The other day at the park, I overheard one mom plainly ask another mom if she wanted to be friends. The other mom heartily agreed.
“Yay, a new friend!” the first mom gleefully exclaimed.
The exchange was a bit embarrassing to overhear, as it was quite similar to interactions I often hear between my four-year-old daughter and other girls on the playground looking to make a quick friend.
And yet I found it wholly unsurprising given the realities of modern motherhood for so many women.
In a recent book talk for C-SPAN Book TV, Camille Paglia talked with incredible accuracy about the isolation of modern motherhood. She mentioned the washing machine, a device that radically transformed the lives of many women for the better in the sense that it saved countless hours of manual labor, freeing women up for other tasks, such as, eventually, working outside the home. And yet, she said, doing the laundry was once a communal affair, a time when women would gather and talk and socialize. The loss of that experience, compounded by the countless other devices that have made our lives easier, has also taken away from moments we would have once spent in communion with other women.
Other technologies and advances like smartphones, Skype, meal delivery kits, Amazon Prime and so on have made it that much easier for moms today to balance work, often remotely, with raising kids, without the insanity and expense of long commutes and full-time childcare. And yet the keyword here is remotely. Most of these moms are raising children thousands of miles from their own mothers and families, spending most of the day away from their husbands, with the only face time with other humans being the occasional pediatrician appointment, Skype meeting, or quick exchange with a Starbucks barista.
That motherhood is still lonely, just in new ways, is something more and more people are talking about. In a 2015 piece for The Atlantic, “The Captivity of Motherhood,” Wednesday Martin reflects on a 1961 piece the magazine wrote about the isolation of motherhood. Today, she argues, moms face social condescension for choosing to stay home, and many moms who stay home or work from home are in their own islands of chaos and technological sequestration. The world’s most-watched mother, Kate Middleton, recently made waves when even she weighed in, saying of motherhood, “It is lonely at times. You do feel quite isolated.”
But leave it to moms to solve the problem. Two moms in the U.K. started Mush, an app that’s been described as “Tinder for moms,” enabling moms to search for other moms nearby with similarly aged children with the sole purpose of meeting up for play dates and coffees. One of the founders said her own mother said of motherhood, “All m[o]ms are lonely; it’s a rite of passage.” After realizing that she and a fellow mom could start an app to connect moms, she said, “That’s why it was such a light bulb moment when we realized we could actually help.”
Back here on the other side of the pond, another mom started a similar app, Peanut, which has also been likened to a “Tinder for mom friendships.” Of her inspiration, the founder said in an interview, “I actually think the political climate right now demonstrates the need to hang out and need to connect with women who are like-minded and share your values, more than ever. If I can make that part a little easier, then that’s a good thing.”
And while plenty of moms may not be looking for solidarity with other moms based on politics, plenty are seeking it with moms based on the shared experience of raising kids in a new era where we have the world at our fingertips, gleaming on the screens of our smartphones, but our extended families and the communities that once sustained us are far away.
So for all of those lonely moms out there: There’s an app for that.