At Stylist Live 2017, a panel of experts discussed one of the last parenting taboos – and how they defeated isolation.
In 2017, we’ve arguably never had more information at our fingertips about what to expect if we’re expecting – and yet there are certain aspects of motherhood that are still rarely talked about. One of these is the crushing loneliness that can set in when you go on maternity leave, particularly if you are the first of your friends to have a child.
Rebecca Maberly is the co-founder of A Mother Place, a website that provides new mothers with online antenatal classes and comprehensive, warm and witty answers to health-related questions. She has two sons, aged six and four, and says she thinks we should talk more about how isolating the first few months of motherhood can be.
“For me, the physical recovery from giving birth was fine; I was back into my jeans quite quickly, which felt very important at the time,” she says. “But mentally I was just in complete shock about the change in my life and the change in my priorities. Being alone with the baby for 24 hours a day was very intense, and very difficult at times.”
Samantha Silver agrees. The beauty editor is co-founder of parenting, fashion and beauty site This Is Mothership, has a two-year-old son and is pregnant with her second child, and says she wasn’t prepared for how lonely she would feel immediately after becoming a mother.
“I was one of the first of my friends to have a baby, so I didn’t really have anyone to be checking in with about what was normal,” she says. “I found the first three months [after my son was born] really, really difficult.”
Silver attended some NCT classes, which are partly designed to help new mothers make friends. But says she found it difficult to connect with any of the women in her class.
“The only thing I had in common with the women [at NCT] was the birth date of our babies,” she says. “When it came to six weeks after having the babies, we weren’t really on the same wavelength and we didn’t have that much to talk about.”
Fortunately, technology is making it easier than ever for new mothers to meet like-minded women. Silver co-founded This Is Mothership with Gemma Rose Berger, a fashion stylist she first met on Instagram. Some time after they first began following one another, Berger – who has a two-year-old daughter – messaged Silver to ask if she’d be interested in setting up a style website for pregnant women and new mothers. The pair decided to launch This Is Mothership within hours of meeting in person for the first time.
“I didn’t do NCT at all,” she says. “It’s brilliant for some people, but I just knew it wasn’t for me. And so I ended up finding like-minded people on Instagram and on apps.”
One of the apps that Berger used was Peanut, a friendship app that introduces mothers to other women with children. The app’s founder, Michelle Kennedy, says she was motivated to launch it after the birth of her son.
“Peanut came from a real personal need,” says Kennedy. “None of my girlfriends were mums so I didn’t have any ‘mum friends’. I’d gone from working a million miles an hour and being around people all the time to being at home alone all day with this little person. I felt very isolated.”
Kennedy had previously worked in the online dating industry, and saw no reason why she couldn’t apply the same skills to connecting mothers who wanted to make new friends.
“I felt awkward about saying the word ‘lonely’ because I felt like: I shouldn’t be lonely, I’m 30 years old,” she says. “But I really wanted to meet some new women to hang out with – and on a product level, I felt like I’d been using apps that were beautiful and functional and really worked in every other area of my life. I didn’t see why I couldn’t create something similar for women who were mothers.”
Ultimately, Maberly, Silver, Berger and Kennedy say they are optimistic about the future. All four believe that technology will play a crucial role in reducing maternal loneliness.
“It’s 2017, and I just think we need to think about and approach friendship and motherhood in a different way,” says Berger.
Main image: iStock