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‘Mum dating’ forging new friendships in Havering

PUBLISHED: 12:00 20 March 2017 | UPDATED: 13:41 20 March 2017

Mush members Lorna Taylor and Sherelle Girard with their children Max and Mason, both aged six months

Mush members Lorna Taylor and Sherelle Girard with their children Max and Mason, both aged six months

Archant

Online dating is well-ingrained into our society, but can its technology be harnessed for other social interaction?

Mush members Hayley Watson, Catherine Arhin-Ofori, Lorna Taylor and Sherelle Girard with their children Mush members Hayley Watson, Catherine Arhin-Ofori, Lorna Taylor and Sherelle Girard with their children

Yes is the answer from Mush, an app you could describe as Tinder for mums, which connects women in local areas to enable them to share experiences and just have a natter with a fellow adult, something which can be lacking for stay-at-home mums or those still on maternity leave.

The Recorder sat down with four east London mums to find out how the app has helped them.

Sherelle Girard, 28, from Romford, mum to Mason, six months, is the closest these four have to a Mush veteran, having joined in October.

“I think I noticed the ad on Instagram. It came up on the sponsored ads, and then I just signed up to it,” she said.

Mush member Catherine Arhin-Ofori with her daughter Renee, aged seven months Mush member Catherine Arhin-Ofori with her daughter Renee, aged seven months

“I was a bit nervous at my first meet-up, it was a bit like a first date! But we got on and it was fun.

“It helps me to get out of the house, you do meet other people at baby groups but you don’t get talking to them. Sometimes it’s just you focusing on your baby, so it’s good to get chatting to other mums who have babies of a similar age.”

Mush, which launched in 2016, now has more than 60,000 members nationwide. It’s clear there’s a market for it: a survey of 4,000 mums found 60 per cent sometimes go a whole day without adult interaction.

The app matches members in similar areas – also using data such as babies’ ages and mums’ interests – and Sherelle’s local network has more than 3,000 users. She and some of the other mums also use a Whatsapp group to keep in touch.

Mush member Hayley Watson playing with her son Hudson, who is seven months old Mush member Hayley Watson playing with her son Hudson, who is seven months old

Lorna Taylor, 27, of Collier Row, whose son Max is six months, joined Mush a month ago.

“I’ve met up with three different mums, it’s a bit like a blind date,” she said.

“With the first, we passed each other about three times because we didn’t know what the other looked like!

“You’re going through something similar with your babies and they’re a similar age, so there’s lots to talk about and lots in common. At the moment, because Max is going through the weaning stage, we talk about food, and sleep. You get a lot of advice, it’s good if their baby is a month or two older as they have been through it.”

Mush members Lorna Taylor and Sherelle Girard with their children Max and Mason, both aged six months Mush members Lorna Taylor and Sherelle Girard with their children Max and Mason, both aged six months

Mush can be a godsend for those settling down in unfamiliar places. Hayley Watson, 28, mum to seven-month-old Hudson, now lives in Dagenham after moving from Romford.

“I was on the Mush app because I was new to the area and wanted to make some friends as well,” she told the Recorder.

“I first met up with someone when Hudson was about seven weeks. I was a bit anxious at first, but we’re all in the same boat really, wanting the same outcome.”

Catherine Arhin-Ofori, an executive assistant, also lives in Dagenham, but her links are traditionally in west London.

She has two children, a 17-year-old son and seven-month-old Renee.

“I didn’t know anyone at all here, it was like starting a new school,” she said.

“Meeting other mums and getting to know the area, that’s important for me. I think it’s definitely hard if you don’t have roots in a particular area and you’ve just had a baby.”

A much-discussed topic is the matter of when to return to work.

“I’m going back four days a week in June, so not long left,” said Sherelle, who works in the City.

“I feel a bit anxious about it, I know Mason will be fine at nursery but it’s just a bit daunting going back, and getting back into the mentality of doing something with my brain!”

“I don’t think you would choose to go back to work if you could stay at home,” added teacher Lorna, while Hayley, a school co-educator, spoke of a common feeling among new mums in worrying they will miss stepping stones in their child’s development.

As a second-time mum, Catherine has experience of the difficulties juggling a career, a baby and a social life, but the group hope they will be in touch for some time to come.

For more on the app, visit letsmush.com.

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