In my reading on early child development, I come across the same message over and over again: children need to connect. In fact, it is a basic human need to want to connect with other people.
This is a good message for parents but I wish I had taken it to heart before I was a parent. I wouldn't have felt so bad about being lonely.
Before I had a family I had a blossoming career but I was lonely. And I somehow thought that loneliness was a weakness.
I went home every night to an empty studio apartment and ate the same boring dinner. I hated Sundays because they always made me somehow feel more single than other days of the week.
Nowadays a quiet Sunday seems like a luxury. But I'm not so far removed from those Sundays that I can't remember that not only was I lonely, I felt embarrassed about being lonely.
I don't want my children to feel like that. I'm sure they will go through loneliness but I don't want them to compound the loneliness by feeling bad about it. I want them to recognize that Babs really did have it right: People who need people...
The child psychologists stress to parents how much our children need us, crave our love and attention, and succeed in life because of the safety in their relationships. This doens't end when childhood ends.
I recently read Brain Rules For Baby and the author talks about famous research called the Grant Study. Researchers studied male Harvard undergraduates, all with seemingly bright futures - among them longtime Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee and President John F. Kennedy. The men were interviewed throughout their lives and guess what the biggest predictor of happiness was? Relationships! The author writes:
"After nearly 75 years, the only consistent finding comes right out of It’s a Wonderful Life. Successful friendships, the messy bridges that connect friends and family, are what predict people’s happiness as they hurtle through life. Friendships are a better predictor than any other single variable. By the time a person reaches middle age, they are the only predictor. Says Jonathan Haidt, a researcher who has extensively studied the link between socialization and happiness: 'Human beings are in some ways like bees. We have evolved to live in intensely social groups, and we don’t do as well when freed from hives.' The more intimate the relationship, the better. A colleague of Vaillant’s showed that people don’t gain access to the top 10 percent of the happiness pile unless they are involved in a romantic relationship of some kind."
Sobering, isn't it? It makes me appreciate my relationships and want to invest more in them on a daily basis. It also helps me forgive myself for feeling a bit empty without them.
I don't want to sound like one of those obnoxious women who swear that their lives were meaningless before their marriage and family. That isn't true. I was happy and I found healthy and satisfying ways to use my time. But if I'm honest, there was also an element of emptiness too.
I wish I could go back and tell my 20something self not to feel bad about that. I would say, "Natali, it is okay to be lonely. You're supposed to feel lonely. A beautiful family will come in its own time and there will be a lot of chaos so just enjoy the silence in the meantime. Oh and go out to eat more often. You will not be able to enjoy restaurants the same way once you have kids so go out to eat at nice places - even if you have to go alone."