I recently met up with a friend and her brand new baby. It was simply lovely, I got a rush of nostalgia as I smelled her head (the baby, not my friend) and felt her sweet softness. Then I noticed the stare. My friend had the stare - you know the one, - the “tell me everything you know” stare, the “”don’t you remember how this feels” stare. It snapped me out of my nostalgia fuelled reverie because in the whites of her eyes I could see a panic I had long since forgotten. I realised my ‘memories’ were a romantic fallacy, in my friend’s rictus grin and higher than normally pitched voice I could see the truth of new motherhood. It sucks. Sure, it’s magical and transformative and full of joy, but also it sucks, really really sucks. How had I forgotten?
My friend started almost every sentence with ‘Of course, you know…’ and I was too ashamed to admit that I didn’t know, not really. I can talk about those unhinged days where everything seemed to be totally beyond my control; I can reel off anecdote after anecdote about baby poo in the bath and vomit down my back but I no longer feel it. I could give my friend sympathy but not empathy and I think that’s one of the most important things you need when you’re in that first flush of motherhood (or indeed fatherhood). You need to know there’s someone right there with you, doing what you’re doing and feeling what you’re feeling. You need to be able to walk into a room, exhale a certain way and know that everyone in that room knows exactly what you’ve been through. No one can fix this stuff, it just has to be worked through and an understanding shoulder to cry on is a vital part of working it through.
It can be hard to find the right shoulder though. Making friends as a parent is a lot like dating, which is probably where all the trouble started in the first place. I remember my first playgroup, I met loads of mums who were in just the same boat as me, lots of whom I was really interested in and wanted to see more of. I think I only saw one of them again. I was far too nervous to ask any of them round for coffee; the very thought of it induced a panic attack and an unsuccessful attempt to hide behind a 3 month old. I didn’t know those women and my house was in no fit state to be seen by strangers; every surface was covering in some sort of bodily fluid and you couldn’t see the floor for manky muslins and migraine inducing noisy toys. I was way too nervous to allow people to cross the threshold and judge me - what if they were super mums with houses full of educational wooden toys and baby boden clothes with nary a stain to be seen? I was too shy to even ask if they would be at the group the next week. I never went back.
This is where Mush comes in. It’s a new app that’s being dubbed ‘Tinder for mums’ because it seems that everything is ‘tinder for x’ these days. Mush, however, does seem like it will be very useful. It allows you to meet local mums and provides information on things you can do together. You can use it to message groups, so it’s easier to keep in contact and up to date with plans - especially useful as everything can change minute by minute when you’ve got kids in the mix. It also features articles on child development and other parents’ experiences. I know that it seems half the internet is full of mummy bloggers getting their gripe on (the other half is cat videos) but it can be very handy to have everything in one place on your phone, especially when you are trapped under a sleeping baby and only dare move one thumb for fear of waking the slumbering cherub.
For parents of older kids, it might be the ideal place to organise a playdate for kids all starting in reception together. I know I would have felt a lot better if my little one had had a friendly face or two accompanying him as he passed through the school gates for the first time. It could be handy for organising lifts to and from birthday parties - to the the village halls, soft play centres and occasional medieval jousting tournament (when the parents have got a bit too into it). Heck, you could use it to share and donate clothes, toys, books, macrame your own yurt kits and all the other preposterous detritus kids tend to accumulate.
It would have been incredibly useful to have had Mush when we moved to pastures new just after the birth of our second child. I would have loved to have had people to ask for information on the local area, actually, not just people - parents. I wanted to be able to ask parents for information because they are the ones who know which cafes will greet your munchkins with a smile and which ones are likely to spit in their food, they are the ones who know that the pottery place claims to have a changing table but in reality it looks more like a ducking stool balanced directly above the toilet. Parents know where the good Santas are. The information you need when you have kids is incredibly specific and weird. Mush gives you a way to access that information easily.
As with all things to do with child-rearing Mush is multi-faceted, it can be used as much or as little as you need. It can be used for learning, engaging, planning and socialising - the kind of thing you’re used to getting sorted by 7:30 in the morning once you’ve got kids. I have been extremely lucky to have made some amazing school gate friends; women and men who have made me laugh and think and have given me incredible support when I really really needed it. I am grateful for them. Everyone raising kids needs a strong support network. Mush might help you to lay some very strong foundations to build it.