'Scale' is one of those annoyingly overused business words but one that has been beaten into my brain due to my tech-adjacent professional past. In tech, everything is about scale - i.e. offering services to as many customers as possible with the least effort (and highest profits) possible.
Right now, parenting doesn’t scale much at all. We’ve all heard the adage about children - ‘they don’t come with a manual.’ We’re all kind of left to figure it out ourselves, with the help of friends and family who might have useful input. But maybe children and parenting could come with some more solid guidance and support, where appropriate.
Lifemin is the result of the belief that there are indeed parts of parenting that absolutely can and do scale, through the application of technology. We are part of a whole trend called ‘parent-tech’ or ‘fam-tech’ motivated by a similar belief.
When I started Lifemin, my children were 6, 6, and 9. I was out of the proverbial woods of the early years, and I had the mental space to reflect on the fact that there was so much admin that was required of parents once children start nursery/school - and I decided to do something to tackle it.
My motivations were
(1) my latent anger about the fact that I had to deal with the onslaught of requests, demands and needs related to my children, when I was in full-on career mode, and
(2) the sheer inefficiency and lack of organisation.
How could it make sense for parents across a school (or in some cases across the country) to all individually be marking their own diaries and organising themselves for the exact same tasks at the same time?
There are certainly parts of parenting that don’t scale - because every parent is different, every child is different and every parent-child dynamic is different. But even then, there *are* commonalities where it feels like efficiencies are lost. I know that in my own case, on many occasions I was blind and oblivious to the vast amount of wisdom and support on offer that could have made my experience easier.
One example was when my son, then around 9 years old, started being very disobedient, rude and downright unpleasant with his father and me. We were upset and flummoxed and for months debated what we should do. Finally we sought help from both school and private counsellors and therapists, which was all well and good and somewhat helpful.
I now with hindsight realize that the behaviour was likely largely down to simple puberty, hormones and starting to want to establish his own independence. Because he is our eldest, we were still expecting him to act like the compliant and sweet child he had been and it simply didn’t occur to us that it could be hormones, and that we needed to change how we related to him.
When I had my first, it was de rigeur to read What to Expect When You’re Expecting, and I signed up for the Babycentre pregnancy and baby calendars - the ones that would tell you what should be happening at what point. And of course there are the childbirthing/parenting courses like NCT.
But that kind of focused support sort of peters out as parents and children move beyond those initial periods of sort-of predictability (as chaotic as they are). You go back to work, your child goes to nursery, you get a nanny, they start school. The juggle starts and you don’t even have time to think about what you don’t know, and get help or advice.
It turns out there’s plenty of advice and help out there, if we just had the time and inclination to seek it out. Or perhaps if there were systems in place to help us.
There are books - for example, Galinsky’s Six Stages of Parenthood about how parenting should evolve over the life of a child (but who has time to read?). And there are counsellors and therapists (but they’re expensive and create more admin).
There are enterprises that are trying to address this, like The Fifth Trimester, which refers to the phase after maternity leave when new mothers are transitioning back into the workplace. And I’m encouraged to see my own local government and schools promoting opportunities for parents to learn skills to help with their child’s emotional development.
I don’t know of a grand solution - it feels like there should be some kind of parenting school running alongside our children’s school - required, otherwise we'll just opt out on the basis of busy-nes. But I am convinced there is plenty of room to offer more systematic support to parents to improve both children’s and parents’ quality of life.
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