngest daughter graduated from college.

Spending Napping with married friends has always been difficult, but Ms. Fabrizio, an accountant in Burlington, Connecticut, said she made an effort to organize gatherings and could find someone to dine with or go for a walk at night. “I was volunteering outside and meeting people, and then the pandemic stopped all of that,” she said. “Everyone was in their bubbles.”

Miranda Reinhart uploaded a family photo 11 years ago, when she was pregnant with her third child.

She added that working remotely has made life more isolated. Instead of dinner and a walk, she said Facebook is now her way of staying in touch. It was a blessing and a curse.

2018 AARP Foundation Survey Of people 45 and older, middle-aged and older adults reported feeling more lonely as their social media use increased. a Study for adults in Italy conducted during the Covid-19 lockdown found that social media is no substitute for in-person social interactions.

Ms. Fabrizio has been cautious about socializing due to health issues and because she does not want to risk injuring her granddaughter who was born in June 2020. Friends are so used to turning down invitations that they don’t always think to ask her outside. They then post information about their gatherings on Facebook.

“There is a great fear of getting lost,” Ms. Fabrizio said. “I saw pictures of my friends on the beach, and I thought they were outside. I could have gone.”

Mrs. Reinhardt at work in her home office.

Andy Martin, 52, a college mom of two in Atlanta, spends most of her time helping her 84-year-old mother and taking her to doctor’s appointments. She moved to Georgia from Texas five years ago for her husband’s job and hasn’t formed as deep connections as the ones she had before moving. “By the time your kids are in high school, most women have their own small group of parental friends,” she said.

Ms Martin said she appreciated her ability to connect on social media with friends and relatives in remote areas during the pandemic lockdown but felt the contacts were superficial.

“I’d love to know what they’re doing, but it doesn’t solve my loneliness problem,” she said.

isolation and epidemic

write to Jolly Jargon At julie.jargon@wsj.com

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