There's a turf war going on in my neighbourhood. It's a battle of the apps.
Peanut and Mush are two new matchmaking apps out of London. Both are pitched as "Tinder for Mums," designed to help lonely female parents hook up with attractive "matches" who live nearby.
Mush, co-founded by two "mom-preneurs" who met on a windswept playground while on maternity leave, launched just over a year ago and has since had over 60,000 downloads. Peanut is the new kid on the block, and was co-founded by Michelle Kennedy, formerly the deputy CEO of the dating app Badoo.
It's a canny business idea. New motherhood can be fantastically isolating for all the obvious reasons (geographic, social, professional). But it's also a slightly heart-sinking notion for any woman hoping to retain a sense of her former social life (or self) after giving birth. The message of such apps seems to be: You're a mom now. Time to trade in your former drinking buddies for a new bunch of banana mashers. Enjoy.
Such misgivings aside, both apps have received a flurry of press of late and are now locked in a battle to determine which will establish the majority market share.
Peanut launched in February in London and New York and is pouring significant resources into an analog ad campaign (i.e., posters around city parks and primary schools). Mush, on the other hand, is so far only available on my side of the Atlantic.
The question as to which will ultimately prevail depends on whether you believe a critical mass of new mothers are willing to resort to online matchmaking in order to expand their social networks.
But the people who could genuinely use such a service (mothers who, like me, are shy about making friends) will naturally be loath to use it.
I'm a pretty sociable person but I found making "mom friends" a real challenge. After my first son was born, I spent years wandering around aimlessly with a stroller listening to podcasts wishing I had someone to meet for coffee.
I'd see other mothers hanging out in little groups, giggling and gossiping over picnics and wonder: How did they get so lucky?
It wasn't until my son went to nursery at three and another mother took pity and added me to a WhatsApp group that I made any "mom friends" to speak of.
Now that I've been plunged back into babyland for the second time, I've been similarly remiss at making local mom friends with same-aged babies. I know it's essential for all sorts of reasons (sensory play, information-gathering, general sanity) but I'm not inclined to chat up other women in the playground and too busy (read: bored senseless) to bother going to baby music classes.
Clearly, I am the perfect candidate for Tinder for mothers, so I decided to try them both.
First I downloaded Mush. Filling in my profile took about 15 minutes and was fairly straightforward, although I was slightly flummoxed by the bio section. Am I a "c-section sista," a "baby-led weaner" or a "routine parent"? All of the above, sort of, but why would I want to hang out with other women based on such unremarkable characteristics?
In the end, I describe myself as a "gentle parent" who enjoys "eating out" and "chatting," which makes me sound tragically dull.
Creating a Peanut profile, by comparison, is even simpler. In an effort to present my best self, I describe myself as a "world-travelling bookworm fitness freak." This is a hefty set of exaggerations – but this is online dating after all.
Then I get to do what I've been waiting for, which is check out the other moms.
Mush tells me there are 8,836 other moms who want to meet up nearby, which is a bit daunting. But on closer inspection I notice most of my "matches" are either pregnant first-timers (too green) or live several miles away.
There is one woman who has two similar-aged kids and lives around the corner but she's only 33. Is that too young? I agonize over whether to "match" with her but ultimately have an attack of shyness and decide to check back later.
Peanut is less fruitful. The app is oddly buggy. It keeps freezing up and I have to delete and download it twice. There aren't many moms in my area on it and the ones that are all look like they might judge me for letting my nine-month-old watch TV.
In the end, I match with no one. A week later, I delete both apps from my phone to free up memory space.
Verdict: It's likely both apps will survive for a few years if only as a valuable exercise in data-collection. What baby/child-focused service or company wouldn't want access and information on all the local moms and their children, broken down by age and gender?
But I suspect both apps will ultimately fail – while Tinder for mothers might work, it's not for the sort of mothers who actually need it, like me.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to push a stroller while listening to a podcast.