Tears. A look of concern turns to panic. That stomach-wrenching fear that grips you when “where??” becomes “lost!!” in a public place. That’s right – I was out with my 2 children, and the impossible happened. I turned around for just a second, and GONE! Gone somewhere in the enormous Liberty Science Center in New Jersey – a child-filled, stroller-laden place, bustling with multi-generational groups cramming toward the snack bar or rushing to watch the LEGO contest starting on another floor. My beloved, irreplaceable… Focus, Betsy, where were you last? Sweet MERCY, didn’t anyone see where I left my PHONE?!
It had started as an experiment. I was a diehard DayTimer user for 10+ years. I needed that tactile feel; that pocket-holding binder that held the yearlong miracle of organization I managed on behalf of my family, but I was feeling the pressure, the stares of my colleagues, the pull of “coolness” that smartphones held. As my BlackBerry went the way of Blockbuster rentals, I finally decided to make the leap. I moved my life online. I had no idea how that could really work. It felt pretty naked for a while. If I couldn’t flip through pages at my leisure, and touch and see everything, how would I really know what was going on?
It turns out that after just 3 months into my “smartphone” lifestyle, I was utterly dependent, and then despondent! What the heck do you do when you LOSE IT?! Thankfully, as I tore through the Science Center, exposing a side of myself my children never should have seen, arriving at the 4-D movie entrance we had left 15 minutes earlier, an employee recognized my rapidly incoming look of despair and held my phone up as a shield in front of her, shouting “Is this it? Did YOU lose this?” (Clearly I wasn’t the first nut job to have come tearing through the building on such a mission. That theater is apparently notorious for lost technology.)
That was 2 years ago, and I am calmer these days, knowing my info has backups elsewhere. I am also more aware of my phone’s security at all times, just in case. My phone holds the entire family’s calendar, contact lists that range from critical family members to random school acquaintances, and other key “Mom stuff” I need every day for bills, work, church and activities. I find new apps every now and again that help organize my life or pay bills on time easily, and I am proud that this experiment keeps me (just) ahead of my tween when it comes to technology – no small achievement. No paper-filled DayTimer could have done all that.
So what are the characteristics of apps that get my “Mobile Momma” stamp of approval?
- Keep It Stupid Simple
I don’t need to do my taxes on the phone – I just need a way to keep track of who is going to be where and when. So – make sure the calendar functions actually function. And plenty are still FREE, like Cosi: a group-centered planning system that your whole family can access on their phones or computers to manage schedules with alerts, shopping lists, and shared contact info.
- Speed and Accuracy Matter
When a playdate or meeting time changes suddenly, apps like AroundMe and Fandango help me change my family’s day with ease. Whether we are traveling and need directions to a restaurant or are local and need movie tickets on an unexpectedly rainy day, it’s great to be fast and flexible with these apps at hand.
- Take My “Business” Seriously
Because my family is my main “business,” having my bank’s app and The Weather Channel’s app available at ALL TIMES has come in handy more times than I care to admit. Having instant access to my bank account and storm systems (especially after this past winter’s school closings) has enabled me to manage my “business” more easily than ever.
So, do I miss the paper-filled life I left behind? Yes, there are times I feel a bit nostalgic for my DayTimer with its endless procession of pages, marching one after the other in comforting, organized precision. At the end of the day though – all of those pages offered me little help when things suddenly changed. Most importantly, my DayTimer couldn’t buy tickets to see Captain America, and pay the bills, and send my husband a message to pick up some milk, all while I am sitting at my daughters’ play practice. No, I have moved on, and as nice as it might be, there is no app for going back in time – at least not yet!