Why Moms May Be Feeling Extra Lonely Right Now

Why Moms May Be Feeling Extra Lonely Right Now August 10, 2020Leave a comment

Loneliness is at an all-time high

Even before COVID-19 led to stay-at-home mandates, we knew the world was getting lonelier[1]. HuffPost called loneliness the ‘global epidemic of our times[2]’ in 2016. The beginning of 2020 found 61% of adults in America saying they felt lonely sometimes or all the time[3]. In comparison, 62% of Canadians wanted to spend more time with friends and family. Meanwhile, only 14% said they felt their social lives were ‘very good’[4].


There are two main types of loneliness

Turns out loneliness can be divided into two main categories. There is social isolation, which happens if you spend a lot of time physically alone, without a network of friends or family to interact with. Then there is the sense of feeling lonely – where you may be surrounded by people but still feel incredibly lonely[5]. This could occur because:

  • The the quality of your relationships may not be supportive in nature or
  • You may feel a lack of connection to your co-workers, family or friend.

On the other hand, even if you are socially isolated, but have strong emotional connections, you may not feel lonely.

Take a loneliness self-survey developed by UCLA here.


How loneliness can impact your health

Most of us have experienced the effects of loneliness at some point or another. For some, loneliness can be temporary, for others it can be ongoing, interfering with day-to-day living. Loneliness can increase inflammation and inhibit genes that reduce inflammation (Cole et al. 2007) and increase risk for cardiovascular disease (Thurston and Kubzansky 2009)[6]. This means it could be easier to get sick.

Loneliness in motherhood

Loneliness can happen to anyone. You, friends or family may move away, become busy with a new job or start a new season of life. Parents of young children know this well. Many new moms feel lonely – the loneliness that can come from spending all day with young children without speaking to another adult, using an adult voice or doing adult things. This may even be tied to feelings of shame[7]. That small, judgemental voice that says, ‘You should be happy. You’re lucky to be able to stay home with the baby.’

In our research we have found that:

  • Spending time with friends lowers our risk of depression by almost 50%.
  • When pregnant women are supported by friends, their risk of depression in pregnancy lowers – by 70 to 75%. And, their risk of postpartum depression decreases.
  • When new moms have strong friendship support, their chance of developing postpartum depression drops.

Are you at risk for pregnancy depression? – Social Support


But what if maintaining friendships becomes difficult? What if making new friends becomes difficult? Many new moms struggle with the changing dynamics of friendships. New responsibilities may mean that there just isn’t enough time to go out with childless friends anymore. Moving away to a new community where moms already have existing friendships can make putting down roots more challenging[8]. Even if you put energy into keeping up old friendships, the truth is what is important to you may change over time so sometimes friendships grow apart.


“Trying to force relationships with people who are growing at different rates and potentially are on different wavelengths can lead us to a feeling of loneliness.” – Hannah Rose, LCPC

Coping with loneliness in a time of stay-at-home mandates

While it’s not new that many stay-at-home parents experience feelings of isolation and loneliness, having to cope with stay-at-home mandates over the past few months have made it even harder on many parents. Even non-parents have felt the strain, with more than 50% of Canadians feeling lonely or isolated during the coronavirus pandemic[9].

For many moms, the activities that help them cope are, at least for the time being, no longer an option – e.g. weekly coffee dates with a close friend, or going to the gym for some personal time, or group activities, such as a running group. Most of these activities were cancelled or restructured with online options. But online options don’t always serve as a perfect substitute – it doesn’t give moms a break from the kids (who are also at home physical distancing) or give moms the social aspect of catching up with a gym buddy.

For women who are pregnant and women who are new moms, loneliness can come from reduced visits from birth support partners (e.g. a doula), giving birth without a partner present, or having to tell friends and family, ‘No, you can’t come visit just yet.’ Suffering from a pregnancy loss is already hard in normal times, but while quarantining it can be especially difficult when there is no one to turn to for a hug. All this can in turn lead to feelings of anxiety and depression, which if left unchecked can increase feelings of loneliness and stress. While this may sound like a hopeless cycle, it isn’t. There is always hope for healing and recovery.


Have you experienced a pregnancy loss recently? We are inviting women who have experienced a pregnancy loss within Canada in the past 2 years to join our survey study.

As stay-at-home restrictions start to lift, remember that coping and recovering from loneliness and feelings of shame is an ongoing process. Your baby is learning and growing, and you are adapting and growing as a mom. it’s important to be kind to yourself and treat yourself as gently as you would a child.

Read on to find Four Ways to Cope With Loneliness as a New Mom


[1] Barreto et al, 04/26/2020, ‘Loneliness around the world: Age, gender, and cultural differences in loneliness,’ Science Direct, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886920302555

[2] Tania de Jong, 10/05/2016, ‘Loneliness is the Global Epidemic of Our Times,’ Huffington Post Australia,https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/tania-de-jong/loneliness-is-the-global-epidemic-of-our-times_a_21544979/

[3] 2020, ‘Loneliness and the Workplace,’ Cigna, https://www.cigna.com/static/www-cigna-com/docs/about-us/newsroom/studies-and-reports/combatting-loneliness/cigna-2020-loneliness-infographic.pdf

[4] 06/17/2019, ‘A Portrait of Social Isolation and Loneliness in Canada Today,’ Angus Reid Institute, http://angusreid.org/social-isolation-loneliness-canada/

[5] 06/17/2019, ‘A Portrait of Social Isolation and Loneliness in Canada Today,’ Angus Reid Institute, http://angusreid.org/social-isolation-loneliness-canada/

[6]Cresswell et al., 07/20/2012, ‘Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Training Reduces Loneliness and Pro-Inflammatory Gene Expression in Older Adults: A Small Randomize Controlled Trial,’ US National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3635809/

[7] Angela Anagnost-Repke, ‘To the mother who feels lonely right now – it won’t be like this forever,’ Mother.ly, https://www.mother.ly/life/to-the-mother-who-feels-lonely-right-now-it-wont-be-like-this-forever

[8] Lauren Cormier, ‘Being an introverted mama can be lonely – but it doesn’t have to be,’ Mother.ly, https://www.mother.ly/life/lonely-motherhood-an-introverts-pondering

[9] Meghan Collie, ‘More than half of Canadians feel lonely, isolated during coronavirus pandemic: Ipsos poll,’ Global News, https://globalnews.ca/news/6793214/coronavirus-canada-lonely/

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