British Columbia·Still Lonely

Tales from the crib: Stories of loneliness from the front lines of parenting

Raising children, according to several Lower Mainland parents, can be a lonely experience. They say seeking connections and support is critical at every stage of parenthood.

'I was that guy that identified only as a parent … and I was extremely lonely,' says one single father

Single father Leland Dieno says he will always put his seven-year-old son first, but it is important to focus on himself too and make sure he does not become socially isolated. (Submitted/Leland Dieno)

Single father Leland Dieno immediately embraced his role as a dad when his son was born. So much so, he says, that he let his old social circle slip away.

"I was that guy that identified only as a parent in those couple of years and I was extremely lonely," said Dieno, pointing out a pattern many new parents say they slip into. 

Parents, especially new parents, rarely get a moment alone, but that doesn't mean they aren't at risk of loneliness. As part of CBC Vancouver's Still Lonely series, Lower Mainland parents with children of all ages shared their experiences of feeling socially isolated during parenthood and how they coped.

Dieno, whose son is now seven, said he socially isolated himself when his child was first born, choosing to focus all his time and energy on the new human at the centre of his life. Eventually, he realized he couldn't be the only lonely single father in need of community and when his son was a toddler, Dieno launched the No Deadbeats Society, a Vancouver support group for dads like himself.

"They identify solely as a parent and what that does is it creates this focus on only parenting and they lose sight of obtaining their own goals, and enjoying their own life, and that includes making friends," Dieno said on CBC's The Early Edition.

And it's not just parents of young children who can feel lonely.

The college years

North Vancouver resident Wiley Ho has a son who is now in college. She says being an empty nester can feel lonely, but the teen years were also no picnic.

Ho said it was hard when her son started to pull away from her right before he turned 13.

"Then high school started and there was a slow drift and by 14 I really noticed that he was keeping secrets, he wasn't sharing stuff, and it was lonely," said Ho.

Ho's friend, Michelle Perrault, who has two grown children, remembers losing adult friends when her children entered high school and drifted away from their elementary school crowd.

"How do you keep your adult connections when what brought you together is no longer together?" said Perrault.

Now, neither woman has to worry about curfews or report cards or teenage hormones. But Ho says empty nesting can be bittersweet.

"I would wager to guess that most people find it a mixture of nostalgia for a pattern of life that is changed forever, and a sense of personal liberation."

It takes a village

Ho and Perrault, and their pal Martha Warren, are all empty nesters who have created a community where they can lean on each other. 

"It's just being surrounded by people that really do understand," said Warren, who came to the city as a single parent 20 years ago, "I think the more support you have the better."

And for Dieno, who still has a decade or so to go before his nest is empty, the support group he created means he will have a community to help carry him through the years to come.

He also has a newfound appreciation for parents he knew when he was a teen.

"The biggest thing I learned through the past few years is how much more respect I have for all my friends' moms who were single when I was growing up."

This story is part of CBC Vancouver's series Still Lonely? airing on CBC Radio One's The Early Edition from Nov. 25-29, with features on CBC Vancouver News at 6 and cbc.ca/bc

With files from Jennifer Wilson and The Early Edition

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.