- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 19, 2009

Christine Ramirez doesn’t have to worry about keeping track of her breast-feeding schedule or remembering which breast her baby fed from last.

The Kensington mom’s iPhone has an application that does it for her.

Mrs. Ramirez, 34, didn’t even own an iPhone until recently, but now she can’t stop using it to find programs to entertain her children, check the local library’s hours and perform other functions on a near-daily basis.

Technology is giving parents new tools they may have never realized they needed — but now can’t live without.

Mrs. Ramirez, a mother of three who works full time, says gadgets like the iPhone save her invaluable time while freeing her from her office.

“I don’t like to sit down with the computer all day,” says Mrs. Ramirez, who uses her iPhone to help her find play-date locations via its GPS system and offer creative programs to engage her children. “It’s nice to pull out the phone and be able to find information easily. It’s really a timesaver for me.”

The technology also offers a measure of safety for her young children.

“I’m not going to get lost. I can search the Internet at any time,” she says.

Arlington resident Lara Meadows, 38, can’t imagine not being able to turn to online newsgroups for information on being a better parent. She routinely visits several District-area sites, such as DC Urban Moms (www.dcurbanmom.com), to glean information on everything from skin rashes to handling temper tantrums.

One downside to parent-friendly Web sites, she says, is they can get bogged down by hot-button topics such as politics and the perils of public breast-feeding. A simple post about long lines at the most recent White House Easter egg roll can spin off into an ideological rant that lasts for page after page, she says.

“Overall, the information is phenomenal,” she says.

Mrs. Meadows says the time savings she realizes thanks to modern technology are “huge.” She has synced her children’s schedules to her iPhone and BlackBerry devices and steered her mother and mother-in-law to Facebook, the social networking site, so they can see the latest pictures of their grandchildren.

Technology also can ensure that a family’s nanny is behaving in a professional manner. Mrs. Meadows says one of her husband’s colleagues installed a “nanny cam” in their house and was able to link it to the Internet so he could oversee what it sees.

PCMag.com recently offered a list of the best iPhone applications, or apps, designed with parents in mind. Among the most family-friendly were Shazam, which lets parents identify whatever song is playing in the background and whether it’s fit for family listening; GoodFoodNearYou, which steers parents to healthier food choices while on the road; and AllRecipes.com Dinner, which offers recipes based on whatever ingredients may currently be in the cupboard.

Debbie Ritchie, president of the Maryland PTA, says many parents today have their own Facebook and Twitter pages to share information with loved ones.

The Web also provides parents with interactive listservs to share time-sensitive information on local activities.

Mrs. Ritchie says the downside of technological advances such as the iPhone can be decreased face-to-face interactions, and occasionally people will say something online that they wouldn’t necessarily say in public.

But that’s balanced out by how gadgets free parents from having to stick to rigid times and meeting places.

Siobhan Green, a 38-year-old mother from Annandale, Va., uses technology to balance her Web development company and being a parent.

“We all work from home,” Mrs. Green says of her company’s workers. “We’re not tied to an office.”

It’s a juggling act that wouldn’t be possible if not for today’s tiny computers.

“I personally need my technology in order to run my family,” says Mrs. Green, who will be teaching a class for her church on parenting in the 21st century later this month.

She uses a Google.com calendar to plan all of her family and work obligations, and uses it to line her nanny’s schedule up with hers.

“It makes it a lot easier to have one central location that’s not on paper,” she says.

Mrs. Green recalls she was 12 years old when her own mother went back to work.

“It was so much more manual and there was less she could do. She was tied to an office. For her to take an afternoon off, it just wasn’t possible,” she says. “It had repercussions for me. There were things I couldn’t do because my mom couldn’t be there. I watched more TV.”

Today, Mrs. Green works from home and can take a half-hour break for her children when needed and still meet her deadlines.

“I don’t imagine anyone who could do this five or 10 years ago,” she says. “I’m taking the technology and embracing it.”

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