All I do in my mid-40s is work and parent – I’m lonely

22 Jan 2024

"I’m in my mid-forties and all I seem to do is work and parent. I’ve always been shy and my close friends have gradually moved away for work, or to be closer to extended family, so I rarely socialise.

I’m always busy and love spending time with my family, but I’m ashamed to admit that I’m feeling increasingly lonely."

Aaron, 45

‘This is an opportunity for you to heal loneliness by connecting to yourself and others,’ advises Kenny (Photo: Moor Studio/Getty Images)

Being busy can often camouflage deeper rooted feelings and I really admire you for identifying this lack in your life, even while your days are packed. I’d like you to know you’re not alone in this: it’s really common for men of your age to find themselves without many, if any, genuine friends.

First, I’d recommend you spend time identifying your needs. Do you need to carve out space for yourself, when you can simply be rather than do? Do you need time when you’re not in service to others, or to pursue a sport or interest? However fulfilling working and parenting can be, it’s essential to have some time for yourself.


I wonder also whether you need to rediscover a connection with your partner, if you have one, that goes beyond household bills, chores and practicalities, and isn’t child-related, but focuses on you two? Does your partner still get to experience the man with whom they fell in love?

Or maybe you miss quality male company? I started holding men’s groups over two decades ago for this reason: when I returned  from living abroad, I recognised I was lonely. I was spending time with my closest friends, but it was superficial chat in pubs rather than the deeper conversation and understanding I was looking for. It’s normal, though sometimes painful, to outgrow friends. Or perhaps, for you, it’s the opposite and life has felt heavy with responsibility: you might need to go out and have a blast?

It can be helpful to list moments and phases in your life when you felt connected: from enjoying being part of a team or to being celebrated for something of which you’re proud.


I wonder whether the people with whom you spend most time are work colleagues or the parents of your children’s friends, so you’ve adopted a social life of convenience that fits around commitments, rather than chosen one that reflects your values and passions. Perhaps what you really need is friends who ask how you are and care enough to listen to your answer? While we all need varying amounts of attention, our need for connection is universal.

Once you’ve identified what’s lacking in your life – and several of the things I’ve mentioned might strike a chord –  you’ll be in a much better position to tackle loneliness.

While many men make friends through school, university or clubs in their teens and twenties, when those people move away, as is so often the case over the years, lots become isolated. Also – and please forgive the generalisation which may not apply to you – many of us aren’t good at keeping in touch with people who aren’t right in front of them. While your close friends may no longer be local, friendships can withstand distance. You may not be in touch often, but that doesn’t need to affect the quality of time together when you see or speak to each other.

If you’re lacking meaningful connections and deep friendships, start doing what you love and notice who else is there: this is a great way of meeting people. You might get involved in a sport, grow a skill or start volunteering (perhaps your work has a volunteering programme? They’re often now encouraged by the corporate world). You may be drawn to nature and meet others at the edge of your comfort zone, venturing up mountains. There are so many choices online, from Meetups to outward bound courses and men’s retreats.


I understand it can be hard to join a group like this; sometimes it’s even more embarrassing than dating, with fears of judgment, rejection and painful school memories. But remember it’s much easier after that first step.

You mention you’ve always been shy. I wonder whether this stems from a childhood fear of humiliation; being scared that someone might laugh at you or reject you. It’s very common for isolated men to come from families where their fathers didn’t have many friends, so why not demonstrate to your children how to have fulfilling, trusting relationships and live beyond the often-unkind  playground rules?

You can take care of the shy boy inside yourself and meet the world as a man: sometimes loneliness stems from past feelings, rather than those in the present. If you treat yourself with respect, you can expect the world to follow. This is an opportunity for you to heal loneliness by connecting to yourself and others, to follow your heart and see what life might bring. If you take the first step, you can trust that life will guide you.

Good luck,