MotherTree was created by us – a group of women, many of whom have mothered our children as sole parents ourselves, and have struggled in different ways and at different stages through our mothering journeys. We have all experienced one thing in common- isolation and the lack of a community. As solo parents we have understood that when we are the most vulnerable with babies in our arms, we need sisterhood in order to be seen, heard and mirrored back, and held through the joys and the hardships. We have been dreaming of different ways of mothering. We have longed for a collective of other mothers to support us through our experiences. Through countless conversations with our friends who are also mums, and women in women’s groups, and other mothers in playgrounds, nurseries, our kid’s schools, we have recognised that so many mothers are feeling and experiencing the same. This sense of disconnectedness and the lack of tangible ways to be part of a community are a common struggle.
The need for mothers and children to be supported has become more evident and urgent during the recent Covid 19 pandemic. Mothers in isolation have been confronted with increased levels of responsibility and additional pressures, yet no additional support has been discussed or proposed by society at large. Mothers, especially sole mothers, have been forgotten throughout this very trying and stressful time. The events surrounding the Covid 19 pandemic have highlighted the invisibility of maternal work- the service that mothers are carrying is no longer possible to ignore.
The words of the single mum who wrote a letter to Dominic Cummings show this neglect very clearly: “There wasn’t one day where I didn’t cry from the pressures, the exhaustion and the worries I was under. I had very little support during this time, isolated in every way.” In an interview for Channel Four News she spoke about her experiences during the lockdown- “It has been really difficult. There is no one to talk to about anything, and then when you do try to talk to someone – they don’t understand.” This has been the experience for so many of us during this time.
This letter and the media attention that followed have drawn attention to the fact that mothers have specific needs and often these needs are marginalised and not acknowledged. This has been a long standing issue. For over a hundred years the leading national charity Gingerbread has been working towards shaping the policy and services needed to support single parent families. The majority of single parent households are led by women, 86% out of 2.9 m lone parent families in the UK (according to 2019 data from http://www.ons.gov. uk ).
The idea of the MotherTree platform for mums was born two years ago whilst we were still mothering our small children, and imagining a different world in which we could mother together. Now two years later and post Covid 19 it feels even more urgent to launch Mothertree. We need a platform that offers a real solution to the problem of isolation for mothers and children. We are building MotherTree as a platform for mothers to connect, to support each other, and to imagine together a new way of living and bringing up our children.
MotherTree is proposing an alternative way of being together. We see the potential in co-living /house-sharing to alleviate the financial, practical and emotional pressures that so many mothers deal with daily. This way of being together as mothers is as old as humanity itself. We humans have evolved throughout the history of our species – birthing and raising our babies together, sharing our knowledge, caring for each other, holding each other and mothering each other at the times when we are the most vulnerable. MotherTree seeks to connect women who would like to consider living with other women and nurture children together. MotheTree presents the possibility of forming friendships and alliances and to start sharing households that could potentially offer many benefits. Just think of shared rent, childcare and someone to talk to once kids are in the bed.
We know that shared problems lead to shared solutions. Mothers form mutual support networks organically, often being drawn to each other through shared experience. Maternal work is to take care of the most precious and vulnerable members of our society – the children, and their wellbeing. The role of the protector, the carer, the nurturer of babies and children, and the fundamental human connections that mothering ensures, establishes the beginnings of the child’s life, his/her emotional and physical well being, and resilience. Mothers deserve their experiences to be acknowledged, and we need a collective to achieve this. We could all thrive together, and so could our children.