Tackling loneliness in motherhood using technology

“Are you sure women really need a product like this? Don’t mothers hang out in cafes and drink coffee and meet that way? I mean, why doesn’t it exist already?”

It’s definitely challenging to be original when faced with that kind of logic. Let me be clear, when I was starting Peanut, it wasn’t the view of the majority of people I spoke to, but sometimes, in those early stages of starting my app Peanut, those are the voices which are ringing loudly in your ears. Because, it’s the opposite of innovative, disruptive, original, and you experience feelings of frustration and irritation. The key is to use these feelings as drivers.

Why Motherhood?

Motherhood is a chapter in the life of many women, not the only, but one which merits discussion. It is a chapter which deserves support from employers to accommodate, for instance, flexible working hours for mothers returning to work; a chapter which requires adequate and affordable childcare to be made available; a chapter which requires conversations which have  previously been considered taboo or embarrassing (fertility, surrogacy, loneliness, isolation), to come to the forefront. A chapter, which for too long, has been stifling without the acknowledgement that we have something to say and that we want to have a safe, judgement free, supportive space, to say it.

As we watch the women we have grown up alongside find their own story around motherhood and as we watch our own mothers start to understand what modern motherhood looks like, what better time to start a movement around the ‘hood'?

Peanut was born out of two main issues.

The first was the emotional aspect of becoming a mother. Before Fin arrived, I felt prepared. I had bought everything I needed, I'd read a few books. Turns out, the arrival of a baby isn't just about planning. There are feelings and demands that you can't plan for. My girlfriends weren't at the stage in their life where they were yet having children, 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 new born felt like a military operation).

I suppose what I felt most prominently, which isn't particularly comfortable for a 30-something woman to admit, is that I was lonely. I had lots of friends, I was successful professionally, and yet, when I was at home, I felt lonely. This was further compounded by the fact that I was working in an industry (dating), where it was my day to day to produce products people could use to find a match, or a date, and I was struggling to find a woman who was like minded to go for a coffee with.

Read: Three lessons in thinking differently

The second was my frustration with the existing products on the market aimed at Mothers. I didn't recognise the tone of voice the products used, or the look and feel of the products. They didn’t represent me as a mother at all. To me, I didn't feel like I'd suddenly aged, or become less modern, less cool, just because I'd become a mum, and yet, there wasn’t a product which understood this. So, taking my understanding of the tech industry, building social products, and motherhood, I decided to create a social product to connect like-minded women, who happened to be mamas.

Sharing the vision

There’s something important to note at this point. Women who are mothers are worth over $2.4 trillion. They control 85 per cent of household spend. They are one of the most influential voices in the market. I needed to find a team who believed that mothers should feel able to reclaim that voice. To have a platform for that voice. The team behind Peanut are some of the most passionate innovators I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. They believe in what we’re building, the vision, and most importantly, the experience of our users. They respect our users. This was one of the most crucial steps in discovering our original for Peanut.

The response

Some pretty incredible things have happened to Peanut since we launched. We went from being featured on Good Morning America, to the Today Show declaring us an app “you can’t live without”, and of course Apple featuring Peanut at WWDC 2017. 

We have over 300,000 women using the app, and the highlight is always when we hear the success stories. When women have connected on Peanut to start a business, to find a nanny share, to have a changed experience in respect of Peanut. I think this traction in a year just highlights why an original approach to a social problem is not only welcome, it’s critical to growth.

What’s next?

As I watched women reclaim their voice last year, and continue to do so, I was inspired to do the same for women who happen to be mothers. To give them a platform to have the conversations they want and need to have, on every topic relating to life as a woman including motherhood – using technology to make having those conversations and debates intuitive, easy, intelligent. Peanut Pages is our newest feature which allows users to explore ‘Pages’ (topics) where they can ask and answer questions, share experiences and converse. In the climate of #Metoo it has never been more paramount for women to reclaim their voice, I say the same for mothers.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. 

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