Using Tech to Make It Work As a Solo Mom
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Apps and sites that make single parenting easier
Back in 2011, when my ex’s aunt smilingly congratulated me on my 10th wedding anniversary and reminded me that I had only 40 more years to go to catch up with her, I started to hyperventilate. Knowing my ex and I were going to be getting a divorce, I knew it was only a matter of time before I’d have to do things on my own. And this time, I’d have a young child in tow.
Fast-forward five years: I’m living in New York City with my 11-year-old daughter, and we’re doing just fine. Yes, we have a lot of advantages here in the Big Apple, but being a Solo Mom still presents its challenges. I’ve found, however, that taking advantage of all the latest and greatest tech apps really helps make things easier in my day-to-day life. Let me share a few of my favorites with you.
The latest and greatest
UrbanSitter. I found my sitter on UrbanSitter.com, and she’s great. I was able to explain what I’m looking for and be matched up with sitters willing to work on my schedule. Bria, my sitter, posted a video that gave me more insight about her. I also read other parents’ reviews of her and was able to set up a meet and greet. She’s a student at a local college, my daughter loves her, and she’s flexible. And when Bria is not available, I’m able to find another sitter fairly quickly through UrbanSitter.com.
Square Cash. This app is one of my frequently used apps. When Bria is picking up my daughter and wants to take her out for pizza, in two clicks I can send her $5 or $10 to cover lunch. Same thing for cab rides. I pay her through this app after every few visits and even sent her Christmas bonus through the app. It’s not like PayPal, where you have to attach your bank account. All she does is put her debit-card number in when I first send her a payment, and it puts the money right in her account. It works for her so she never pays out of pocket for the little expenses, and I can keep track of how much I’m spending.
Seamless. When it comes to food delivery, this is a no-brainer. I use Seamless, but whatever food delivery service is more prevalent in your area, go with that. I order food for myself, or if I’m out and my daughter is home with the babysitter, I may order for them through Seamless. I have no shame in admitting if Seamless had a Diamond Club membership, I’d be in. One time I forgot my daughter’s lunch while she was at acting camp, so from my desk, I ordered a hot lunch to be sent to her at camp. I got cool-mom points for that.
Way2ride. Living in New York City does require a lot of cabs. With Way2ride, I can pair my phone to whatever cab I’m in and automatically send payment and get a receipt when the ride is over. No more futzing with card swiping while dragging school bags out of the cab.
Find My Friends. This may make you squeamish, but in New York City, sixth graders get the occasional privilege of going out to lunch during school, and they are allowed to go to places within a few blocks’ radius of school. This, of course, terrifies me. I agreed to allow her to participate if she promised to turn on her phone as soon as she steps out of school. She texts me to tell me she’s at lunch, and I turn on Apple’s native app, Find My Friends. I watch her remotely as she walks to the pizza place with her friends, and then she turns it off just before she goes back in the school. This has worked well so far, and it’s the only way I’d give her permission to go out for lunch with her friends.
Postmates. I will forever be grateful to Postmates for the time I was stuck at home with a sick kid, there was no food in the house, and it was pouring rain outside. I was able to post a request for toilet paper, cat litter, ginger ale, a Slurpee, and a couple of boxes of mac and cheese. Some college student (a Postmate) picked up my request and ran all over the city for me. It was the best $10 I had ever spent. Here’s how it works: you put in your credit card number, and the Postmate goes shopping for you with a Postmate card and then you’re charged after your order is delivered.
Prime Now. Amazon’s Prime Now currently is available only in select cities, but here’s what it means to have it in your town: on Christmas eve, I was able to order pet treats (I forgot to get the cat something for Christmas, and my daughter was very upset), cheese and crackers, as well as a few other odd items, and received it within two hours without a delivery charge. It’s got a $15 spending minimum, but it’s pretty awesome.
FreshDirect and Peapod. FreshDirect and Peapod are the biggies in New York City. I can order all my groceries through these services, but I just need to do it a day before I need them. The great thing is I can go through my previous orders and reorder what I need. No waiting in grocery lines with whiny kids, no impulse shopping, and if I take the time to, I can shop all the sales and clip those coupons.
LiquidSpace. I work from home and often need to meet with clients and colleagues, so I use this to find a space quickly and close to home. Sometimes my daughter is off from school and at home with the babysitter. Sometimes it gets a little tight in a New York City apartment, and I just need to focus. This app is fantastic because it lets me choose a space at the last minute and just pay for a few hours or a day.
Shyp. If I don’t feel like going to the post office, I just use Shyp. I post a pic of what I want to send, and for $5 someone comes and picks it up, packs it, and then mails it out for me using the lowest-priced service available.
Citi Bike. This isn’t specific to working moms, but it’s an app and program I use all the time. It lets me save time and money, and get a workout in. For $150 a year, I can grab a bike anywhere there’s one in the city and drop it off anywhere there’s a spot to click it in. The app lets me find available bikes. I can use the bike for 45 minutes at a time for free, and then I get charged in small incremental fees if I go over the time limit. There are plenty of ways around that (stop, click in, and click out), and you really don’t usually need a bike for longer than 45 minutes. It’s meant to go from point A to point B, not for a day tour of the city.
Many cities have their own bike programs, and I highly recommend you try them out. New York City has its own network of bike lanes to make it even safer. One big reason why I love it is that every ride taken is car exhaust that didn’t get into my child’s lungs, so I’m happy to contribute. Although my daughter can’t ride a Citi Bike yet, she knows I do, and she tells all her friends. It gives me a chance to be a good role model as well.
Roku. This isn’t an app, per se; it’s an over-the-top box I attached to my TV that lets me stream content through my Internet to my TV. I’m a huge fan of Roku, and it’s changed the way I watch TV. But Roku is an especially terrific tool for parents for several reasons:
I can control what my daughter watches. She purchases individual shows with limited commercials, and she doesn’t get to watch anything I don’t want her to see. She can rewatch a lot of the shows she likes, as kids like to do. There are also several free channels, such as MIT’s education channel. She can also stream her beloved Minecraft YouTube videos through the Roku. We also stream a lot of her shows, predominantly Disney shows, through Sling, even though sometimes the user experience is a little clunky.
I get to work out. I have Daily Burn on my Roku, and, thankfully, Beachbody finally got with the program and now streams just about all of its content for a monthly fee. I was able to retire my portable DVD player when I discovered that. I also have a ton of other options for free or purchasable workout programs. I can now mortify my tween by exposing her to my hip-hop abs workout every evening if I want.
Kid Car NY. I’m waiting for this to really take off in New York City and grow to other parts of the country. It’s exactly what parents need. It’s like Uber only with trained, vetted drivers who will pick up and drop off your child for you and have car seats ready, if needed. I tried to use it in the beginning of the year, but the company was still working things out and lining up drivers. So I’m here rooting for it because I really think we need this. There’s another one happening in San Francisco right now called Shuddle.
TaskRabbit. I have not used this app yet, but I’ve heard great things about it. If you need an IKEA bookshelf put together, for example, or something installed, you can use this app to be matched with someone who can do the requested task for you.
Being a Solo Mom in the city has its own set of hurdles to overcome. Using these tools has really helped me keep the chaos at a manageable level. Although not all of them might be available where you are, especially if you live in more rural areas, it’s a good idea to find out what technology or services are available in your area and learn how to make them work for you.
Curious how these and other apps work for other Solo Moms? Go to Sister Chat!!
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