As a parent with children decades apart in age, it’s become obvious the very nature of raising children has fundamentally changed in the last 10 years thanks to technology. Instead of two parents, my youngest child has four: mom, dad, Alexa, and Google Assistant.
The first of my children were born in 1994 and 1995, back when I didn’t even have a cell phone. The beginning and end of my parenting know-how derived from the few books our small-town Mississippi library had on the subject, and whatever tidbits of folksy wisdom my parents chose to provide.
When I ran out of diapers I had to drive to the store. Many a night was spent going back and forth, exhausted, as I’d arrive from one trip only to find that I’d forgotten to get more formula or some other emergent necessity. We didn’t have SMS messaging or WhatsApp in the mid 90s.
If you were a young parent who didn’t have much family around, you had to answer questions like “if my baby is running a fever when should I go the hospital” on your own.
For context: nobody in America can afford to take their kids to the hospital every time they vomit or run a slight temperature. We used to just hope and pray they didn’t get sick outside of business hours, so we could call the pediatrician’s office instead of going to the ER.
My youngest son was born in 2016. I’m superhuman now, thanks to my smart home, compared to twenty years ago. Not only do I have the ability to research and gain insight from millions of people around the world, but I don’t even have to remove my attention from the baby.
Smart speakers are the greatest gift to parents since the invention of swaddling.
I don’t have to juggle a corded-phone, a bottle of formula, a puking baby, when there’s a situation. Instead, a simple “Okay Google, is it normal for infants to have green poop?” provides that information whenever I need it. And it’s even relayed via smart speaker so I can ask these types of questions when I’m elbows-deep in a stinky mess.
When I lay the baby down for a nap I can leave the room, turn on my Cloud Cam, and go work at my desk. I don’t have to be partially distracted – listening for the baby – because I can put the video and audio from the baby’s room up on my big screen by saying “Alexa, show the baby’s room.”
The ability to conjure music in any room, with nothing but my voice, is the parenting equivalent of Thor summoning Mjölnir.
There’s seldom a day I’m not inclined to say something like “Alexa, play “Surfin’ Bird” by the Trashmen,” or “Okay Google, play some lullaby music” to either delight or relax my kid.
Everyone can use a smart speaker, but being able to say “Alexa, watch Daniel Tiger,” instead of spending 15 minutes searching for the TV remote your toddler managed to make vanish, without so much as an “abracadabra,” provides added value for stressed out moms and dads.
Alexa and Google Assistant – I don’t have any iOS devices and my S7 doesn’t have Bixby – have become unpaid parental assistance units in my life.
I can set up profiles like “nap time” to set the color and intensity of lights with nothing more than a tap on an app, or a simple “Alexa, dim the bedroom light 50 percent.”
It’s made shopping easier as well. I simply say “Alexa, add baby wipes to my shopping list,” no matter what room I’m in, and the next time I go to the store I open the app to see what I need.
During periods of time when things are extra difficult, like when the baby is teething, exhaustion begins to set in and it becomes almost impossible to remember what we’ve run out of. Worse, by the time I’ve completed a harrowing diaper change and settled the kid back down I forget to pull out my phone and add wipes to my shopping list, it’s easier to just yell it out in the moment. Alexa always has my back.
Better still “Alexa, order baby wipes from Amazon.com” will have some wipes waiting on my door step in two days thanks to Amazon Prime.
We’re still pretty far off from having Rosie The Robot from “The Jetsons” in our homes, but at this point I feel like my smart home could give the USS Enterprise’s disembodied computer voice a fair challenge.
My fiancee and I have way more time and energy to focus on each other and our careers – without sacrificing anything else – thanks to the addition of smart home devices throughout our home.
We talk to Google Assistant and Alexa so often they may as well be family, in our house.