It’s surprising to think that expanding your family could make you feel more isolated...
I was delighted to leave my unfulfilling job at a 100-mile-per-hour newspaper to become a mother, yet sitting quietly at home, nursing my newborn while my husband worked long shifts, I felt truly alone for the first time.
Settling her after a night feed, I’d look out of the window at the street of silent houses and feel like it was just the two of us in the whole of the world.
Last year a study revealed that 92 percent of new mums admitted to experiencing intense bouts of loneliness – and one in seven postnatal depression – according to the postnatal charity, PANDAs.
In fact, the issue has been pushed to the forefront of political and social consciousness with the appointment of the UK government’s first Minister of Loneliness, Tracey Crouch, in January. In December 2017, Action for Children described the problem as “an epidemic within our communities” while Jeremy Vine’s popular Radio 2 show launched “Loneliness week” in July 2017 with programming dedicated to exploring the issue (including the theme of parenting).
Mothers thrive on connections – look at the rise of Mumsnet and Netmums where every tantrum and toilet disaster can be shared – and there is a flurry of new apps helping mothers build communities.
Leading the field is Mush. Founded by Katie Massie-Taylor, 34, a former Citi derivatives broker and Sarah Hesz, a marketing consultant, after they met at a London playground with their children. The Tinder-like social network has 300,000 users in the UK and has just bagged a £2million cash injection to boost growth and invest in app development.
We asked Katie for her tips on beating loneliness as a mum and why there is always room for new friends.
Words: Claire Brayford
1. Remember this is life changing
Don’t underestimate how transformative becoming a mum is when it comes to all things you. There is a reason ‘mum friends’ is a category of friends; these are people who know what you are going through and you can share experiences with. These are also people who are around in the day near you, and follow a similar timetable to you (your best mates at work/ travelling the world/ living 100 miles away aren’t much help when you are at home with a baby).
2. Get out
Getting out of the house when you have a little one is way harder than it sounds. The amount of kit alone is worthy of a Polar mission. Then there are nap times and feeds to contend with, plus the inevitable nappy rumble just as you’re piling out of the door. But it’s so, so worth it. Fresh air, be it warm and breezy or freezing and rainy, feels great and if you venture to a baby group, playground or baby weighing session, you could just run into your new BFF. The chances are, she won’t have spoken to an adult all day either and will be delighted to meet you.
3. Chat them up
So many new skills and experiences come with having a baby – sex for conception purposes (weird), the multiple joys of pregnancy, birth, finding somewhere to live near to a good school rather than a good pub… the list goes on. One that doesn’t even occur to most of us is the fact that we’ll be making lots of new friends and oh crikey, we’re going to have to chat them up. It’s like the first day of school all over again, but be bold – a compliment on a baby carrier or sympathetic comment to a mum with a screaming little one could lead to a life-long friendship.
4. Get tech savvy
In the age of Tinder, Deliveroo and Amazon Prime, there are, of course, some fabulous tech solutions to the age-old challenges of motherhood. There’s also Hoop, which tells you about all the child-friendly businesses and events in your area, and Bubble, the babysitter-finding service, so you can actually go out after teatime with all the new mum mates you meet on Mush.
5. Introduce others
To really get your new support network working and social life flying, introduce the women who you think would get on. Maybe they’re neighbours, work in the same field, have children the same age or share an unfathomable passion for Ed Sheeran. These women will become your comrades in arms, partners in crime, emergency babysitters and maybe even new business co-founders over the coming years – it takes a village to raise a child and these days, we’ve got to build our own villages.
6. Arrange meet-ups
Mush isn’t just about one-to-one meetups, users host regular ‘Mush-ups’ too. We get that mum blind dates aren’t for everyone and Mush-ups are perfect for those of us who feel a little shy. They take place in soft plays, cafes, pubs, parks, anywhere that our app users like to hang out with their babies! It’s quite something to see a group of women bonding over breast pads, sleep deprivation and cute babies – nobody gets it like fellow mums.
Log onto www.letsmush.com and download the free app from app stores | Opening Image: Arthur Elgort