It Takes a Robot Village: Modern Tools for Working Parents

In the digital age, we have come to rely on apps to deliver our goods on demand: rides, movies, deliveries, restaurant and travel reservations. 

Finally, this trend is extending to services that cater to busy working parents. Some of the newest companies are helping busy moms and dads meet their biggest challenges by stepping in to fill valuable family roles:

UrbanSitter sign up page


Care.com and Sittercity are great databases of babysitters and nannies with service that takes the legwork out of finding possible childcare providers to screen and interview. 

Urban Sitter dials deeper and leverages your social networks to identify sitters who are already connected to someone you know. The new app Trusted goes the extra mile of listing sitters who are fully vetted and trained and ready to go, right now. You can find and hire someone to watch your children with as little as 2.5 hours’ notice.

Perfect for filling in when your regular provider can’t make it, or when your child has to stay home from school at the last minute. Available only in San Francisco at this time, Trusted has plans to expand to other cities.

Normandy Elementary School app

School Liaison

If you are not a social media user yet, consider signing on so that you can further your connection with your children’s schools. A busy working parent may not have time to attend events during the school day, but with enough notice, you may be able to schedule in advance so that you can see your son’s chorus performance or volunteer to guide your daughter’s class through an Hour of Code.

Schools are using Twitter, Facebook, and even Instagram in addition to their weekly e-newsletters (which you should read!) more and more, hoping to reach more parents. They are even making use of smartphone apps like Paperless PTOHomeworkNow and School Apptitude to push notifications and alerts directly to parents.


Other parents scoffed when people started to use Uber or Lyft to pick their kids up from school (even though the age minimum is 18) and take them to after-school sports practices or daycare facilities, or even get them to school when their usual transportation failed.

But the idea has taken hold and led to a few startups, like Shuddle and Zum, both San Francisco-based, and HopSkipDrive in Los Angeles, that are dedicated rideshare services for children. Drivers are vetted and insured both as drivers and childcare providers. Rides have to be scheduled at least eight hours in advance, but these services claim to be more reliable than your average carpool.

With Zum you can choose add-ons, like creating a rideshare pool, or even having the driver stay with your child during her activities.

HelloFresh meal boxes

Grocery Shopper

HelloFresh and Blue Apron are services that send you a box of fresh, healthy ingredients and the recipes that guide through how to turn those ingredients into meals. Basically, they’ve done the grocery shopping for you. Personally, this is my most time consuming and least favorite life task, not to mention parenting task.

Smiling Tummy, launching this month, was designed with little kids in mind: think mac & cheese or spaghetti & meatballs, but made with fresh organic vegetable purees. You can upgrade Grocery Shopper to full Chef by ordering the meals already made from places like Fresh Diet or Paleta, which promises (from what I have tasted, rightly so) delicious organic gourmet meals and pressed juices in California, Nevada, and Arizona.

And now there’s a service that will pre-make your kid’s lunch, too: Scrumpt. Sure, you can buy him hot lunch at school, but that would be too easy, plus you have more control over what is served when you send lunch from home. Scrumpt lunch kits are available nationwide.

Johnson Johnson workout app


Ask any working mom or dad what suffers when they added kids to the mix and they will likely tell you sleep or fitness. Unfortunately, you can’t robot-sleep. But fitness is still possible to fit into a busy day if you tailor it to your lifestyle. No time for the gym or a run because you’ve got to relieve your babysitter?  

Work out at the office or at home with an app or YouTube video series designed for short workouts on your mobile device. You can fit it in anywhere. BeFit’s GO Series brings a 15-minute high-intensity workout to YouTube, and Johnson and Johnson’s free 7-minute workout app is a no brainer. Everyone can find seven minutes.

beampro telepresence robot


Okay, so that technology isn’t available yet, even in San Francisco. But you can at least send a mobile, virtual version of yourself into a conference room at work when you’re not even in the building because your child has a random day off from school and you’re working from home today.

Starting at about $2,000, Beam, a “telepresence robot,” allows you to be present, face-to-face, in that meeting at the office with a mounted, mobile screen, two cameras, and several microphones. Who says you can’t be in two places at one time?

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