The mythical work-life balance for parents: You can imagine it, right? A life where after work, you get to play, have family time, me time, together time. Just, you know, time. It is possible, but you might need some assistance. As they say, there’s an app for that. We’ve polled the parents in our network and according to them, here are the absolute 12 best apps to help you achieve work-life balance no matter how busy your days may be.
It’s free, sure. But a family calendar that allows you to link all family activities; color code; and view seamlessly on your home computer, your work computer, your phone, no matter the type? It’s priceless. Whether you are a Mac or PC person, Google Calendar is brand and system agnostic. It’s shareable. You can also see your partner’s calendar and see if a scheduled meeting time will work without having to go back and forth to figure it out. And you can link it to a voice assistant like Google Home or Alexa, if you have one of these devices. Which bring us to…
Alexa and Google Home
While they are admittedly a little invasive, these assistants (which are definitely listening to your every moment) can be a superfluous way to add events and reminders to your calendar and lists. You can even ask Alexa or Google what’s next on your calendar, or ask what you need to be reminded about. You can also tell Alexa to notify you on the device about all events 10 minutes before they happen. Pro tip: you don’t actually need the device to be with you to make things happen. Alexa and Google Home both have apps that can be installed on your phone or tablet, where you can control connected household devices like smart lamps, or even “drop in” with a voice message.
The popular meditation app is a great tool for parents who want to get some work-life balance. The app, available for iPhone and Android phones, has a multitude of levels and “packs” to get started with meditation. Sessions can be really, really short (just a few minutes), but a standard starter session is 10 minutes. Listen as Headspace’s lead guru and founder, Andy Puddicombe, walks you through a session, telling you to take deep breaths or giving you visualization exercises. More specialized packs exist for everything from letting go of stress to sleeping and managing anxiety (all of which could be very useful for harried parents looking for a work-life balance).
When you have so many pressing needs — the soccer appointment, getting the groceries, finishing that last work project, making dinner — anything that can be delegated, should be delegated, if it’s in your economic reach. Some things can make your life easier and are free. Waveapp is a finance app that works similarly to other finance tracking apps like Mint. Add your bank and credit accounts, track your spending, and create a budget. You can even create invoices inside the app. When it comes time for tax season, it’ll be that much easier to finish.
Handy and TaskRabbit
Outsourcing things like a regular or even semi-regular household cleaning or those nagging household chores (does anyone know how to wall-mount a picture correctly?) can seem weird at first. But if you have some extra cash to spend, you will free up an afternoon that you can spend with your family at the park, or visiting with relatives. Both of these apps offer a multitude of services: You can pay just once, or set up a recurring plan. Handy pays the freelancers a minimum of $15 an hour, and more if they’ve been on the app longer or have been highly rated. TaskRabbit is similar to Handy, but offers more odd jobs — moving, building furniture, and yes, mounting that dreaded TV or heavy picture frame to a wall. The TaskRabbit workers can set their own hourly rates; TaskRabbit takes a 15% cut plus a “trust and support” fee.
Cookbooks are still cool, but sometimes, you’re at the grocery store and need to come up with a recipe for the evening, fast. There are a seemingly endless number of great recipe apps out there, but a few will make your life easier, moving you one more step closer to that venerated work-life balance as a working parent. Yummly is a recipe app that helps you narrow down meal options by first taking inventory of what kinds of foods you like (Italian? Mediterranean? Kid friendly?), allergies, and dislikes, as well as your cooking skill level. After you’ve done this, it’ll present you with recipes. If you want to cook a specific recipe, you can click “Add all to shopping list” and voila — the ingredients you need are right there. If you want to let the Internet do the shopping for you, the app will take you to a page to choose a nearby grocery store, and you can compare the price difference between stores in a flash.
Freedom and ColdTurkey
Block the Internet for a blessed hour. Heck, live on the wild side and block it for three hours! Freedom for iOS and Mac can block apps and even the ENTIRE Internet from your phone and connected devices for an allotted amount of time (and you can even put it on a schedule), granting you a reprieve from checking messages, Twitter or Instagram, or looking at work emails that can wait till tomorrow. You can even sync the block to happen on all devices that Freedom is installed on (so you can’t cheat on your iPhone if your desktop is blocked). ColdTurkey is a similar app that also works on Windows operating systems and has an app for Android phones. Freedom requires a subscription ($6.99 a month), and ColdTurkey has a free version, though for scheduling and other bells and whistles, it’s $29 CAD.
There are days when you or your partner can’t get home because one or both of you have to take the kids to a game, or be at school for a parent-teacher conference. And on those days, your poor dog still needs a walk. Rover is an on-demand dog walking service which works in a similar way to Handy or TaskRabbit: You can book a dog walker for one walk only, or book one for a repeat schedule. A 30-minute walk is $20 and can be booked at the last minute (within an hour). You can choose your walker (who has undergone a background check), see their reviews, and even follow along via GPS on their walk.
No time to get to the gym? You don’t need a gym membership to stay in shape. There are myriad exercise apps online, or that you can download to your phone, to get in shape. A personal favorite is Fitness Blender, featuring the husband and wife duo of Daniel and Kelli Segars. They have hundreds of no-frills videos of varying length and difficulty, focusing on either specific parts of the body (abs, for instance) or whole-body, hour-plus-long workouts. Most of the routines use body weight, with optional home weights. The routines are free on YouTube or on their website. But if you want a more focused plan to follow so you don’t have to search for a new workout each day, you can opt for a paid program of several weeks of exercises ($14.99-$19.99).
These two might seem obvious, but consider this our official endorsement that you kick back and relax and watch one of your favorite TV shows (they’ve got Friends reruns now), or discover new series like Stranger Things with your whole family. (Netflix subscriptions start at $8.99 per month, and access to Hulu starts at $5.99). Relaxing in front of the tube should be a guilt-free pleasure, especially if it’s together time and allows you and your partner to take your mind off work and life’s stresses. A few hours of comedy, or family-friendly films — why, it’s almost like a work-life balance for parents is possible after all.