Thursday, June 20, 2019

Suffering from Social Isolation

The problem is not very difficult to understand. And it is effectively not very difficult to solve. The letter writer, who dubs herself Isolation Mode, writes to Ask Polly. The highly challenged advice columnist manages to bury the problem in a mountain of psychobabble. At least she does not disappoint our expectations.

Isolation Mode is losing her friends. She is alone in life. She works from home. She does not socialize on the job. She has lived in the same community for a long time and has managed to develop a coterie of good friends. But, now they all seem to be drifting away from her, not inviting her out, not keeping in touch.

The reason seems quite simple. Most of these women-- I am assuming that they are women-- are new mothers. And new mothers seem to prefer socializing with other new mothers. They go to the playground with their babies and spend time with other young mothers. They share notes and confidences; they help their children to play with the other children. Nothing new about this. Nothing strange about this.

Isolation Mode understands it well:

Many of these friends are new parents, and I sense they only want to socialize with other parents. I have a friend who frequently talks about being a mom as a blanket positive quality like, “And she’s great because she’s a mom.” That’s not wonderful to hear as someone without kids, because I don’t believe that’s a strike against me, but these friends maybe think it is. You’ve written about friendships shifting through parenthood, and I understand parenting is hard and requires a sense of community. I’m at that age where most of my friends have kids, and I don’t have them, so I don’t get invited to things like weekly playdates or mom nights now being organized among my friends. They justify their behavior as being about their families, but it hurts to be excluded consistently.

So, she has effectively written herself out of the conversation. Other women share experiences and compare notes. She has no similar experience to share and no notes to compare.

It may be a mere curiosity, but these new mothers do not seem to have husbands. We note that the language of the letter is gender neutral and this produces its own kind of confusion. We note that IM does not seem to have a significant other, a boyfriend or fiance or husband. And thus, she will be invited out less often when her friends get together as couples.

Obviously, a pep talk is not going to solve the problem. We do not know what she does for a living and we do not know whether or not she has the option of working in an office. If she could, it would allow her a social activity in which she could participate fully.

We do not know anything about her dating situation, so we will refrain from commenting. We might ask whether she feels bad for losing her friends or whether she feels bad because she is not coupled and is not yet a mother. We do not even know if she is straight. We know that the other women do not include her in their Mom activities, but we do not know how she feels about becoming a mother herself.

Otherwise, the other option will be to reconstruct her social life. Most of her friends are new mothers. Are they all mothers? If she has renounced coupledom and parenthood she would do well to make friends with people who are doing the same. Having experiences in common creates bonds of friendship. Feeling sorry for yourself does not.

No comments: