How Innovation Grows Out Of Necessity
Updated: Dec 17, 2020
Confessions of a helicopter mom
I always wanted to be a mom. But like nearly every dream in my adult life, it seemed like others achieved it with ease, while I struggled. So like the rest of my goals, I persevered -- overcoming three miscarriages and eventually having two beautiful, healthy children. My overachiever tendencies that colored my education and career now influenced my parenting. This was the most important job in my life, so I had to do it as perfectly as I could. When I spent time with my kids, I wanted to teach and inspire, protect their health and safety, and be focused on them in the moment -- at all times ready to respond to their questions, needs and desires. It was exhausting and ridiculous.
When my kids were involved in activities, I wanted to be there for all of it - either as a coach, scout leader, or just cheering them on whether it was games and performances or practices and rehearsals. I refused to take a break from my kids, with only a couple exceptions.
I worked two days a week in a career I loved, and coordinated those days around my kids' schedule. When I was working as a reporter, I wanted my kids to be with someone who was just as attentive as I was. We went through at least six nannies to find the right one.
My kids also spent one day a week visiting grandparents, who doted on them like I did. I spent that day paying bills, cleaning, organizing, scheduling and all the other tasks needed to run a household. When my kids got older and we needed more money, I used that day to develop a side hustle that grew into my real estate business.
The crash that shattered work life balance
I did these things because that was the kind of motherhood journey I always wanted. I never felt pressured, and I loved this lifestyle. My mom friends who worked full time, and my mom friends who stayed home with kids, both told me they envied my part-time schedule that allowed me to keep my career and still enjoy all the stay-at-home mom perks like spontaneous trips to the zoo, mommy and me classes, and volunteering at their school.
The problems came when the real estate market crashed and the recession decimated our income, my business, our savings and eventually our entire financial stability. My husband lost his job, which was eventually replaced by part-time work that paid a fraction of his previous salary. I suddenly had to devote many hours a day to trying to save my business, keep our home and avoid bankruptcy. I tried to do all this while still spending the same amount of time with my kids.
At first, I was able to cut back on sleep and work late into the night while my kids were in bed. Then I cut back on other things like organizing and cleaning; I'd rather have a house that was cluttered and dirty than no house at all. Both my husband and I spent many fruitless months trying to find full-time jobs at a time when the rest of the country was out of work and struggling too.
"Though the helicopter mom in me was nervous as hell trusting my kids with anyone but family, I had to rely on friends and even some people I barely knew -- cajoling other moms to watch my kids and asking coaches to drive them home."
The breakdown that turned it around
Despite these efforts, it wasn't enough. For the first time since I had kids, I didn't think there was a solution to this problem -- and the concept froze me in my tracks. I shut down and didn't eat, talk or hardly move an entire weekend. After three days, something reached into my pit of despair and pulled me out with the promise of a plan. I came up with an idea to turn around our situation by working with the banks to bring my business back from the precipice. It would require a lot more time and a lot more effort, but I grew more confident with each passing day it would work.
Yet I couldn't devote that additional time to turning around our financial hardship without finding someone else to supervise my kids after school and drive them to their activities. I couldn't afford to hire anyone to do this, so I leaned on others to help out.
I was suddenly the mom who couldn't volunteer for the team or even make it to practice. Though the helicopter mom in me was nervous as hell trusting my kids with anyone but family, I had to ask the other moms and -- gasp -- even the coach to drive my kids home. (One last minute plea was accompanied by an inquiry about the coach's driving record, to which he replied: "Back off, lady. I'm doing you a favor." Yikes! This was a new normal that would take a while getting used to.)
Reliable and free sometimes equals guilt and shame
After four long years of digging ourselves out of a very deep hole, there was light at the end of the tunnel that we had weathered the worst financial storm we had ever faced. But the overwhelmingly difficult and time-consuming journey had wreaked havoc in other areas of my life. My home had turned into a clutter catastrophe because of the lack of time I had to organize and clean.
After a lot of soul searching and attempts to use various tactics to conquer my new problem, I came to the conclusion that the only way to declutter a household with bigger kids and more stuff and two businesses run from home was to get a bigger house. This was no easy feat and required that I swallow my pride yet again and reach out for help. It took a lot of time to search and negotiate to find an amazing deal on another house and then sort and purge and pack up all our belongings. I couldn't possibly justify paying someone to watch and drive my kids while I did work that didn't generate income, so I leaned on my dad and stepmother more than one day a week.
I was grateful I had parents who were willing to help, but it came with emotional baggage I put on myself. I felt shame that I had gotten into this mess in the first place, and I felt guilt that I couldn't spend as much time with my kids as I wanted to. I reflected the guilt and shame I felt about not meeting my own expectations on those I loved, by blaming my husband despite the fact that our situation wasn't anyone's fault.
The hamster wheel that never stops
After a couple more years of stress and self-criticism, we finally settled in to a bigger house with no clutter and a much-needed sense of calm and relief. Life was still busy. We still had challenges. But I was more confident than ever that I could slay any dragon that came my way.
So when the next year started to become a daily frenzy of driving back and forth to my children's school, which was now further away and the site of way too many afternoon and evening activities, I knew I had to coordinate carpools to reduce my two-hour-a-day average I was spending as the teenage taxi service. These two hours were impacting my ability to serve clients in order to pay off the debt of my two businesses, which I still needed to maintain to pay our bills in addition to my five part-time jobs.
During this period, I was happy I got to know other moms who lived nearby and had kids in the same activities and were open to forming carpools. By taking turns with the driving, it enabled me to focus on building up my businesses and lowering my debt until it was paid off completely. But I was frustrated by the seemingly endless string of emails, texts and calls to make complicated arrangements among a group of families whose schedules were more packed than a freeway at rush hour.
There just was Never. Enough. Time. It's a refrain all the exhausted moms shared with each other without even uttering a word. We could relate to every shake of a head, shrug of a shoulder and roll of an eye that signaled we were all equally overwhelmed.
The proverbial light bulb moment
In the midst of parenting two teens who were in four bands, two choirs, private piano and voice lessons, theater, speech, color guard, track and scouts, I was covering a conference focused on innovative ideas that had disrupted industries, like Uber and Airbnb. The moderator said the key was solving a big problem for a critical target audience you understood.
The audience I knew so well were all the busy, exhausted and overwhelmed suburban moms. Their problem was simple: They didn't have enough time to do everything they needed to do, let alone get to the things they wanted to do. But I couldn't imagine there was any way to solve their problem, because there was no way to create more than 24 hours in a day.
Or was there?
I had experienced various periods in my life when I desperately needed more time to accomplish a critical goal that could mean the difference between success and failure: Saving my business. Getting a bigger house. Digging out of debt.
Each time, someone had given me a critical gift of time by watching or driving my kids. Sometimes it was family. Sometimes it was friends. Sometimes it was acquaintances in my community. I was grateful for all of them. Because of them, I had time away from my children to focus on a goal that made a huge difference in my life when I accomplished it.
Sharing the gift of time
I realized it was possible to give moms more time by watching and driving their kids. Moms could focus on something they needed to do -- or wanted to do -- by themselves when they were away from kids. Even an hour or two, here and there, would add up to less stress and more productivity. But I remembered the guilt I felt when I grudgingly sought help. I wanted to give moms this gift of time without any emotional baggage attached.
That's when I realized the beauty of creating a childcare exchange system that rewards moms with points whenever they provide care and encourages them to spend those points when they need a break. I always felt guilty asking other moms to help me, unsure if I had really paid back those favors enough times. This system would insure there would be no such guilt or resentment; moms would only receive favors when they had given favors themselves.
But how would moms who were so busy be able to watch and drive someone else's kids? The answer is simple. If a mom is already at home supervising her kids, it's not much extra effort to have another child or two at her house and oversee all the kids. In fact, children tend to stay entertained on their own for longer periods of time when they are with other children. By the same token, if a mom is driving to school to pick up her own kids, it would be convenient and quick to pick up someone else's kids at the same time and bring them home to the same neighborhood where they all live.
My new passion and purpose
The complicated part is knowing when and where each mom is available. That's when I realized an app, which can collect and share this schedule information, was the perfect antidote. The lives of busy moms are a complicated puzzle, and algorithms and technology are designed to solve such puzzles in seconds without hours of emails, texts and phone calls.
And that's how MomSub was born. Out of my necessity to finally reach out for help, my gratitude that others who stepped up made a meaningful difference in my life, and my desire to deliver this same gift without any emotional burden to other moms. I want to give all of these things to moms who join MomSub.
Whether you already have a great group of mom friends who do favors for each other, or you are desperately looking to meet more mom friends, MomSub can help you coordinate childcare among moms you know, or moms you get to know, right in the palm of your hand.