At the end of the course I have titled How to Write about Your Life I offer to edit people’s writing for six months. I charge $600 to edit anything they write during that period.

One of the people who signed up was Erin Wetzel.

Sometimes she’d write something I liked, and I’d use it as a guest post.

Mostly, though, her writing was saccharine. I told her she should just take pictures. She’s a great photographer. “We can’t all be good at everything,” I told her. “You’re lucky to have found your one thing.”

Like most things I do one-on-one, I got overly invested in Erin’s success, so when she kept sending me writing after six months, I kept editing. It was a bad business decision. I should be more disciplined.

Sometime after her second baby, she stopped sending me anything longer than a sentence. And she was sending me photos, and I love her photos. So I just started editing her sentences.

I told myself I need to stop doing the editing. I told myself if I do this all year it would equal one cello lesson. It’s like I am going to someone else’s cello lesson for free. Why do I make more work for myself?

Then she sent me the picture up top, with the caption: I’m lonely.

I felt my stomach get tight. I realized all these pictures and one-liners capture the insanity of having a baby. The months when you are out of your mind with how hard it is but also you love the baby more than you ever thought you could love anything. The months where you lose your old self who had a plan and a dream and a schedule and sleep.

It’s a time of perfect baby pictures and incredible loneliness.

Then, the kids grow up and the perfect pictures change, but often the loneliness doesn’t. It’s very weird to be surrounded by kids all day and love them so much and still be lonely.

The loneliness doesn’t surprise me. Loneliness is part of life. I can remember feeling loneliness even as a tiny girl. I think we all feel it sometimes. But what shocks me is the juxtaposition of the incredible love and closeness of children with the loneliness of life. I guess I thought maybe kids would solve that.

They don’t. It’s just life to be lonely sometimes.

Each of us has this moment for the first time—we are overwhelmed by kids loving us and needing us, but we feel lonely.  If you stay home with a newborn it happens in those first few months. If you stay home with a five year old it happens then. If you work until your kids are ten and then stay home with them to homeschool them, it might happen when you homeschool.

But I don’t think loneliness and homeschooling are related. I think loneliness is constant, and it’s startling only in the context of being surrounded by the kids you love more than you’ve loved anything. And who love you back.