One night recently, I scooped up sliced meats and cheeses that were waiting for me in a bin at the deli. As I did this, I gave a sympathetic look to a frazzled woman in a business suit who was waiting her turn to order while a child screamed in her cart. I wondered why this mom hadn't used the amazing time-saving, free Publix Online Ordering app that has cut at least a half hour out of my own grocery shopping time.
Today's smartphones have led to the development of hundreds of thousands of mobile apps that can make working mothers' work and home lives run more smoothly. But sorting through them is no simple feat. In celebration of Mother's Day, I have asked working mothers to share the apps they use for better work/life balance.
Being a mom and business owner can be a challenge. Liliana Paez runs two businesses, travels at least once a month for work, and raises two children, ages 4 and 6. This supermom uses Dragon Dictation, a free app that uses voice recognition to type text messages, create emails or compile to-do lists on the go. She says the simple app allows her to get business done from her car without touching her screen. Paez is sales and marketing director at Key International, a Miami real estate sales company, and CEO of Global Smart Products, a company that sells innovative products through infomercials. Paez regularly needs to meet with manufacturers abroad or designers in cities across the United States. She uses the GoToMeeting app on her iPad (free and paid versions available): "I can see what the other person has on his computers, where their mouse goes and we can talk in detail about renderings." She says using the app helps her avoid extra business travel – time she now can spend with family.
In many homes, moms handle the family finances. Tammie Purow balances her job as a Miami trusts and estates attorney with being the mother of twin 15-year-old boys and twin 11-year-old girls. To keep organized, she uses Bill Keeper. The free app allows her to manage and track bills and reminds her when a payment is due. "As I pay the bill, I check it off on the app," Purow says. She finds Bill Keeper also helps her keep in her budget: "I usually try to pay a bill a day so at the end of the month, I don't get overwhelmed. I look at what's next on the list and pay it from my phone."
For moms who work from home, there are apps to help stay connected to the office. Merci Suarez, mother of two and a young hands-on grandmother of two, runs her husband's pediatric office in Pembroke Pines from home as often as possible. "I tend to use every app that is office-related so I don't have to drag my rear end to the office," Suarez says. One of her favorites is Adobe Reader mobile app, (free) Pro Edition ($4.99), which allows access to pdf files on the go. Suarez will open a file, make changes, highlight sections, sign it with a finger and fax or email it back to the sender from her phone. She also uses the free CamCard app to photograph business cards and quickly store the information in her phone and other devices: "If I can find an app that gives me back a few minutes that I can invest in my family, I'm happy."
Moms who commute are discovering that apps that cut down drive time are great finds. Vivian Conterio, a Homestead mother of an 11-year-old daughter and a marketing director at Cool de Sac children's entertainment center, commutes – often 30 miles a day – for her job. She relies on Waze, a free mapping, traffic and navigation app. Waze gives directions, but it also allows users to share accident and road information in real time, making it easier to avert traffic jams and congestion. "It's my lifesaver for not getting lost and knowing how long it will take me to get anywhere," Conterio says. She also relies on the free service, IFTTT.com. "If this then that" allows users to connect different apps and sites to create their own "recipe" or action they want their media channels to perform. Conterio has created a recipe that will automatically send photos from her gmail to a Dropbox folder.
Some mothers turn to apps to save their sanity or stay focused on goals. Rushing into client meetings, accountant/mom Susan Marquet would fish around in her purse for change for parking meters – and pull out pacifiers instead. She says the PayByPhone app has changed her life. To use it, she set up an account, entered her license plate, location and how long she wants to park. "The best part is you can be at a restaurant, tap the icon and extend your time without having to leave and go to the meter," she says. Julie Vessel, a director of talent at an advertising agency and mother of three young children, uses an iPhone app she developed called Intention Reminder (99 cents) to keep her sanity and her goals top of mind. Vessel creates a visual intention of her goals with photos and words. She then set reminders throughout the day for her intention to pop up on her phone screen. "Given I have my phone with me 24/7, this app allows me to stay mindful in a really easy way."
Of course, working mothers know the best uses of applications often are for tempering frustration levels. Paula Rizzo, as founder of Listproducer.com, hates wasting time on hold to get through to customer services representatives – the bane of most busy working mothers. She uses the free Fast Customer app, which links into many companies and navigates through phone trees. She also says that the free TalkTo app is one of her favorites: With it, she can communicate with any business across the country to find out if there's an item in stock, what the price is, or to make an appointment. Instead of trekking all the way to the grocery store after work, hoping they have, say, golden beets, she just sends a text – even if the business is closed. Rizzo says TalkTo will get back to her when the store reopens.
Last, for working mothers like me whose teens drive, tracking apps such as Sprint Family Locator ($5 a month), Find My Friends (free) and Life360 (free or $4.99 a month for non-smartphones) offer some peace of mind while at work with your teen (or parent) on the road. Of course, it's never enough.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Cindy Krischer Goodman is CEO of BalanceGal LLC, a provider of news and advice on how to balance work and life. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her columns and blog at http://worklifebalancingact.com/.
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