Tackling The Issues of Mum Guilt, Loneliness & Boredom with Peanut Founder Michelle
Becoming a new mum is celebrated as one of the best times in a woman's life, but not many women express the negative emotions that come with entering motherhood. Feelings of loneliness, guilt, boredom and being down can be overwhelming, especially when it seems there is no-one to talk to about it. That's why Michelle Kennedy set up the Peanut app, to give expectant and new mums a place to connect and find new friends. She spoke to us about why the app will give mums a place to find new support, and her top tips on how to tackle feeling overwhelmed by being a new mama.
What was that defining moment where you realised you needed to find a way to connect mums?
The first was the emotional aspect of becoming a mother. My girlfriends weren't at the stage in their lives where they were having children yet, and even if some of my wider friendship group were, we all lived in different parts of the city (and leaving the house to go anywhere further than 10 minutes from home with a newborn felt like a military operation). I felt quite isolated. I don’t know why I hadn’t really expected that as part of motherhood, but I hadn’t. I suppose people don’t really tell you that bit. You’ll be tired, sure, you’ll need this or that [piece of equipment], definitely. But that you can feel lonely, or (gasp), bored, that shocked me, and I found it really difficult to adjust to.
The second was my frustration with the existing products on the market aimed at mothers. I didn't recognize the tone of voice the products used, or the UX/UI being used. They felt outdated, old fashioned, and in some cases patronizing. To me, I didn't feel like I'd suddenly aged just because I'd become a mother, and yet, the products seemed to have that expectation. I found that confusing.
Why do you think there is such a stigma around mothers speaking out about feeling lonely or bored?
You know, I think we’ve spent so long being told that being a mother is the most amazing, fulfilling, important job in the world, that we’re scared to say anything which may contradict that, for fear of being labelled a bad mama. Being a mother is ALL of those things, but it’s also hard work, sometimes you fail, sometimes you have anxiety, and sometimes you forget yourself, or what it means to be you. I believe so strongly that we have to keep having these conversations, we have to keep listening to women, and championing the ones brave enough to speak out about it. Because if we keep talking about it, we challenge what is the ‘norm’, and the new norm becomes centred around supporting and helping mothers.
How has the Peanut App helped mums to connect to one another and find friends?
Oh we get hundreds of wonderful messages from women who talk about the other women they’ve discovered using Peanut. Whether that’s to meet another mama to have coffee, starting a business together (!), starting a fitness club, the stories are endless. And they’re so rewarding. Peanut is about connecting women to facilitate the conversations they need to have. It’s a privilege to be a part of that.
Do you think being able to talk about the very real feelings that come with being a mum is important to a woman’s wellbeing?
Absolutely. Keeping things bottled up or pushed down can exhibit in all sorts of ways, some physical, some mental, and we just don’t need to do that anymore. I feel that we’re being told all the time that as women we can do whatever we want, and yet, sometimes what we want is to scream and say “I’m struggling” or “HELP’, and yet, we swallow it for fear of judgement or repercussion. I know my own initial experience of motherhood would have been so very very different with a product like Peanut.
Having a business such as Peanut, can be tiresome as a mum, how do you manage to juggle it all?
I fail!! I get things wrong! Sometimes I am supermom, sometimes I am super business woman, and sometimes on a very occasional day, when the stars are aligned, I am BOTH at the same time, but mostly, I am dropping some balls. The biggest most important way to deal with this, is to accept it! It’s ok not to be perfect - who is perfect anyway? I think we have to stop telling women you can have it ‘all’, what is ‘all’? If all is fulfilment, and contentment, with a healthy dose of dropping something sometimes, then yes, we can have that ‘all’, but we all juggle, and even the most skilled juggler drops the ball. That’s ok, as long as we pick the balls up, and start again!
What advice would you give to others mums thinking about setting up a business whilst looking after a little one(s)?
Look, it’s not for the fainthearted. You have to learn a bit of self-love, and develop a thick skin, because it’s tough out there. BUT, if you believe in what you’re doing, and you’ve got some stamina, don’t let anything stop you. Surround yourself with good people, let people help you, ask people to help you, take a deep breath, and do it. What’s the worst? At least you will have tried.
What do you find as the biggest challenge in motherhood?
I am learning more and more that I have to let Fin make mistakes so that he can learn his own path (and he’s only 3). I find that hard, I want to protect him forever, and wrap him up. That’s not fair on him. So I sometimes have to sit on my hands, or stop myself from saying something so that he learns his own way.
What does motherhood mean to you?
Motherhood is an honour. I feel absolutely honoured to have had the privilege to become a mother, to look at this wonderful person, and see the world through these fresh innocent, funny eyes. We watched some chicks today who were just born. He was completely captivated, I was captivated by him looking at them (I realised we were both captivated by the same thing - fresh eyes!)
What one thing do you wish people would stop saying to you / telling you as a mum?
You look tired! I am pretty sure, I am just like this now!
What top tips would you give to a new mama who is feeling a little overwhelmed?
- Surround yourself with wonderful people. Friends, colleagues, Peanut mamas. Anyone who can give you support, or who, at 10pm on a random Wednesday evening, will ask you whether it’s ok to have eaten an entire packet of Jaffa Cakes (it’s always ok btw)
- I love a list - otherwise, I have too many things swimming around in my head
- Someone recently taught me the acronym SERM (Sleep, Eat, Relax, Move). You won't always sleep well, eat healthily, relax or do exercise, but if you achieve ⅗, you’re doing good.
- Try to do one thing for yourself a week (so much easier said than done). But even if it’s 30mins of trash TV (Real Housewives of Atlanta anyone!?), it’s good for the soul.
What 5 things do you wish you knew before becoming a mum?
- Babies lose weight when they’re born! I didn’t know, and it terrified me!
- Mental and emotional health is just as important as physical health.
- The triple threat: poop, pee and projectile is a real thing, and it’s horrific.
- Things not going to plan (natural birth/c section, bottle feed/breast, babyled v purees), it’s ALL OK. Find your own way. You’re doing great, don’t tell yourself you’ve failed.
- Children have truth serum, and sometimes, it’s disarming (and not in a good way).
Top 5 ways Peanut can change a mums life
- Give you your support network
- Give you your confidence
- Establish your connection with ‘You’ or pre-baby ‘you’
- Make you laugh
- Give you great Netflix recommendations if all else fails (thank you Peanut mamas!)
You can download the Peanut app & connect with new women! Let us know in the comments if you've tried the app, would try the app or even your experiences with feeling down as a new mum!