Take a moment and think about each of the times that you used your smartphone today. Maybe it helped you navigate around a traffic jam during your commute, catch up on email while you were on the train or gave you a way to communicate with a loved one far away.
Mobile technology is a blessing; the sanity of my offline world often depends on the spectacular gadget in my pocket. But I also believe that this constant access to technology leaves us incredibly vulnerable. Vulnerable to a distracted life, to incorrect priorities and to anxiety that you're missing out. So it's important to use it wisely -- in a way that enhances, rather than detracts from, life.
As a working parent, I strive to do my best both at home and at the office. Doing these two things in tandem is a juggling act at times. But more than that, it can be a juggling act that feels particularly difficult when, despite my best efforts, it is impossible to do all the things that matter to me each day. That's when the guilt trickles in, even though I know that mothers deserve the highest regard for trying to do their best, regardless of how busy each day may be.
For instance, my four-year-old asks why I don't pick her up everyday like the other mothers. It breaks my heart to hear her ask that question, so I make it a priority to be there for pick-up when school lets out every Friday and I attend both of my children's soccer games afterward. I'm able to do these things while ensuring that my work doesn't falter because technology allows me to keep an eye out for urgent emails and cheer for my kids.
This ability, to juggle with ease, feels magical to me. We can now summon, via a modern wand -- the smartphone -- life-enhancing services from the palm of our hand. And we can perform this magic whether we're on the sidelines of a soccer field, on a bus or in a conference room at the office. When used correctly, this magic is simplicity and convenience at its best, and it helps women to successfully and more happily lead busy, productive full lives.
I frequently use this type of magic to create moments of delight for my family and to inspire unplugged moments for myself, and wanted to share a few of my favorite apps:
Headspace -- to recharge after a busy day
After a busy day full of projects, people and to-do lists, Headspace helps me focus my thoughts on my family and live in the moment as much as possible. It is one of my favorite apps and has a beautifully designed meditation program that takes just 15 minutes to complete.
WhatsApp -- to stay connected with loved ones
WhatsApp offers an easy way to stay in touch with my family in Spain and France. My mother, sister and I have a running group chat that we use everyday to share small and big moments in our lives. It helps me feel closely connected to the people I love, even when there are thousands of miles between us.
Google Express -- to breeze through the chore of grocery shopping
Grocery shopping is an inevitable chore for all of us, but Google Express makes it possible to schedule grocery deliveries with just a few stolen moments on your phone. I became an avid user while living in the San Francisco Bay Area and still use the app since moving to Chicago to help my family make fewer trips to the store.
Grubhub -- to provide a freshly cooked meal even on the most hectic of days
A fridge full of fresh groceries is great, but it's not a ton of help if you don't have time to cook them. On especially busy days, we turn to Grubhub to schedule our meals for delivery up to 72 hours in advance. My husband tends to be the chef in our house, and instead of struggling in the kitchen when he needs to work late or is traveling for business, I often find myself turning to Grubhub to ensure that there'll be hot, delicious food ready for my children at mealtime.
Lyft -- to give us a ride when we don't feel like being behind the wheel
Ordering the occasional ride on-demand with Lyft when I know it will be difficult to park at my destination, or when I simply want to relax with my children in the back of the car, is a lifesaver. The service is fantastic, and we're all able to enjoy the ride together. Plus, my children like the pink moustache; it makes them laugh!
Spotify -- to spur impromptu family moments
My kids love to dance to Daft Punk and "Everything is Awesome" from the Lego Movie and this music app makes it easy to create a dance party in our living room with the push of a button. It's a fantastic example of a how tech can be embedded into beautiful moments with your family. Absolutely nothing makes me happier than these silly, spontaneous family moments that become treasured memories.
Netflix -- to entertain the kids and give me peace of mind
My husband and I enjoy watching shows together on Netflix, and the app also has a great library for kids. I've set up profiles for each of our kids, including content filtering preferences which ensure they won't see inappropriate content. This gives me peace of mind and is more relaxing for everyone, since this feature means I don't need to look over their shoulders every few minutes!
UrbanSitter -- to recommend a watchful eye during parents' nights out
I value the time spent with my children more than anything, but my husband and I also try to do one date night per week. When it's time to plan our night out, we rely on UrbanSitter to select trusted babysitters. I especially like that the app lets us search by school or community group for sitters that my neighbors recommend. The app was very helpful when we moved to Chicago a year ago, since we didn't have a large number of acquaintances living in the city to provide babysitting recommendations.
There is no doubt that it's a busy world out there for women, but the truly fantastic capabilities that smartphones provide make me very hopeful for the future. It is possible for mobile technology, although it is at times taken for granted, to be used to enhance the time spent with your family, creating moments of true and lasting joy. In the end, that's really what matters.