Carly Simmons’s thesis, The Mother Load: Owning Motherhood and Offloading Burden, aims to redistribute the burden and responsibility typically held by women and mothers to other individuals in their social network. In her research, Carly engaged with over two dozen new mothers who expressed feeling an absence of community support during and after pregnancy.
“The responsibilities expected of moms, especially working moms who live in cities, are growing and changing with the rise of technology and increasing demand for efficiency,” Carly explains. “Products for moms don’t address the huge emotional burden of motherhood, and can actually increase mothers’ anxiety about their performance. So how can we extend moms’ network and create positive experiences for both sides? And, is it possible to shift from burden for one to burden for all?”
The Motherlode Workshop
As part of her research, Carly hosted The Motherlode Workshop, a co-creation workshop with new moms in New York City. During the workshop, the participants shared some of the experiences and difficulties of early motherhood, answering prompts like, “I wish someone had told me…” and “I would tell a new mom…” A common experience was in noticing the relationships in their life changing after they gave birth. Participants also described the near impossibility of finding new friends who were also mothers, especially right after giving birth.
Kindred is a support resource that helps pregnant women find each other, form friendships, and carry those friendships through the delicate phase of postpartum, easing the transition between pregnancy and early motherhood where friendships are often susceptible to deterioration. The platform works like a dating app, and pairs mothers-to-be based on their due dates. Women can meet up and establish friendships while they are pregnant, and then provide virtual support to each other during postpartum, when they are unable to leave the house. “Postpartum is one of the most fragile periods of a mother’s life,” Carly says. “Kindred works to create a community of familiar faces to show new moms they are not alone.”
Overt is a breastfeeding blouse with two long and blunt breast pockets so a new mom can visually tell her co-workers that she is taking a break to pump, so she doesn’t need to ask permission. The blouse is intentionally designed to look over the top, as a comment on the stigma new moms face at work; the breast pockets of the blouse publicly and explicitly announce their need for a break to pump in the workplace.
Velli - Virtual Belly
Velli is a wearable device that allows friends and relatives of a pregnant person to share the special physical moments of pregnancy in real-time. The pregnant woman wears a sensor patch on her belly, which detects fetal movement in the womb, and sends that data to Velli in the form of vibrations. These brief but significant experiences foster a sense of attachment and personal investment in the mother’s pregnancy and her future child.
Hiatus is a platform that provides additional support to new moms who do not have access to family members as caretakers. Through the platform, a vetted, on-call caretaker relieves new moms of all childcare responsibilities within 20 minutes of receiving a request through the app. Carly learned that postpartum depression can set in months after giving birth, and realized that new mothers would benefit from support that extended beyond the immediate period after delivery. Hiatus offers a short respite from the responsibilities of motherhood, for 60-90 minutes at a time.
To learn more about Carly Simmons’s work, take a look at her projects in more detail at www.carly-simmons.com, or send her a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.