It's hard to make friends as an adult.
It's even harder if you're a new mom, when the friends who made up your regular brunch-and-happy-hour crew don't all pivot into parenthood at the same time.
Michelle Kennedy was that new mom 3½ years ago. She was browsing Instagram during a 2 a.m. feeding and saw all of her friends posting photos from a nightclub. As the first one in her friend group to have a baby, she wished there was an easy way to find like-minded women to talk to.
That led her to creating Peanut, an app being marketed as "Tinder for mom friends." She's the co-founder and chief executive. London-based Kennedy is no stranger to dating apps: She's the former deputy CEO of the dating app Badoo and was on the board of Bumble, another dating app. (In fact, she's the one who came up with the name "Bumble." The name "Peanut" was also her idea.)
Other products, sites and apps aimed at moms felt clunky and old-fashioned, Kennedy said. Young women use slick-looking apps such as Tinder and Bumble to find dates. Why wouldn't they use one to find new friends?
Peanut launched in February in London and New York City. On June 8, it will open up to women in the Los Angeles area. The free app is available only on iOS devices, though an Android build is in the works.
Signing up for Peanut is similar to signing up for many dating apps: You connect with your Facebook account. After that, you enter how many children you have and their ages, with an option to add a "peanut" — a baby on the way — and say how many weeks along you are. After that, you pick three words or phrases to describe yourself, ranging from fun things like "hot mess" and "wine time" to more serious signifiers like "single mama" and "special needs."
Swipe up to "wave" at another mom; swipe down to say "not now" — "there's no element of rejection on Peanut," Kennedy said — and then you can start chatting within the app. (Although a publicist declined to say how many users the app has, more than 1 million "waves" have evidently been sent.) Peanut has a functionality that lets you schedule a coffee meetup or playdate through the app and export it to your regular calendar, or you can just use it to find someone else to talk to when you feel like you're the only person in the world who's awake.
There's a perception that it should be easy for moms to make friends: Talk to other moms. But it's not so simple, said Melanie Dale, a blogger and the author of "Women Are Scary: The Totally Awkward Adventure of Finding Mom Friends."
After having their first child, Dale and her husband moved from the District of Columbia to the Atlanta area in order to be closer to family. Between the isolation of a baby-centric schedule and the steep learning curve for a new parent, she said, she didn't even know how to start approaching other moms, never mind how to become friends with them.
"I'd see other moms out there when I got out of the house and it seemed like they had it all together," Dale said. "It felt scary and intimidating to venture out into that world."
Furthermore, two women who have kids the same age won't automatically become best friends, for the same reasons people aren't necessarily close with all their co-workers. Peanut's tagline is "Meet as mamas, connect as women," which Dale said appealed to her.
"We want to meet because we have motherhood in common, but we don't want to stop there," she said.
Laura Clark is the co-lead editor of the parenting site Mom.me and runs a blog called L.A. Story. Clark, who lives in Culver City, said it can be uniquely challenging to make "mom friends" in the Los Angeles area.
"You've got a lot of people who have moved out here and are so far away from their families," she said. "It can feel more isolating, especially if your friends don't have children."
Flipping through the negative App Store reviews of Peanut, two common criticisms emerge: people who are upset that they need Facebook to use it, and dads who are miffed that the app is aimed at women.
The Facebook connection is to ensure people really are who they say they are, Kennedy said. And although Peanut may someday open up to fathers and other caregivers, right now it's "focused on the female journey."
There are, of course, the old-fashioned ways of making friends with fellow moms: striking up conversations at the playground, going to mommy-and-me classes, being friendly to your neighbors. But to a generation of people accustomed to swiping and tapping their way to romance, this is a natural next step.
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