Today I watched a programme on BBC1 called Operation Meet The Street. James Martin was the host. It’s part of a series looking at isolation and loneliness, and in this episode, James took Helen Skelton back to the village she used to live in.
The programme was very interesting; James Martin explored depression and isolation in the community. He didn’t go into things in depth, but scratched the surface, which revealed that farmers, the elderly and new mums all feel lonely.
James Martin seemed particularly touched at the thought of the elderly being lonely. He mentioned his nan, having visitors and then quiet afterwards. He looked close to tears as he wondered if he could’ve done anything to prevent loneliness for his grandmother after the death of his grandfather.
The programme also focussed on the new mums in the village, and Helen Skelton commented that she’d be quite happy to have kids in the village she’d grown up in, but not where she lived now, due to not having a community nearby. They spoke to some new mums with babies, and some spoke of the overwhelming feeling of isolation that comes with the new baby. One mum said she had almost held a charity collector to ransom in her house for an hour when they’d called – such was the loneliness she felt – she just needed someone (anyone) to talk to. Seems extreme, but I know exactly how that feels.
A funny thing happens when you have a new baby. People send cards, flowers, and presents, but then disappear. If you ask where they’ve gone, they tell you that you must be busy with the new baby; they don’t want to bother you.
In reality, new babies take hardly any time. They sleep for much of the day. You can sit and watch whole box sets while feeding them. Life doesn’t change much until they get mobile; then you’re busy! It would be nice to have people to chat to while you’re doing very little looking after this new life.
Today I went to Sainsbury’s for a coffee (and a HUGE wedge of Christmas cake) while I fed Noah. Four different sets of people stopped to say hello, to chat, to tell me their experiences with babies. So lovely. It certainly brightened my day. If I’d not gone there I’d have spoken to only Rob, James, and the man who delivered Noah’s passport this morning.
What can be done? I regularly see posts on forums I visit asking for local mums to meet for a coffee. Blind dates for mums with babies and toddlers. Maternity leave isn’t how people imagine. It isn’t just sitting around, drinking coffee, having ‘a year off work’. It is hard work, especially as your child gets older, and sometimes there are days when you just get through the day until your partner gets home, or until bedtime, which ever comes first.
On the programme they set up a community event for all different groups of people. Everyone needs company. So maybe we could all say hello to someone when we go out tomorrow. If you go to the park, say hello to another person there. Speak to the people on the next table in the coffee shop. Use the table next to others in a cafe, rather than that polite British thing of leaving a gap!