“She looks friendly,” I thought, and swiped right.
“Is Fridley too far away from my southwest Minneapolis neighborhood?” I wondered. Probably. I swiped left.
No, I’m not dating, but I did give Peanut a whirl.
Billed as the “app for modern motherhood,” it’s a platform designed to connect like-minded moms. It started in 2017, and launched officially in Minneapolis this fall.
I know firsthand that parenthood can be isolating, crazymaking and confusing. It’s a time when you need friends, but your friends (those without kids and those with older kids) are often busy doing all the things you once did.
For support, you can turn to online groups, self-help books like “Women Are Scary: The Totally Awkward Adventure of Finding Mom Friends,” which advises trying to “pick up” new friends at the park, and in-person classes like the popular ones run by Twin Cities yoga studio Blooma and the state’s Early Childhood Family Education program.
Now, there is Peanut (another app called Mush is currently available only in Great Britain and Australia), which appeals to women who are used to utilizing apps for everything from finding partners to ordering takeout.
Even though I’m on the older side of this demographic, I decided to give it a try. We moved over the summer, and I thought it might help me to meet more families in my new neighborhood.
The Peanut app is free, and pretty painless to get up and running — unless you find picking a profile photo, writing a bio and choosing the three “packs” that you run in (choices include “hot mess,” “routine queen,” “adrenaline junkie” and “but first, food”) to be excruciatingly difficult.
I did. Eventually, I settled on “outdoorsy,” “crafty” and “powered by caffeine,” and started swiping, on the hunt for moms with similarly-aged kids (mine are 3 and 5) and live nearby. As someone who used OK Cupid (on a desktop) with little to no success, it took some getting used to.
Michelle Kennedy, Peanut’s founder and CEO, worked as a board adviser and deputy CEO for Tinder competitors Bumble and Badoo before starting her own company. She got the idea for Peanut when she was on maternity leave with her firstborn and felt stuck at home in the afternoon, without mom friends of her own.
“I was working in an industry where I was used to cool, slick products and building those products and using them,” she said. “When it came to motherhood, the offering was really very poor. It was like old school Facebook groups or forums, but there wasn’t really anything that was about motherhood that felt cool, and felt original.”
So she took the concept of a dating app and twisted it a bit. The app, which she designed to be for women only, learns from users as they swipe.
“The more you engage with the product, the smarter it becomes about what type of women you want to meet,” she said.
The app requested that I include my age. It wouldn’t be shared, but it would help me find moms of a similar vintage. As a member of Generation X, I wondered if I were too old for Peanut, but went ahead.
On the app, I “waved” at lots of cool-seeming moms and had a few friendly conversations (mostly about neighborhoods in New York City, where I lived before moving to Minnesota). But those conversations eventually fizzled with no reply back from the potential mom friend.
No one asked me on a mom date. Or even a mom coffee. Then again, I didn’t offer any invites, either.
I’m not totally giving up on Peanut, but I am giving it a rest. I won’t delete it, because I sometimes find myself swiping right or left or checking its news feed while I’m waiting for my girls to finally fall asleep.
I could see it being very helpful for stay-at-home moms looking to meet up with others during long winter days or for working mothers out on maternity leave. It just wasn’t that helpful for me.
The thing is, the app doesn’t make new friends for you. You still have to put yourself out there, something that, for me, is slightly less awkward to do in person than online. I’m old school that way.
Building real friendships isn’t easy, no matter how you go about it. But I’ve been lucky to maintain wonderful friends from my pre-parenting days and reconnect with my own childhood and college BFFs after moving back to the Midwest. Many of them have kids.
And, in recent years, it’s largely been my outgoing oldest daughter and chatty husband (who I met through helpful, meddling pals) who have brought new parent friends into our lives, forging bonds by begging for play dates and exchanging numbers at the playground.
With time, some of them have even become friend-friends — no modifiers needed.
Erica Pearson • 612-673-4726