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Lonely Mama in Portland

We all know that mamahood can be tough, especially solo.  Jennifer is looking for ideas on how to keep spirits up as she juggles mamahood on her own most of the time:

Hi there!  After reading the recent post Do You Yahoo, I tried to find the perfect mamas group for me, but came up short.  My husband travels frequently for business, which leaves me at home alone with our 15-month old, sometimes for four consecutive nights.  Maybe I should consider myself lucky that it's only 4 consecutive nights instead of four weeks at a time.  I know I must not be the only stay at home mom who ends up feeling like a single mom because their husband travels.  Lately I just feel like my other mom friends don't get how difficult it is to manage day to day without the other partner.  All of our family live East of the Mississippi River, so I can't just drop the kiddo off at grandma's and go to my doctor's appointment, get my hair cut or just grocery shop alone.  I certainly don't fit into a single-mom's group even though I have tremendous insight into how hard it must be.   I just need support, positive feedback, inspiration, and playtime with other moms who feel just as lonely and stressed out when their husband is away.  Any ideas?  Thanks in advance!

Other urbanMamas, do you have suggestions on how to build a community of mamas and papas around you to help when the going gets tough?  Who do you rely on when you need a helping hand?

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Being a stay-at-home parent can be isolating for sure. I have found that it takes a while to develop relationships with folks who become like family. I think it is because forming tight bonds is based on shared history. So, work on developing shared history with your buds.

Here are some more ideas:
1) Post an announcement on Craigslist about forming a playgroup/support group for other stay-at-home folks with similarly aged children.

2) State your needs to your closer friends. If you need occaisional childcare, ask your friends. I have found that my friends are more than happy to help out--especially when I reciprocate for them.

3) Find a like-minded faith community. Many people attend services to become a part of a community of like-minded people. They are often very happy to help out. Portland has everything from conservative fare to the ultra liberal pagan stuff. There is truly something for everybody.

4) Hang out in kid-friendly places in your neighborhood. We developed a friendship with a kind woman and her grandson after we saw them at our neighborhood pool everyday last summer and this summer. We were telling her about our struggles to find before/after school care for our son, who will be entering kindergarten this fall (I work during the school year, but am off in the summer), and she happily volunteered to walk him to and from school every day, since she walks her grandson to the same school everyday. This could not have happened if we didn't have the shared expereriences of two summers at the pool.

Good luck. It is CRUCIAL that you have folks you can rely on--especially when your hubby travels.

Jess
www.jess-underconstruction.blogspot.com

try your neighborhood park as well. If you go frequently enough, you will see the same people there day to day. And when the weather turns, find your closest indoor park. It's been a life-saver for me. It's amazing how easy it is to begin talking with other moms about the kids and just go on from there.

I am also home most of the time with my kids (I work very part time from home) and there are periods where my partner has to travel a lot. In my opinion you are starting to enter an easier age with your son. I found the first year or so with both my kids to be a lot of maintaining nap and feeding schedules and very little social activity. Around 18 months they both really wanted to get out and it was easier.

I have to agree with a lot of what Jess posted. A playgroup can be great to find. A nanny share for just a few hours a week could be even better. Both can provide social outlets for you and your son. The nanny share would give you a window to make appointments, take a hot bath, sit in a coffee shop and read or do whatever can recharge you when your husband is away.

There are some drop in day care centers that you could also take your son to for a few hours. Even though we did not need daycare for me to work, it was a good social outlet for my oldest. It also gave me the much needed break.

Some gyms also have a daycare option. Some even have great activities for kids. We belonged to one that closed it daycare and I miss it - no others close to us offer it at this time. It was great way to get a midday break

We have joined a church and have found it to be a wonderful community of like minded people to support our family. Churches in Portland come in all flavors. Ours is very liberal minded and supports our lesbian headed family very well. A woman from church has become like a surrogate grandmother in our family. I can call on her to help with the kids for a few hours if I am at the end of my rope. There are others I can call too.

A friend of mine has a husband that travels a lot. One thing she does is she gets the kids to bed and then a friend without kids comes over with take out. It is not going out but it still recharges her batteries some. I know when my partner travels it is not only the help with the kids but the adult conversation that I really miss. I am going to try this next time I am alone.

Portland has a lot of wonderful community centers with all types of activities. Your son is reaching the age where you can start to take advantage of these. There are indoor parks, classes, etc. and that can be a great way to get out and meet people. For me a good break can be going to the community center and going to lunch with someone from the class. It can really help to break up a long day. Library events followed by coffee can be good this way too.

We have also become friends with neighbors with older kids. Often they are up for having our kids that are younger then theirs over for dinner. They like hanging with the little ones and it gives me a break. A 12 year old neighbor did not like being home alone after school so she can to our house one day a week. She did art projects, played games and hung out with my kids. While I still had to be here, it was nice to be able to not have to entertain the troops.

Hey Jennifer- I am not a stay at home mama but I am a single mama so I can relate to some of your issues about isolation. There have been many good suggestions posted. Here are my 2 cents:

- cut yourself some slack when hubby is gone- adjust the routine to what is working for you and your child
- adult company is what I miss most. Maybe a friend can join you for a coffee in the am or dinner in the afternoon. Or lunch dates with other SAHMs?
- having a park/coffee shop you go to on a regular basis helps. Its nice to have other grown ups recognize you and share in some daily conversations.

other random thoughts... The Target at Jantzen beach is great for shopping/playdates - the merry go round is a big hit.
I have also used Home Depot as a cheap get out of the house solution. For my son it was like a mini omsi.. He loved checking out the riding lawnmowers or garden section and sometimes it helped break up a long afternoon.
My son also loves to go to my gym (daycare) so if thats an option for you maybe it would serve as workout time or just a 25 minute break?

Hang in there! You child will get older and it gets easier.


Just linking up to a previous conversation we had on the topic of solo-parent nights: http://urbanmamas.typepad.com//urbanmamas/2006/01/when_the_cat_is.html

Also, we have a lot of mama groups that sprung up from urbanMamas, some of them here: http://urbanmamas.typepad.com//urbanmamas/mama_groups/index.html

There are tons of great suggestions mentioned above! Hopefully we will have an upcoming urbanMamas coffee playdate when we can all get together!

I feel for you, mama! Hang in there.

Jess, what awesome ideas you offered. I ditto them all.

I have a spouse who can travel/work/be gone quite a bit. One thing I love to do is hang out at our local New Seasons (arbor lodge). I get a hot-wok there (I am queen of the hot-wok mound, feed four people with that one hot-wok!), set up the girls in the community eat area, and - with the set up in the back at that New Seasons - I feel OK leaving them there eating for a split second if I need to run to grab something from another aisle. That's a mini escape. Plus, we see friends from the neighborhood at New Seasons, it's like a gathering place.

For some of our neighborhood friends, it's the only place we ever bump into each other!

Local coffee shops with kid-amenities are also haunts for mamas who may be on the same schedule as you. In our neighborhood, we have Sohbet, Madrona Hill, DiPrima Dolci, and a few others a bit further. I can almost guarantee you'll find a cafe with some kid-friendly stuff in your neighborhood. I have made many a mama pal at a cafe. It's great when we can bump into each other again and again.

The last thing I would suggest would be - as somewhat mentioned above - put yourself out there, ask for help when you can, and meet new mamas when you are out and about.

Have you tried http://www.meetup.com. I joined the rock'n' mommas group on there and there are several other groups for Mom get togethers. I stay at home but am soon returning to part time work. My husband works 10-12 hour days 5 days per week though... so I can relate. My little guy is 10 1/2 months old. Feel free to email for any other ideas Mollinski76@yahoo.com. I also like the mommy matinees at Kennedy school.

I can't say how much I feel for you, Jennifer, and how often I've played this tune! my husband is in the Army Reserves and is often gone for a week or several, leaving me at home with my boys, who are now five, two, and six weeks. he bartends part-time when he's not on duty, so often I go to bed alone, even though he's in town.

I think the hardest part is being lulled into the convenience and beauty of being able to do things at the spur of the moment -- dash to the coffee shop, grab a gallon of milk, go for a run, and (yes) get your hair cut -- without having to negotiate naptime, getting a child dressed, dealing with the short attention span and inability to listen to reason that is the constant reality of toddlerhood. when it's gone, when you have to spend an hour of negotiation and preparation just to walk out the door , when evenings out are a fantasy -- and you have to do it all alone! -- well, life as a mama can seem much like a fancy prison where you have to cook all the meals AND clean the bathrooms.

I, too, often want to sit down and cry into my diaper changing pad (ok, sometimes I *do*) but then I think, "hey, I asked for this, I have great kids, I *do* have a husband, I'm one of the lucky ones! how dare I feel sorry for myself when there are single moms and other Army wives with husbands in Iraq, or crippled, or worse?"

I've decided, after much introspection, that it has to be ok to feel badly for your situation, even if it *is* good in the abstract, even if comparatively easy (when compared to a really, really hard situation). I'm a believer in Every Mama's Right to Mourn how hard is her own unique place in mamaland!

all of this advice here is great. a couple of other things I'd suggest:
-- whatever your creative outlet is, knitting or writing or photography or scrapbooking or watching movies, find someplace online to exchange ideas and get inspired. i've met great people through sites like orblogs and flickr and ravelry -- some of them are mamas just like me in other states (and countries!), and we often chat and commiserate late at night when my husband's in Kansas and Niki's husband is working 20-hour days in her basement (or whatever!)

-- if you're most alone at night, try to hang out at parks and coffee shops when most people with typical schedules are at home with family; you may find the other like-scheduled souls if you hang out at the playground at 7 p.m.

-- if you can afford it at all, find a babysitter for at least one night a month, and do something you want to do, whether it's yoga or a glass of wine with a friend or just sitting alone at a coffee shop with a good book. if you don't have any friends to hang out with, wear a t-shirt that proclaims your mama status and maybe you'll find another lonely mama to strike up a conversation with!

-- get online, or make at home, little "business" cards with your phone number, email address, and child's name and age. you can hand them out to other mamas you meet. it might seem silly, but I've had mamas come up to me and hand me their card in coffee shops and I promise I did not think they were crazy :)

-- if you're having trouble making plans with some of your friends, instead of trying to nail down a group to meet at 10:30 at the swingsets, just send an email proclaiming when and where you'll be; and make it weekly! that way other mamas can just show up if it works out and there will be no hard feelings for flaking because of meltdowns, screwed-up nap schedules, or simple exhaustion.

Thank you so much everyone for such wonderful suggestions! It sounds like so many of you have been there and were sympathetic to how I have been feeling - you picked up on so many things that I didn't even have to say. It was so helpful to hear how other mamas creatively catch that little moment to themselves, find ways to meet other mamas for some adult conversation or take a field trip to a place as simple as Home Depot (my son LOVES things with wheels so he would love the ride-on tractor selection). You guys put so much time and thought into helping me - thank you so much!

I wanted to add that when my husband goes out of town and I need a little break, I take in a movie at the Academy Theater. The kids love the childcare room and attendant, so they enjoy it as well, and I get 2 hours of quiet/movie/pizza/beer time to myself.

Hi all,

We recenly moved to Concordia and are hoping to find (or put together) a playgroup for 2-3 year olds. Any ideas?

Cheers!

When my first child was almost 2 I found myself starting to go stir-crazy too. A friend recommended Rose City Indoor park in her neighborhood (62 & NE Stanton- in the Faith Lutheran Church basement- BTW, the park is not affiliated with the church). I had somewhere for my daughter to play and adults to talk to 3 mornings a week (and indoors, which will soon be important!) My 2nd child is now 2 and we're still going --Shayne- it's not that far from Concordia!
The Indoor Park opens when the school year starts (i think the Park opens on Sept 11 this yr) and runs Tu, Th, Fr- from 9:30 -11:30am. I've met some good friends in the process.

Jennifer and others --

We receive tons of emails every day with new events, special events, and recurring classes. It's a great way to meet other mamas at other events around town. Please check the urbanMamas calendar often. It's always being updated!

http://urbanmamas.typepad.com//urbanmamas/2007/03/urbanmamas_cale.html

Thanks Christine, I will check that out for sure! Also, a quick thanks to the lovely mamas who put together the UM calendar. So super helpful!!

When we had our first we were living near Boston, in November, with no family in town/nearby, knew very few friends with kids, and my husband was going to school at night 2-3 nights/week after working a full time job 30 miles from home during the day...there were lots of days when I certainly felt like a single mom! In hindsight, I definitely think I had some level of post partum depression but wasnt willing to recognize. The things that helped me were mostly connected to getting out of the house, with or without the baby. We had one friend with a toddler who called and forced me weekly to come to her toddler playgroup...I felt foolish going with my 6 week old to a toddler playgroup, but looking back it was one of the better things I did. All of those moms had already been in my shoes and had a lot of helpful advice for me about the sleeping/eating/pooping issues I was dealing with, which was great. And they had a sense of perspective that takes a long time to develop on your own--I didnt realize that the challenges we face with infants are rather shortlived, and that a lot of babes outgrow things naturally.

So yes, when your baby is young, just get out of the house--it doesnt matter really where you go or who you interact with. And I agree with another poster who said things are about to get easier now that your child is getting a little older--they really do start to enjoy other kids in the 2nd year. It hasnt been mentioned here yet, but my new favorite hangout is IKEA! We went earlier this week one morning and it was truly a win-win situation for us--Anders got to play with lots of other kids in the kids area for an hour while I walked around the entire store, and when I picked him up we had lunch together in the cafeteria (cheap too!). He fell asleep on the way home and I got another 2 hours to myself in the afternoon while he napped to get things done around the house. I've shopped at various IKEA stores for years now, but only recently realized how kid-friendly they are.

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