Children vs. Convenience

You all know about uber, right?  It’s a sort of taxi service in which you can call up drivers via a smartphone app to pick you up and drive you places.  Well, apparently there are now uber-type options for children.  Parents who can’t or won’t arrange their work schedules in order to pick their kids up from daycare, school, or sports practice can now book complete strangers to come pick up their children and shuttle them to their next activity, all for the low, low price of $12 plus mileage (in San Francisco) or $20 (in Los Angeles).  Nothing says convenience like leaning in at work while strangers drive your children around!  Working moms can now breathe easy and stay at the office, knowing that they don’t have to make the effort to be there for their kids at the end of a long day at school and aftercare!  Strangers have got your back (for a fee)!  Of course, you have to be making enough that paying $20 and up (multiple kids are more) to have a stranger get your kids home from school is no financial burden.  If you’re making six figures, however, you now have one more inconvenient aspect of parenthood taken care of.  (Never mind that if you can afford to spend that kind of money, you probably don’t have to be working to make ends meet, in the first place–this “solution” isn’t for moms who are literally working to keep food on the table.)  You really can have it all, by paying strangers to do yet another parenting task for you!

My working mom friends who brought these brilliant start-ups to my attention sadly admitted they can’t afford to use them on a regular basis–they’ll have to stick with juggling work times with their husbands or coordinating carpools with other mothers they’ve actually met and personally vetted to pick up their precious children.  Lest you think I just don’t get the appeal, let me reassure you.  Is picking kids up from school a challenge for people who work until five?  Yes.  Are kids likely to be raped, kidnapped, or murdered by these (allegedly screened) strangers driving them home?  No.  (I often walked a mile and a half home from junior high school with no adult supervision, and Anna’s family and mine are very sympathetic to the Free Range Kids movement.)  So why does this whole idea get me so riled up?

The deeper issue that concerns me in these sorts of helping-you-have-it-all businesses is how modern parents want to make having children convenient and easy.  Except children and full-time careers don’t work together easily Children have needs all day, every day, for years and years.  Here at E2S, we advocate for moms staying home with their kids in those precious first few years, before they go off to school.  Not everyone will feel the call Anna and I do to homeschool, and once their kids are all in school, the 8-3 hours are indeed more free for career, volunteering, or hobbies.  But as kids grow older, they’re not really less time-intensive. Between soccer, ballet, and swimming for my four kids eight and under, I already have kid-related activities nearly every day this fall.  And we are a less-is-more family when it comes to extracurriculars–most working parents I know have their kids in even more activities, because they’re terrified of being home alone with bored kids, driving each other crazy.  As our kids grow older, I won’t be planning outings around naps, but I will probably be planning dinner around sports practices and piano lessons for the next couple of decades.  Kids are not particularly convenient, not now, not ever.  We don’t have kids because they’re convenient.  If your priorities are such that you don’t want to be the one picking your child up from school and asking about her day, then, indeed, HopSkipDrive is for you.  If you don’t have any interest in watching your son’s soccer practice, then sure, download the app, book a stranger to take him there, and add it to the extremely high cost of having children when you don’t do much of the work of raising them yourself.  What we do as parents is so much more than shuttling our kids to and from activities, but when you’re not even doing that, how much parenting are you actually doing?  As appealing as all these convenient solutions to modern parenting problems may be, I’m still going to advocate that you spend as much face time (not just Facetime!) with your kids as possible each day.  It is worth the inconvenience.

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