When it comes to motherhood, our culture is in the grip of a strange paradox. Women are, broadly, expected to try and have babies, with the idea of becoming a mum celebrated. When they do, though, cracks in the system and a lack of appropriate infrastructure mean that many find those early days really, really hard – something underscored by a lack of the sort of support needed to move through such a seismic transition.

Such a reality is borne out by new data. According to a survey of 3,600 women from motherhood community app Peanut, 72% of women feel invisible in the mothering role; 93% feel unappreciated, unacknowledged or unseen and 93% say that, since having a child, they feel that their identity is now limited to ‘mother,’ as opposed to the multifaceted reality. The results come from a research paper the app has presented as part of its new ‘Invisible Mothers’ campaign.

The roots of these feelings of invisibility included a lack of empathy from family, friends and strangers; an unfair division of household chores; trying to manage both work and kids; having to hide the pain of pregnancy loss and struggles to assert their identity and independence.

What else did the data show?

Reflecting broader issues with the state of healthcare, 46% did not feel supported by the health system when they were post-partum. When it comes to state assistance more broadly, 70% expected to have more support from societal infrastructure than they did.

That women can ‘have it all’ is a promise we’ve all heard. But many report that this phrase simply layers on pressure, rather than making them feel liberated. Ninety-seven per cent of women surveyed noted that society puts pressure on women to ‘do it all and be it all.’ On top of this, 94% feel that they are expected to put themselves, after their families, partners, jobs, and other responsibilities, in order to achieve everything that is expected of them.

So, how is this impacting new mums?

The ramifications are worrying. Of those surveyed, 95% agreed that the invisibility of the maternal experience is impacting women’s mental health. It means that:

  • 86% say they have been through feelings of anxiety
  • 82% report stress
  • 80% have experienced loneliness
  • 65% have been through loss of identity
  • 55% have felt depressed

What did the women surveyed have to say?

When asked for their thoughts, those who participated in the survey shared some concerning sentiments.

  • ‘My entire ‘fourth trimester’ I felt invisible. It’s such an insane change to go from caring for yourself to caring for a baby. I was struggling with anxiety and it was hell.’
  • ‘I have to mother like I don’t have a job and work like I don’t have children. I’m constantly dealing with the feeling of “I’m not doing enough.”’
  • ‘While holding my three-month-old, I was asked: when’s the next one coming? It’s like… you do realise I am a person and not just a baby birthing machine, right?’
  • ‘I’m never invited to social events because it’s assumed I’d have to bring the baby. Or my husband gets [invited] but people tell him I don’t have to go because I’ll be taking care of the baby.’

The expert view

Of the data, psychologist Rachel Goldman, PhD, who works with the app, said: ‘The invisibility of motherhood is a stark reality many face. The journey begins with frequent visits to healthcare providers, but once the child arrives, there’s a sudden gap, creating a sense of abandonment at a pivotal time.’

‘Women grapple with overwhelming feelings of exhaustion and stress, only to confront rushed appointments where healthcare professionals don’t have time to adequately dive into concerns. But, the problem is larger than healthcare alone; society needs to change. Women feel hesitant addressing their challenges with those in positions of power, meaning we must foster an environment where women feel valued, supported, and willing to voice their needs.’

‘It’s imperative to break stigmas—normalising both parents’ active roles, mental health support, and nurturing communication. The words we hear and use greatly affect us individually and as a society—we internalise things that we see and hear. But it doesn’t take grand gestures to offer support. A genuine ‘how are you’ or ‘thinking of you’ can significantly shift perceptions, signalling to someone that they matter.’

‘Fundamentally, it’s the butterfly effect in practice—small changes or actions, like compassionate conversations, can have profound impacts. By acknowledging and addressing these issues, we can begin to reconstruct the societal infrastructure to truly support motherhood.’

Peanut has launched its ‘Invisible Mothers’ campaign, which includes a research paper titled ‘TheState of Invisibility’. Find out more at invisible-mothers.peanut-app.