Parenting Apps Are Ruining My Life

by Melissa L. Fenton
Caiaimage/Paul Viant / Getty Images

This morning when I woke up, I had no less than 15 emails about whose turn it was to bring snacks to the high school soccer game tonight. Yep, you read that right, snacks for high school soccer players, but we’ll get back to that in a minute. I also had about 10 emails about a change in location for my middle schooler’s basketball practice.

After those, I had an automated email from a homeroom mom that included a link to the website SignUp Genius, where I needed to go create an account and sign up to bring food to a teacher luncheon. Below that one, I had three emails generated from the school’s learning management software, complete with file attachments that included weekly homework assignments for my fifth grader, as well as a link I needed to login with to check quarterly report cards. If I wanted to check the high school grade portal, that’s an entirely different login and process.

Stay with me here, because I’ve only just begun.

After that was a slew of “TeamSnaps” and “Ringya” email updates, where I had the delightful opportunity to read 20 parent “reply to all” answers, and a link to login so I can update with my own answer. Oh, I cannot wait to join this 20+ person email thread!

Did I mention I think I suffer from something I’d like to call “login fatigue?”

Then I picked up my phone. Big. Mistake. Lined up on the screen were tons of automated texts reminding me of all the things. All of them. One after the next after the next. Hey team mom, I GET IT! Granola bars tomorrow for the high school soccer team with NO NUTS. I’m on it!

Last, but not least, was a text from my son at college saying he needed laundry money added to his university card account. Why yes! Of course, there’s an app for that, because expecting a 19-year-old to go to an ATM machine and then get quarters to wash his clothes is sooooo 2010. I mean, what the hell is cash anyway? It’s a Venmo world, baby! Join the fun!

Except none of this is fun.

It’s suffocation via technology.

Modern parenting, and all of its accompanying child management apps, portals, and communication software programs, have taken over my life. I’m guessing they have taken over yours, too. And it’s simply impossible (and maybe even recklessly defiant) to go without them.

I know this because I’ve tried. I boldly refused to give the baseball team mom my email address when she approached me and asked for it at a game. “I get too many emails so, no thanks. You will have to contact me another way.” Bitchy? Probably, but I was taking a stand for my mental health’s sake, and preventing myself from email rage for the next two months of the season. “Just print me out the snack, practice, and game schedule and that is all I need,” I told her. Imagine that? A paper schedule that I can add to my paper planner, and poof! It’s actually still possible to do and remember things without the pings, dings, and rings!

For large families, the curse of kid management software just multiplies, as each kid may have as many as 3-4 different contact apps for their activities. And to add insult to your assumed cluelessness, each parent will be receiving the same communications, but can also have their own personal logins. At the end of last semester, my husband and I almost started divorce proceedings over the fact neither of us could remember the academic portal login, or the security questions we set up in case that very thing happened. An explosive argument over what my first car was ensued, and ended with slamming doors and us not knowing if our kid passed 8th grade math. Don’t we live in great times?

How did our parents manage to get us places when we had to be there, and how as kids did we manage not to starve to death after school because nobody had snacks? Come to think of it, I don’t even remember my mother having a wall calendar or a personal planner back in the 80s, and yet I never missed a game or a practice. Maybe it’s possible that, because her mind wasn’t clouded with 50 open tabs, hundreds of lists and decisions to make, 50 different logins and passwords, and a bunch of different retail and social media accounts, it was empty enough to remember on Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays I had ballet class — no Goldfish crackers needed.

And maybe the other fact was that I remembered too. My kids seems to have no sense of schedules now, mainly because I think they depend on the technology to remind us of everything and, therefore, they don’t need to. We have become reminder dependent to the extreme, and even get pissed when our email (which we now allow bots to read) fails to talk and sync with our iCal, which doesn’t sync with the family’s iCal, which means nobody knows WTF is going on half the time. All these ways to remind us, and all of these advanced and presumably time-saving apps and ways to ensure we do what we have do, and still nobody remember shit because we’re all drowning in virtual post-it notes.

Which begs the question, can we just go back to actual paper post it notes to remind us of things? And while we’re at it, can someone call Franklin Covey and tell him to crank up the dayplanner machine? I say we all rebuke these planning software tools, pile in the agenda time machine, pull out our Hello Kitty gel pens, and show everyone it’s absolutely possible to manage all the things via pen and paper — no login, password, email, or any type of account required.