I remember dreading the day my husband returned to work from paternity leave. We were blessed enough that his employer afforded him several weeks of paid leave and we were virtually attached at the hip since welcoming our daughter. I was happy for the company. Taking care of a brand new human is slightly more anxiety-inducing than I imagined. Of course, all good things must come to an end so the party ended as quickly as it started.
We fell into a routine rather quickly. In between taking care of the baby, I found time to scrub the house from top to bottom and decorate our new place — something I rarely had the luxury of doing while I was working. I appreciated being home, but it got lonely, fast. Prior to becoming a stay-at-home mom, I worked as a teacher, which meant I was talking all day long. I was interacting with 60-plus students per day and I was constantly surrounded by an amazing team of colleagues who became like family. However, my new normal consisted of quick conversations with my mother in the mornings while she commuted into work; brief texting conversations with my colleagues who were overwhelmed with work; sweet, but brief check-ins from friends; and surface-level conversations with my exhausted spouse. I was equally exhausted, but I also felt extremely alone.
A 2018 survey of 2,000 mothers found that 90 percent of mothers admitted to feeling lonely after giving birth and 54 percent felt “friendless.” While it may sound rather trivial to some, prior research has linked long-term loneliness to depressive symptoms, psychiatric disorders, and a decline in physical health. Considering the postpartum period already makes new mothers particularly vulnerable, it’s important to feel connected during such a trying time.
One day I came across an advertisement for an app called Peanut, which is a platform that connects mothers and mothers-to-be. I had seen the ad quite a bit in the past, but it never piqued my interest. I suppose my newfound loneliness made it stand out that day. I swiped over to the App Store and skeptically downloaded it. Some woman in the ad had cheesily claimed that if it had not been for Peanut, she would have never met her best friend who lived right down the street. It could have been a true story, but it gave me pause for some reason. I went ahead and filled out a profile anyway. The profile section was fairly quick and easy to complete. After that, it was time to start connecting. The platform’s set up is similar to Tinder. Moms are able to preview the profiles of other women in the area before swiping right or “waving” to connect with her or swiping right to dismiss her. In the event that two moms wave at each other, the app connects them.
As with many other social apps, it was easy to get sucked in. However, I was disappointed at first because not many of the mothers in my area looked like me. After a few days of swiping, I was matched with another Black mom who was located just one town over and had a baby about three months before I did. We quickly realized we had a lot in common and began chatting every day through the app before exchanging cell phone numbers. Not only did she serve as a source of companionship, but she was also a guide through the foggy wilderness known as new motherhood since she had been through everything I was going through just a few months prior. We talked about everything from what to expect from the two-month vaccinations to what sex would be like for the first time after giving birth. Literally, nothing was off-limits.
The next step was a meet-up. Though I was apprehensive at first because it seemed like the perfect setup for a weirdo who wanted to abduct a mom or her child, we took safety precautions and met up at a popular park in a group setting with some other moms she met from the app. The meet-up turned out to be great and we were both glad that we pushed past our fears.
Currently, we get together about once a week, which has been great for us and the babies. We get to connect with each other while our little ones attempt to be social. It’s truly amazing how much children are able to learn from each other. More than anything, this friendship has helped me to feel less alone. Having supportive family and friends around is one thing, but having someone who is in the trenches with you is priceless.