Most moms have massive daily to-do lists, and the hours spent chauffeuring the kids back and forth from school, the soccer field, the ballet studio, play rehearsal (then back to the ballet studio to retrieve a lost phone), and countless playdates can become overwhelming. No one knows this better than an L.A. mom like me, who is forever navigating impossibly-congested freeways and winding canyons to get from school to activities to home for dinner.
True story: I once had to explain a tear rolling down my cheek to a bewildered 8 year-old by uttering, “Everything’s fine, honey, it’s just… mommy’s crying because of traffic.”
Like a mirage in the desert, ‘Uber for Kids’ apps have cropped up— similar to Uber or Lyft but with some peace-of-mind perks. They let you conveniently schedule rides for your kids whenever you aren’t available to take them yourself (because you’ve got a work conflict, or you’re still rocking in the corner from yesterday’s shuttle situation). Of course, entrusting your kid to a complete stranger might make any mom squeamish — so we spoke to some that have tried the services to see what they had to say.
Mara Naiditch, Director of Marketing at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, is using HopSkipDrive this summer to get her daughters, ages 8 and 11, home from drama camp. She was admittedly a little nervous at first. “We did get my older daughter a cell phone one year earlier than planned just so she could reach us,” she said. “But after the first ride, when we saw how much HopSkipDrive communicates with us throughout the whole process, any anxiety we had quickly went away.”
Compared to Uber and Lyft, ride apps for kids offer a high level of security as part of the the service. HopSkipDrive in particular is known for its rigorous screening process. All “CareDrivers” (nice moniker) must have at least five years of childcare experience and must pass a 15-point certification process, which includes background checks, fingerprinting, and extensive interviews.
“We had looked into finding a sitter who could pick the girls up, but were concerned about consistency and all aspects of safety,” Naiditch explained. “We felt better about using a service where the drivers are screened… and therefore understand how precious the cargo is that they’re transporting.”
According to Naiditch, most of the drivers she encountered were women, moms and grandmothers. A well-screened driver with maternal instincts? I can get behind that.
What’s more, HopSkipDrive uses software to monitor the driver’s speed and conduct (i.e. whether they text while driving your child around), an amenity that Xiaoyun Wang, a mom of two, who uses the app praised highly in an online review of the company: “[HopSkipDrive] sends me a picture and bio of the driver and a picture of the car when my driver is confirmed,” Wang said. “I receive texts when the driver leaves to pick-up my kids, when they get to the location, when the kid is in the car, and when the kid is dropped off. You can also track the car from pickup to drop off.”
Not only does this extensive communication sound like it would put my mind at ease, but it would help with timing too— if traffic holds them up for any reason, you can let the dance teacher know ahead of time, without the driver having to make a call while driving.
If you think a ride-sharing app has the potential to make your family’s life a little easier, be sure to check out what options are available for your particular area. And be aware that certain ride-sharing apps offer more services than others.
For example, Pogo sources rides from the community. It has a unique route-matching tool to help you find parents within your trusted groups that are going to and from the same locations (i.e. your kid’s school, summer camp, soccer team practice, etc.) who are interested in carpooling. Kristin Wennberg, mom of a 13-year-old, has been using the app with three other families as a central place to schedule daily carpools to and from.
“Before we started using Pogo, we were all text messaging each other and I was about to lose my mind,” Wennberg said. “I needed an app to help us juggle different schedules and that would alert us to last minute changes.”
Word, Kristin. I’m fairly certain the carpool group message is worse than waterboarding.
Another popular app, Zum, goes beyond the traditional ride-sharing concept, offering babysitting services or will stay with your child at the extracurricular activity rather than merely dropping them off.
For younger kids, this white glove delivery would be a must.
Until moms figure out how to be two places at once (which, let’s face it, if anyone could figure that out it would be us moms), ‘Uber for Kids’ apps like the ones above can make life easier by shuttling our precious cargo promptly and safely to wherever they have to go.
Sometimes you need a sitter, but really sometimes you just need a driver. Would you use one if it meant reclaiming some of your sanity (and saving money)?
Let me know in the comments.