Juggling parenting and working can be challenging – doing that when your children are in two homes is even more challenging. Thankfully, this is one area where technology can solve the most common single parenting problems.
It’s common for one parent to take on most of the responsibility for coordinating their child’s schedule, activities, transportation logistics, play-dates, doctors’ appointments and so on. It’s easy for something to fall through the cracks. It’s almost inevitable and you just hope that it isn’t anything too important. You just hope it doesn’t mean your child standing outside wondering which parent will pick them up and when.
Most of us could do with an assistant. The good news is, if you have a smartphone then you have an assistant. The technology is available to help make life as a single parent easier.
Joining me for this conversation is Priya Rajendran, a technology veteran and creator of S’MoresUp, a free iOS app that helps families manage co-parenting after divorce. Rajendran developed her app using her experience as a single parent.
Listen in below or keep reading …
The Most Important Technology Tool
Without hesitation, Rajendran says the most important technology tool she uses is the calendar.
We all have so many different calendars – one for our work, one for our social life, and at least one for your children. I say at least one because it’s quite possible that if they are involved in activities, the activity leader may publish its own calendar. Ideally you want to integrate that into your calendar app rather than having to re-enter the events.
“Managing all that and making sure that the right person is going to school to pickup or dropping the kid off at a class, that’s the most important thing,” said Rajendran. “It’s the tool that helps me the most on a day-to-day basis.”
Maybe not the most important tool, but worth mentioning, Rajendran’s favorite tool is the play-date scheduler which allows you to identify your connected families and then to streamline arranging play-dates.
“This was the biggest eye-opener for me,” said Rajendran. “It would take something like 20 text messages between me and the other moms before we could fix a time and a day.”
Get Your Ex On Board With Technology
While using the digital tools to help keep you organized is beneficial, their power is compounded when you can get your ex on board. So much about co-parenting after divorce is about good communication and keeping each other in the loop
Rajendran is fortunate. Her ex is technically savvy and has all the latest gadgets so he likes using the same digital tools.
“Before I selected something or decided that this was what I wanted to do, I actually had a conversation with him and we both together decided OK, this works,” said Rajendran. “I’m probably a little bit more organized compared to him. He was more than happy to take a solution I proposed because he knows I will do the heavy lifting.”
When you’re researching an application, you will want to make sure that it is available for the types of smartphone that you and your ex each have. Rajendran says this isn’t a big problem these days because most apps are available for both Apple and Android.
If your ex really doesn’t want to go the digital route then you can look for the app that works for you and stick with low tech for communicating with your ex.
Know The Functions You Need
Before you agree on an app and invest the time learning it and getting it set up for your family, you’ll want to make a list of all the functions you’d like in a single app. The fewer apps you’re using, the easier it’s going to be.
Coming up with the basic functions is easy but there are likely lots of adds-ons you might miss, such as making the calendar available to extended family members, access for your child, in-app chat function, expense tracking, and chore tracking. One way to tackle this is to look at the parenting apps that are available and list the functionality that each offers. You can decide what functionality matters most to you and to even prioritize them.
Agree How To Communicate
Whatever tools you and your ex decide to use, it’s still going to be important that you establish ground rules for communicating especially for urgent, time-sensitive issues.
This is especially helpful during the workday when it may be difficult to respond and when repeated texts, voicemails and emails can be intrusive. You’ll want to agree on what constitutes an urgent issue and what is non-urgent that can wait until after the work day for a response.
You might for example agree to always communicate by email (possibly through a third party app) except when it’s time sensitive when you’ll use text messages. You might also have a system where three phone calls in quick succession indicate something that needs immediate attention and can’t wait.
Involve Your Child
Digital solutions don’t just work for parents but also for children. It used to be that we’d recommend parents make a parenting-time wall calendar for each home so a child could see when they’d be at their other home but that’s changing.
“We’ve seen children as young as five interacting with our app without any problem,” said Rajendran, whose own daughter, now aged 12 has been a tester for S’MoresUp since the beginning.
That doesn’t mean these children have loaded smartphones. They may be using shared devices or iPads that they use for games with access limited to wifi only. Many children are using these devices at school for their school work so using them to check schedules is an easy transition.
Managing the amount of screen time for children is a common concern. Rajendran says it’s a constant struggle between limiting screen time and providing desirable tools.
“You can’t avoid spending time on screens so can you make it useful?” said Rajendran.
Another of Rajendran’s favorite tools in her own app is the Chores. This allows a parent and a child to agree on what chores a child is expected to do at each home. The child can then mark them off when completed and be rewarded with S’Mores.
Parents agree what the S’Mores are worth and what they can be traded-in for. This could be as simple as going to a movie or a book which would provide instant gratification. There can be some bigger items such as a ski-trip that offers a longer term incentive.
“The goal is not be sitting and reminding them, ‘Hey make your bed’ or ‘Practice your guitar,’ said Rajendran. “I want her to get into the habit of doing it for herself and because she believes she needs to do it.”
My guest of this Conversation was Priya Rajendran, a technology veteran and creator of S’MoresUp, a free iOS app that helps families manage co-parenting after divorce. Rajendran developed her app using her experience as a single parent.
Check out the free S’MoresUp app in your app store.