Donna Lynch, who's too embarrassed to use her real name, had potty trained her older boys with very little stress, but after trying for nearly a year with her third son, she met her Waterloo. With two other sons in school and a hectic schedule, Lynch enrolled her son in a one-day Booty Camp near her home in Chicago. At the end of the day, she left with her (mostly) potty-trained 3-year-old. "Our potty trainer was like a teacher, a life coach, and a therapist all in one," she says.
Lynch is far from alone. All over the country, parents are hiring pros to weigh in on the tasks that make up much of the stress of early parenthood. While the concept of hiring help is nothing new for bleary-eyed parents who've kept night nurses and lactation consultants well fed, today's crop of outsourcing services puts previous generations to shame.
It's no wonder. We're a culture suffering from information overload. Reality shows like Nanny 911 and Supernanny fan the flames of our insecurity while at the same time making us long for an expert who offers personalized advice. "These programs show parents how much simpler it would be to hire someone else to do what we ourselves struggle to accomplish," says Gretchen Silver of New York City, who consulted a sleep trainer for her 9-month-old.
And for every mother who doesn't understand the impulse (let alone the expenditure) to outsource the dirty work of parenthood, there's a mom who says she's juggling more stuff than ever. "Every hour I don't spend researching and gathering information is time I get to spend with my daughter," says a Washington, DC, mom who hired a baby concierge. And many, who live hundreds of miles from where they grew up, feel the experts can provide the support and comfort that their far-flung family members cannot.
So which services are parents spending their hard-earned cash for? Here is a list of some, what they offer, and the bottom line.
what the pros do: For a fee, a babyproofer will come to your house and recommend the changes to make—from covering outlets to figuring out how to make a fireplace safe. Then you usually have the option to buy and install the equipment yourself (saving yourself hundreds of dollars) or have the babyproofer do it all.
is it worth it? Moms who use these services say it takes a long time to read up on things—and then go around the house trying to spot all the possible hazards. "I kept thinking, 'What if I try to do it all myself and miss something important?' " says Kristi Charter Leipsner, an Austin, TX-based mom of two. "I didn't feel I could risk it. It made sense to hire a pro who knows more than I do about how to prevent accidents."
Not everyone agrees, though. Pamela Paul, author of Parenting, Inc. and a mom of two, says hiring a pro is an unnecessary expense. "It's really not that hard to babyproof yourself," she says, adding that parents become less vigilant if they trust that someone has sufficiently padded their home. "And most of the safety equipment that parents are talked into buying doesn't solve the bigger accidents, like a toddler's falling off a chair."
bottom line: It's easy to get the info you need to babyproof. But if the thought of babyproofing freaks you out, you may want to spring for the service. You can find a pro in your area by going to the International Association for Child Safety's website (Iafcs.org). Just remember that you'll save a pile of money if you do most of the work yourself.