MP Ellie Reeves has spoken of the loneliness she suffered after becoming a mum.
The Labour MP for Lewisham West and Penge told fellow MPs in a Westminster Hall debate: “I now know that I was not alone in feeling lonely after having my son almost three years ago.
“Recent research from Action for Children found that 52 per cent of parents admitted to suffering from loneliness, with a fifth saying that they had felt lonely ‘in the past week’.
“Its survey of 2,000 people found that the majority felt cut off from friends, colleagues and families after the birth of their child.
“For me, the shift from being a busy lawyer, working to strict deadlines with a daily task list to work through and a really good social life, to being at home every day, suddenly with a lot of time to fill and little structure, was quite a shock.
“Were it not for coffees and play dates with friends I had met through my National Childbirth Trust antenatal class, I would have found things very difficult.
“My struggle with loneliness really started after my maternity leave finished and I set up my own business and started working from home.
“I could sometimes go for days without having a proper conversation with another adult, and the only time I would leave the house was to collect my son from the childminder.
“It became a vicious circle, where the more isolated I became, the harder I found it to go out.
“Thankfully, with support I was able to get back on track, but it is that experience that has driven me to want to tackle loneliness in my constituency.
“I hope that this debate encourages other people to reach out to their communities to help to combat isolation and loneliness, and that it helps people to know that it is okay to say they feel lonely and to ask for help and support.”
Ellie Reeves was speaking in support of a motion put forward by her older sister MP Rachel Reeves, also a former pupil of Cator Park school for girls in Sydenham (now Harris Girls’ Academy Bromley) where she was the UK Under-14 girls chess champion.
Ellie Reeves said she was proud to be hosting a Jo Cox loneliness summit in her constituency the following day, specifically on parental loneliness.
“I will bring together national organisations such as Action for Children and the Young Women’s Trust, and local organisations such as Bromley Maternity Voices, Mummy’s Gin Fund and the local women’s institute, as well as a lot of local parents.”
Rachel Reeves, who is MP for Leeds West, said: “As well as celebrating what is happening in our own communities, we are also here to support the work of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, of which I am co-chair with my colleague and friend, Seema Kennedy.
“As Jo Cox said, loneliness is an urgent issue.
“As I see it, loneliness is a warning sign that our needs are not being met.
“Hunger is a sign that we need food, thirst is a sign that we need water and pain signals that our body is sick and needs healing and repair.
“Experiencing loneliness tells us that there is a gap between our need to connect and the reality of the connectedness that we have at that moment.”
Resolved: That this House has considered the effect of loneliness on local communities. (Source: TheyWorkForYou https://www.theyworkforyou.com/whall/?id=2017-11-15a.194.2&s=speaker%3A25681#g210.1 Loneliness and Local Communities (15 Nov 2017)