‘Be­ing a lonely mother in­spired me to launch a new ca­reer’

The Sunday Telegraph - Stella - - #ONEDAY - By Michelle Kennedy

‘ When Fin­lay ar­rived, he was in­cred­i­ble, beau­ti­ful, frag­ile – but I was scared’

‘Michelle the Mother’. I felt fine about that. I’d bought ev­ery­thing on my list, I’d read a few books, I’d at­tended NCT classes ( One Born Ev­ery

Minute wasn’t go­ing to cover all the bases, right?). At 30, I felt pro­fes­sion­ally at the top of my game, run­ning a suc­cess­ful dat­ing plat­form. I had great friends, and my hus­band and I had been to­gether for five years. Moth­er­hood seemed like just an­other step, the next chap­ter in my book.

I hadn’t ap­pre­ci­ated how dif­fer­ent life would be­come. When Fin­lay ar­rived, he was in­cred­i­ble, beau­ti­ful, frag­ile – but I was scared. Ev­ery­thing was chang­ing and it felt out of my con­trol. I’d gone from work­ing at a mil­lion miles an hour and be­ing sur­rounded by peo­ple to be­ing at home all day on my own with this lit­tle dude. When my hus­band went to work ev­ery day, I felt like I was be­ing left be­hind. I was alone, I’d lost my iden­tity – and the very to­gether me started fall­ing apart.

Even one week in, I felt like I was fail­ing as a mother. Fin­lay was a 9lb whop­per but lost weight post-birth, which I had no idea was nor­mal. I’d feel sick in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the health vis­i­tor ar­riv­ing to weigh him, and I strug­gled with breast­feed­ing, con­stantly wor­ry­ing he was hun­gry.

Ev­ery­thing and noth­ing could re­duce me to tears. I was in the queue at Star­bucks one morn­ing when a whim­per­ing Fin­lay prompted some stranger to sug­gest he needed a feed. I cried, feel­ing she knew my son bet­ter than I did. At that very low, vul­ner­a­ble mo­ment, I felt more alone than I could ever have thought pos­si­ble.

With so many ques­tions in my head and so few peo­ple to turn to, I’d of­ten re­sort to googling for ad­vice at 2am, while try­ing to set­tle Fin­lay. It led me to a world of mummy fo­rums I never knew ex­isted. There were all the mys­ti­fy­ing ab­bre­vi­a­tions – ev­ery­one dis­cussing their ‘DH’ or ‘OH’ (which I’ve since dis­cov­ered mean ‘dar­ling hus­band’ and ‘other half ’) – and lots of judge­ment fly­ing around. I be­came so ter­ri­fied of be­ing crit­i­cised that I would lurk, wait­ing for some­one else to ask my ques­tions (like, ‘Is it OK to rock your baby to sleep?’). Those fo­rums aren’t places to make friends, and I had no real way to com­mu­ni­cate with and meet moth­ers. I’d al­ways had lots of friends – but the only one with a baby seemed to have ev­ery­thing so un­der con­trol, and I didn’t form last­ing friend­ships at my NCT group. I was lonely – an un­com­fort­able re­al­i­sa­tion.

My own mother was a god­send. She would of­ten visit and called ev­ery day – but when­ever I hung up the phone, my iso­la­tion felt mag­ni­fied. The turn­ing point came when Fin­lay hit five months old. We’d be­come a team, we had our rou­tine and if he did cry, it was only me who could soothe him. I’ve heard peo­ple de­scribe it as a fog lift­ing, and that’s ex­actly how it felt. Then when he was six months I re­turned to work and felt even more con­nected to the Michelle I un­der­stood again.

I also had an epiphany. If we could find part­ners in love on­line, then why not friends, too? I re­alised you could mod­ify the al­go­rithms and fea­tures of a dat­ing app to cre­ate a prod­uct that could help women con­nect with each other. Af­ter an­other 18 months I left my job to launch a new app, Peanut. It gen­er­ates sug­ges­tions of other women who are a good friend­ship match and then al­lows you to ‘wave’ at each other (the Peanut ver­sion of a ‘like’) or start mes­sag­ing. The app launched in Fe­bru­ary and has tens of thou­sands of users in the UK and the US al­ready – in­clud­ing me. I have made real friends on Peanut; two in par­tic­u­lar I now see reg­u­larly. Of course, moth­er­hood can still be chal­leng­ing, but it’s amaz­ing none the less – and a lot less daunt­ing with like-minded women around you.

Peanut is avail­able from the App Store in the UK, the US, Canada and Ire­land (peanut-app.io/ios). Has one day changed your life? Email us at stella@tele­graph.co.uk or tweet us @stel­la­m­agazine #OneDay

Left Michelle with her son, Fin­lay, now three

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