Becoming a parent is hard. It's also amazing, magical and sometimes plain ridiculous, but never easy. In a way it's like climbing a giant mountain - one with no peak! At least with a normal mountain the summit is the clear goal. You reach it; you celebrate and then try not to die on the way down. The parenting mountain can sometimes feel as extreme as this, but without any clear measure for success that you can look to for reassurance. It can be a lonely business.
While there are no words to describe watching your little one take their first steps or nestle into your arms, life with a child is just... different. An evening out, a morning lie-in or simply wearing clothes that aren't covered in baby mush, suddenly becomes the stuff of dreams.
The changes to lifestyle, financial worries, constant sleep deprivation and the pressure of being responsible for a tiny, demanding little person often mean that parents - couples, single parents, mums and dads - can feel socially isolated.
Suffering in silence
Social isolation has been identified as a key factor in postnatal depression. It's estimated that one in 10 new mums have the condition. A lack of awareness, fear of admitting to depression and the many myths about what postnatal depression actually is, means that around half of sufferers are not getting help. Dads are not included in routine screenings, which reinforces seriously outdated beliefs that men 'just get on with it'. In fact about one in 10 dads too, get depression.
It's a cause that pkBoo is passionate about. My co-founder Kartika Tulusan and I experienced depression and isolation first hand. One day we joked about needing a 'Tinder for Parents' to meet new people. Tired of being defined by motherhood, we wanted to create a solution based on the notion that you don't stop being who you are, just because you had a child. The result was pkBoo - a mobile app with a social conscience.
Parents can list their interests, likes and age of their child. Based on this information and an algorithm, parents are able to find likeminded mums and dads nearby. It can be used by anyone, regardless of background and location.
In a way, pkBoo is an 'anti-app', which runs counter to parenting forums and other apps. Its technology is only a tool for parents to meet in real life, away from their smartphones and computer screens. Paradoxically, one measure for our success is for parents to meet more often, but use the app less over time.
PkBoo is also different to the NCT and Children's Centre networks. The app is free (who didn't wince at the cost of NCT classes?); available at any time (not just during the week) and encourages both mums and dads to be part of the local parent community.
Importantly, pkBoo isn't about depression. It's about parents meeting and having fun as a way to connect. Climbing the parenting mountain might still feel like a never ending slog, a path littered with nappies, rice cakes and parental anxieties. But with pkBoo you'll have other people around you that pull you up and cheer you on along the way.
With Sophia Adhami for pkBoo
PkBoo is being piloted in East London where some Children Centre budgets have been cut by more than half. Become part of the beta community or join one of our events by visiting our website www.pkboo.net
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