When Michelle Kennedy became a mom five years ago, she not only entered into a new stage of her life, she realized she was there without a lot of support.
An only child, Kennedy didn’t have siblings or parents to help her with the day-to-day of childcare or even offer tips on what being a new mom was like. She and her husband are what she calls “older parents,” so her friends didn’t have newborns. Her husband went to work every day, while she was home with their son. “And I felt, wow, this is really hard,” Kennedy says.
That will come as no surprise to any woman who’s just become a mom, and Kennedy knew she wasn’t the first person to feel that way. And that feeling of being overwhelmed and a bit isolated is what led her to develop Peanut, an app that connects mothers.
“Of course, I had the idea and then I did exactly nothing,” laughs Kennedy, who had been the deputy CEO of Badoo, a European social network. “As [my son] grew, I felt a lot of working mom guilt — I’d drop him at nursery and dash off to work — and I felt the older he was getting, the more I needed other women around me.”
In interviews, Kennedy has described motherhood as being the oldest social network, explaining that in the past, with women’s lives centered around the home, women were able to connect with one another and share stories and ideas about child rearing. She recognizes that the world has changed; women now lead busy lives, leading companies, working in offices and at jobs that often disconnect them from other moms going through similar situations.
Peanut — named, in essence, after her son’s nickname — aims to change that. The New York Times called it “an app for moms who missed out on Tinder.” The worldwide app, which has a team of 10 running it, just launched in Austin, and it looks to connect women at all stages of motherhood, from those with newborns in a crib to those getting ready to face an empty nest as their young men and women head off to college. More than just being another social experiment, Peanut also takes into account both a woman’s geography and her particular background.
“You create an account, and we ask questions about how old your child or children are, what you do for work, if you’re a stay at home mum, and what your interests are,” Kennedy explains. “And then you’ll see women around you in proximity. It’s really about finding your pack.”
Kennedy, who’s based in London, launched the app first in London and New York, where she has core groups of friends to test it and give her feedback. As she rolled out Peanut in Austin, she was impressed with the quick growth and the way the city embraced it.
In addition to connecting women one-on-one, Kennedy has rolled out Peanut Groups, which allows women with similar careers or interests to find each other and, yes, swipe right or left to make new friends. Austinites, in particular, have been big supporters of that.
“People in Austin have been so engaged!” she said. “They’ve recommended groups they want to see, whether it’s mothers in tech or some other interest. It’s been great to see.”
Kennedy sees Peanut as a way to help women find the kind of community women of the past had. And honing technology means that they can pinpoint those communities based on any number of factors.
“A woman who becomes a mom at 19 has a very different set of issues she’s facing than a woman 20 years older, or a woman whose children are teenagers. But the thread they have in common is motherhood. And we want them all to be able to find each other, and learn from and support each other.”