When it comes to modern parenting, mothers are the necessity of invention.
There is an avalanche of smartphone apps created by parents designed to make child-rearing easier, more efficient or more fun.
Out of the 2 million apps available in the leading app stores, thousands target the demographic of busy parents -- especially moms, who make many of the household purchasing decisions.
Some of the more interesting ones were also created by moms who had run into a parenting challenge they wanted to solve for themselves.
For example: One Texas mom was tired of her teen ignoring her texts and calls. So she developed Ignore No More -- an app that remotely shuts down a child's phone until he or she calls the parent for a passcode to unlock it. Another mom created ParentBlocked, which allows parents to block a teen's texting capabilities while they're driving.
Three St. Louis-area moms recently took on the proliferation of expensive extracurricular activities for children. Many parents are familiar with the frustration that arises when a child expresses great enthusiasm for a sport or activity, but then loses interest before the season or semester has ended. These three moms have launched a site that allows children to try a variety of activities and lessons for a flat fee of $99 per month.
The idea surfaced when they reconnected at a mutual friend's birthday party last year. They were all working professionals in pivotal points in their corporate careers, and all looking to make a change. They formed a company a month later.
They are launching Kidzxplor.com in August, as a way to make scheduling kids' activities easier and cheaper overall. A child can take classes or lessons from about 40 different providers without having to make a months-long commitment to any of them. While only in the St. Louis area for now, the founders are hoping to expand Kidzxplor to other markets soon.
The idea is modeled after ClassPass, a fitness startup that gives members access to a variety of fitness studios and classes for a month-to-month fee. Angela Sandler, one of the Kidzxplor founders, asked why parents couldn't schedule their kids' activities the way she could sign up for fitness classes on her phone.
The women turned that idea into reality.
Another one of the founders, Stephanie Saur, is an attorney and mother of two daughters in grade school. She said she didn't realize how much money was going out the door on her daughters' extracurriculars until she got a monthly statement for their music lessons. By joining Kidzxplor, customers pay $99 per month for the first child and $59 for siblings, and their children can take an unlimited number of classes, such as gymnastics, swimming or dance, from any of the providers. It operates on a month-to-month basis without any long-term commitment.
"Parents are strapped time-wise and strapped financially," Sandler said. The entrepreneurs are betting that a solution that made sense in their lives will be valuable to other parents, as well.
Given the rise of digital parenting, it may prove a smart strategy.
There are apps to track your newborn's every bowel movement and nap, ones that turn your phone into a baby monitor, others that keep track of kids' activities and organize family schedules. You can get recipe ideas based on what's in your fridge and pantry, keep track of a chore chart or potty train via phone. You can hunt for babysitters, find coupons, track your teens, locate nearby playgrounds, archive your kids' artwork and store family medical information using a phone app.
It's the double-edged sword of new tech: It takes time to help us save time.
And app developers are hoping to turn parental convenience into a profitable business model.