Ten months ago I left my career to stay home with my two young boys. As it turns out, everything you’ve heard about being a stay-at-home-mom is true. It’s exhausting, rewarding, and isolating all at once. It’s the most challenging job I’ve ever had, and my two little bosses are relentless in their demands, with numerous periods of emotional distress each day. Heck, sometimes each hour! They need constant handholding and reassurance. And my new co-workers… Well, they don’t exist. There is no coffee talk, lunch break, afternoon stretch, or happy hour. It’s two little children and me. ALL day long. Sure, we chat about lava floors, what dinosaurs eat, and who is the king of cheese (it’s my 4-year-old, currently). But our conversations leave much to be desired as far as real-life content. Enter, the Marco Polo smartphone application.
Marco Polo is a video chat app that allows you to send short or long rambling video messages to others. It’s like Skype and texting all rolled into one, but much faster. Unlike Skype, FaceTime, or (gasp) an actual phone call, it doesn’t require the other person to be on at the same time. Users can play, re-play, and reply to video messages as their schedule allows.
Initially, I used the app to communicate with my husband, who works outside of the home 10+ hours a day. I can send him quick videos of what the kids are doing, what cute new word the toddler is trying to say, or let the preschooler record a message to him. The latest urgent communication to Daddy was to let him know that he was going to eat ice for breakfast, “because it’s so yummy.”
I quickly realized how convenient the communication style was and asked (err, demanded) that my best friend back home in Wisconsin download the app so that we could stay in touch better. A few months into loving our newfound re-connection, I told my local friend circle about it. Sharing technology with others will always bring me back to the late ’00s when I had to break it to my older sister that Myspace was a dead form of communication, and that it was time to join Facebook. I’m not a trendsetter by any means, but I like to see others succeed when it comes to technology. So I was super pumped when two of my closest SAHM friends joined Marco Polo this fall. My people! People spending all day at home with the tiny army that they created, and no other adult in sight, just like me! So, obviously, I set up a group chat between the 3 of us and sent them a hello video.
These days, a normal weekday at home with the kids includes a couple of video chats with these SAHM friends. Or if it’s a particularly hard week (ahem, polar vortex 2019: cabin fever), we might chat hourly to survive until dinnertime. We talk about what’s for dinner, hair (or how many days it has been since we washed it), fashion, holiday and birthday party stress, our goals, our lack of motivation, Target runs, and of course, our children and families. If I’m having a really challenging day with the kids, I know who I can open up to. If I’m having a great day with the kids, I know who I can share it with. And even if our various moods never perfectly align, we share what our day is looking like. We are honest, tired, and rarely groomed for a video camera. But who cares?!
In Marco Polo, we are the most organic versions of ourselves. Nothing primed for Instagram. Nothing picture perfect. Just real life, here is what I look like when no one is looking. This is my messy hair, here is the long-sleeved green t-shirt I sleep in (and often wear well into the morning hours when we don’t have preschool drop-off), this is my messy kitchen counter clutter pile, and oh and here’s a zit I just got from monthly hormones.
It might sound silly, but this little app has brought me so much comfort and happiness. On those long winter days, stuck home with sick kids, or bad weather, I used to feel alone and isolated from other adults out in the world. Now I just hop on Marco Polo and find my people, waiting there with their beautiful smiles and messy hair.
Another must-have app for #MomLife is Google Calendar. Let’s be honest, like many moms, I run my house! I’m in charge of schedules for holidays, celebrations, appointments, preschool, meetings, and all things related to our two boys and myself. I could not keep my head on straight if I didn’t use Google Calendar to track our schedules, and most importantly, communicate with my husband. Our calendars are synced so that I can see his, and he can see mine. I can see when he has upcoming work trips. I can add birthday parties and send him an email invite to add the event to his calendar. I add addresses for events, and then can easily pull it up in Google Maps on the day of the event.
I put everything in Google Calendars; including special notes on certain dates that I need to remember to reach out to loved ones. We keep everything current so the other person can always see what’s going on, weeks and months in advance. It has been a game changer for managing our household. We have far fewer (almost zero) schedule miscommunications now.
My third sanity-saving app is one I’m sure you’ve heard of, Audible, the app with the largest selection of audio books. Listen, I want to be the kind of person who reads real, physical books. It seems nice! But my paperback repertoire lately includes mostly Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Bill Martin, Jr. and its exotic follow up, Panda Bear, Panda Bear. However, give me some earbuds and I am ready to consume literature!
My typical listen is a book about child development or self-improvement. I have a degree in accounting, so when I left my career to raise my boys full time I felt very inept in my new situation. Okay, let’s be 100% real, I still feel clueless about parenting most days, but reading up on different child development topics makes me feel more in control of the chaos that is raising small children. I listen to audio books while I fold laundry, unload the dishwasher, shop for groceries, or drive anywhere alone. It helps me disconnect from the mundane tasks, and connect to something more mentally stimulating.
It’s strange to think of the technological advances that I’ve seen in my short 35 years. From wall connected cord phones, to tiny wireless cellular phones that work in the middle of nowhere… It truly is mind-blowing to think of the options we have now. My personal goal is to put tech to good use while trying to stave off the screen addiction. If I can use apps to feel less alone, more organized and informed, then I feel like I’m winning at this whole tech game.