“So, do you come here often?” I asked awkwardly. Oddly, I don’t ever think I used that line in my twenties I thought to myself. He answered an enthusiastic “Yes! Every week for about 6 months now.” We were sitting just a couple of seats apart. He was about my age maybe a little younger, fit, tall, well-dressed.
“Um, would it be weird if I ask you for your wife’s number?” I followed.
“Not all!” He chimed.
We both whip out our phones, and I text something along the lines of, “Hi Meg, this is Desiree! Chloe and my son Griffin really hit it off in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and your husband gave me your number so we could coordinate a playdate. Hope to meet you soon!”
I never got a text back. Maybe I heard the number wrong. Maybe not.
Family dating is rough. Not only do you need each parent to be cool, but your kids need to be within 6 months of each other and ideally of the same sex. If you have two or three kids, then all the kids need to be relatively close in age.
It’s hard to find your perfect group.
Admittedly, I’ve been lucky. My oldest son got invited to a birthday party for a child he barely overlapped with in his new daycare room. We ended up meeting two friends with boys the exact same ages as my boys, and we’ve been hanging out at least quarterly ever since. But the three years before that birthday were pretty lonely as parents.
Having spent years focusing on my first startup, I didn’t cultivate a lot of new friendships. Not being from Chicago, I didn’t have a built in group of high school friends. So when we had Griffin in December of 2011, I had no idea where to find new mom friends. I remember going to the park that spring and looking longingly at a group of moms with older kids, wondering “When will I find my crew?”
I decided, I’d have to build my own. So I literally started just walking up to random Roscoe Village moms with babies about Griffin’s age (that were clearly out for a walk and some fake social engagement in the form of barista banter) and invited them to the park with me. One time, we literally picked up 6 women en route. A few of the friendships stuck and we planned a playdate here and there.
But the process was clunky and awkward. Text exchanges would be miles long as we tried to figure out dates that work, nap schedules, food allergies, comfort level with dogs (and dog hair), and when husbands would or would not be there. In the end it would often be easier just to meet at the park…until September. Then we were out of luck.
This challenge, shared by families all over (but especially in our office of parents), is why we have expanded our vision for Pearachute.
When we initially launched the platform in early 2016, we started with a “ClassPass for Kids” concept, hoping to make it easy for the parents of babies and toddlers to discover and book great activities in their cities. We always knew we would grow with our members, introducing new activities and classes as the children aged up. But what we didn’t anticipate is how much the world would expand when we started to look at the much broader category of family entertainment.
From theme parks to movies to concerts, American families spend about $70B each year on entertainment and hobbies. This is exclusive of the $30B they spend on their kids’ sports and enrichment programs. And it’s only getting bigger.
The simple truth is that Millennial parents are busier than previous generations (more dual working parents than ever before), and we want to spend more meaningful time with our children. We have 27 hours each weekend to play, learn, enrich, and snuggle with our kiddos, and we care more about investing in that time than buying a home.
We spend 50% more time with our kids than their grandparents did, and we’re looking for meaningful activities to create lasting memories.
But we’re also inspiring an entirely new chapter of social engagement. Our Alpha generation kids will be the most photographed and shared generation yet. They’ll have a social media history often older than they are (thanks to all those ultrasound pics).
And while nearly all have tablets, few will have phones before the recommended age of 11-13, leaving millions of children with a strong social desire to connect with their friends dependent on their parents for coordinating those activities.
That’s really where we see massive opportunity for Pearachute. Our new activity feed is step one in helping parents quickly and easily see what their friends’ children are doing after school and this weekend, so they can effortlessly join them without tons of back and forth text messages or coordinating who will host or pay for the activity.
With a couple of clicks, parents notify each other that their kids are joining in on the fun, turning a 45 minute taekwondo class into an impromptu playdate you can book the day of.
We know this won’t fix things overnight for lonely new parents. But we do believe that over the next few years, when people ask parents how they met their new family besties, an enthusiast “Pearachute!” will be a popular refrain…very different than the sheepish “Tinder” we give when talking about our spouses.