It’s often said it takes a village to raise a child but, for many people, becoming a parent can be an isolating experience.
Once the excitement of a baby’s arrival has subsided and family and friends are busy with their own lives, new parents can often feel unsupported and alone. Research from Action for Children found 52 per cent of parents felt lonely.
Young mothers are at particular risk of feeling isolated. A study by the Co-op and the Red Cross found 82 per cent of mums under the age of 30 sometimes felt lonely, with 43 per cent admitting they felt that way either often or all the time.
Luckily, there are now a growing number of apps aimed at parents, which offer much-needed emotional support to help mums and dads tackle the daily challenges that come with raising children.
Mush is a networking app, which describes itself as a cross between Tinder and the National Childbirth Trust. Users can find like-minded mums in their area using Mush Matcher or head to their nearest group meetings, known as Mush-ups.
Traditionally, mums would strike up a conversation over a cuppa at a local baby group. And while that does still happen, there is no guarantee that you will become firm friends with someone just because you happened to give birth at a similar time.
Apps like Mush allow users to chat to other parents, build a rapport and find out about their interests before meeting up face-to-face.
43-year-old Helen Leathem turned to Mush to make friends with other mums in her area after the birth of her daughter, now three.
She says: “I don't have any family living nearby, so I felt very isolated when my daughter was born. I spent a lot of time walking round my local park alone.”
Helen didn’t find instant success with the app as she felt too shy to approach individuals but one day Hannah struck up a conversation with her and the pair have become close friends.
She says: “Our daughters are the same age and we've supported each other through tough times from eating and sleeping problems to IVF and anxiety. We went on a child-free weekend away together in Gran Canaria earlier this year.
“I have other mum friends but I count Hannah as one of my best.”
Mush was created in 2016 by two mums, Sarah Hesz and Katie Massie-Taylor, who understood the loneliness parents feel only too well.
Katie says: “We met in a rainy playground just after our second children were born and we had no way to find local mums – those days were incredibly long and lonely! We hit it off, kept each other sane and, a few months later, reflected on why in this day and age there wasn't an easy way to make mum friends.
“We were the very first in this space but the app has since turned into a thriving community. We have hundreds of thousands of mums (and a few thousand dads) using the app around the UK and Australia and we have been described as a lifesaver by many.”
Jessica Barron, 32, had only just moved to Teddington, Greater London, when she had her daughter, now two. Without a network of local friends and grieving the loss of her mother who had died just over a year earlier, Jessica turned to Mush.
She says: “I used Mush to host weekly meet ups and made so many amazing friends. I tried two other similar apps but found no one actually wanted to meet up in real life. Mush encouraged Mush-ups so I actually got the vital in-person contact I needed.”
Apps can play a vital role in helping parents discover more about their own communities. Hoop is a what’s-on guide for parents with more than 100,000 family-friendly activities listed each month. Launched in 2016 by four dads, the free app now has one million users.
Co-founder Max Jennings says: “We launched Hoop to try and make it that little bit easier to get families out of the house by finding everything happening for kids across the UK and pulling it into one place. The reality is that when you have a baby, your whole life is turned upside down and you need to rediscover your community through new eyes and with new priorities.
“Parents tell us we’ve saved them from loneliness, feeling isolated and sometimes just boredom, particularly in the beginning stages of becoming a parent.”
Sarah Rowland, 34, from Bexley, started using Hoop when she was on maternity leave after having her son, now three.
She says: “I was just so sick of being in the house. Going to the park wasn’t really doing it for me and I was a bit lonely.
“I came across Hoop by accident and downloaded the app. It is perfect for finding places and events you didn’t even know existed. Through one of the groups I discovered through Hoop, I made friends with a local mum with a child the same age as mine and we are still friends now.”
Mindfulness apps like Quility and Headspace also have an important part to play, helping parents deal with the emotional rollercoaster of caring for small children.
Quility was the first mindfulness app to be specifically aimed at parents with radio DJ Edith Bowman getting involved in its launch and singing its praises. She told the Evening Standard that Quility “helps me filter out what’s worth worrying about.”
Parenting coach and mum-of-one Anisa Lewis, 41, from Ilkley, West Yorkshire, uses the app Headspace on a daily basis to help her cope with juggling work and motherhood.
She says: “Headspace is the last thing I do before sleep to help calm me, take stock of my day and lay aside the hustle and bustle of my thoughts. If I am feeling overwhelmed in the day, I will take a couple of minutes to do a shorter grounding Headspace meditation.
“Mindfulness has helped me be more present and in the moment.”
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