#49: The Egyptian-British single mum who launched a dating app for other single parents

A guest piece by Nevine Coutry, plus, the women proving that Muslim Feminism is not a paradox, and more...

Hi, I’m Alya Mooro and you’re reading The Greater Conversation, a weekly newsletter honestly addressing all aspects of life through the eyes of a Middle Eastern / third-culture / woman / human. Alternately, there’ll be some thoughts from me, or a guest piece, along with recommendations of articles, books*, podcasts and etc worth consuming. If you’ve just subscribed, welcome! If this issue was forwarded to you, add your email to join the list.

Nevine Coutry, 38, London

As any Arab woman will know, being single at a certain age is very much frowned upon (something must be wrong with you), but being divorced is a whole other story; you are damaged goods, a failure for not being able to keep a man. Divorced AND living alone in a foreign country - where norms, culture and lifestyle are very much in conflict with what we have been brought up to believe and follow - adds another layer to this.     

I am a British-Egyptian single mum and entrepreneur and have been living between Cairo and London for most of my life. A marriage, a child, a divorce, two broken bones, a global pandemic and a crumbling business later, I found myself at a pretty low point. 

This year, like many, I found myself without work, very alone, and extremely worried about how I would survive this, pay my bills, and keep my child happy and healthy. You can imagine the amount of pressure I had from family in Egypt telling me to pack up and come home; to live within the comforts and luxuries, with family around and everything at your fingertips. Their ultimate goal was me finding a new man to marry and settle down with; work being an unimportant factor in their eyes. I refused to consider that option.

Determined to stay, I decided to pursue a dream I had for years but never had the time for: creating a dating app specifically tailored for single parents. I had nothing to lose, literally. And so I spent a year of lockdown researching and making this idea come to life.

I found that 1 in 5 relationships in the UK start online and 68% of the UK population have used a dating app at one point or another, but of the over 1,400 dating sites/apps, not one is specifically for single parents. I spoke to many single parents, and they all agreed that it would be so much easier if they could meet and date other single parents, who get what it means to be a parent; with all the commitment, the struggles, and joys.

It filled me with a sense of purpose, hope and motivation. But I had one major setback: financing. I took a humble loan from the bank, but still needed investment, so I turned to my family for support. 

At first, the comments I got, especially from the male members of my family, threw me completely off guard. My older brother initially said, ‘this is so immoral, you are going to promote pre-marital sex! Haram! (which means forbidden in Islam.)’ My family had issues with how this would ‘look’ and how it wouldn’t bode well for a Muslim woman to launch a dating app.

They finally came around when I explained that this is not a hook-up app, but actually promotes the rebuilding of family units, allowing single parents to find love again and find meaningful relationships that would essentially support them and their children. With 3 million single parents in the UK, and 320 million single parent households across the globe, they started to see the potential of the app, and how it could benefit a large segment of the community.

My app, Playdate, launched this month. Unlike mainstream dating apps that rely on swiping left or right to express your interest (or disinterest) in someone, Playdate operates much like Facebook, where you can simply request to chat with someone and they can either accept your request or ignore it. No feeling of rejection or humiliation.

You can filter your matches by age, distance to you, whether or not they want more children, custody arrangements, and single parent status - separated, divorced, or widowed. It is very inclusive, with no gender or sexual orientation bias.

Added features include Babysitting, where you can sort out your childcare while arranging your date. For this, we have partnered with Bubble, the UK’s leading sitter and nanny app. We also have a ‘Date Ideas’ section which provides ideas for first dates that fit with a single parent lifestyle, and family friendly suggestions for meetups when you are ready to introduce the kids.

Playdate is available on both the App Store and Google Play. It’s free to download and use under the basic membership plan, but there is a paid Premium Membership option too, with special features like a ‘Make Invisible’ feature, where you can make yourself invisible to a specific person, such as an ex-partner, whether they are currently on the app or decide to join later, as well as video and audio messaging.

My family are now proud of what I have achieved on my own and in disbelief of how resilient and committed I have been throughout what has probably been the worst year of my adult life. I have to agree, I have surprised myself, too!

The moral of the story, as cliché as it sounds, is don’t give up on your dreams, or on yourself, despite what people say and despite what society has dictated for us. Whatever you believe in, whatever you strongly feel in your core, go after it. At all costs and by all means.

Nevine Coutry is the Founder & CEO of Playdate. Find out more about Playdate here and follow them on Twitter and Instagram. Download the app here.

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