Why We Created Calroo, a New Family Calendar App
If you go on the AppStore and search for the word “calendar”, you get 2,088 results. That’s right – there are 2,088 calendar apps out there. Does the world really need a 2,089th calendar app? As someone who just spent the last 9 months of her life building one, I think that the answer is “Yes”. Let me explain.
No, I have not personally tried every single one of the 2,088 calendar apps that already exist. I have tried the top 100 or so apps.
I also tried a dozen apps in the specific sub-category that I’m particularly interested in, which is family calendars.
And yet I could not find the perfect calendar app for my family.
So I decided to create one myself. We recently launched the iOS app on the Appstore, and opened a private beta list for Android users. See how easy it is to organize your family schedule!
Here are the top 10 reasons – David Letterman style – why I think that the world (or at least a subset of the world known as Moms and Dads) does need a better family calendar app.
Reason #10: Because a parent’s time is a terrible thing to waste.
There are 35 million families in the United States with one or more children under the age of 18.
We estimate that every family spends at least 10 minutes every single day on coordinating family logistics: Who’s picking up the child from soccer practice, what do we need from the grocery store, wasn’t the parent-teacher conference happening today, I have to work late tonight – can you cover for me at home… The list goes on and on.
That means that every family spends at least 60 hours every single year on family logistics and coordination.
Together, the 35 million families in the US spend a staggering 2,165,800,000 hours per year on the administrative “busywork” of being a parent. That’s 2.2 Billion hours (yep, Billion with a B!).
If you value this time at the Federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, the societal value of this wasted time is $15,702,050,000. That’s right – $15.7 Billion. Every single year.
Is this parental “busywork” something any of us enjoy doing? Nope.
I’m yet to meet a Mom or Dad who loves copying and pasting things into their calendar, or texting back-and-forth about grocery list items for tonight’s dinner.
Does this administrative overhead and the relentless back-and-forth “add value” to our families, or make us better or happier parents? Nope.
Is it something we have to do, given the technology tools that we have available to us today? Yep.
Imagine what we as a society could do with these 2.2 Billion hours…
Read to our children? Volunteer at their schools? Play catch with them? Take them on a walk?
I can name lots of things that would be enjoyable and “value adding”. Copying and pasting things into a calendar isn’t one of them…
Reason #9: Because guilt is a terrible feeling to have.
The administrative “busywork” of being a parent is not only time-consuming and inefficient, it’s also ineffective.
It’s almost impossible not to miss something important going on in your child’s life.
Like picking up your child early from school on Minimal Day. Or missing their best friend’s birthday party. Or thinking that your husband will take them to the doctor, when he thought that you would.
When you forget something important like this, you feel terribly guilty. Like the worst Mom (or Dad) on the planet.
I have had my share of these experiences.
Despite being hyper-organized and re-reading every school email three times, I still occasionally missed school events. That prompted me to start my first company, SimplyCircle. My goal was to simplify school-family communication, to make sure that parents don’t forget about important events happening at school, while at the same time reducing the “information overload” we all deal with. SimplyCircle is gaining great traction at schools all around the country.
And now with Calroo, I want to bring that home. I want to empower Moms and Dads to take control of their family’s calendar, no matter what communication and calendaring system their kids’ school is using.
Whether it’s a school concert, a soccer practice, a birthday party or a doctor appointment, it’s all on Calroo.
No more forgetting.
No more guilt.
Reason #8. Because there’s nothing optional about being a parent.
When you have children, you have to be there for them, no matter what. For many, many years.
You can’t take a sick day from being a parent. You can’t “not feel like doing it”.
You have to take your child to school every day, and pick them up from school. You have to take them to the doctor when they are sick. You have to make sure they do their homework every day. You have to watch them and take care of them after school. You have to feed them, clothe them, educate them, and above all, love them.
Yes, there are a few things that are optional. You can decide which after-school activities to schedule for your child. You can decide whether you pack their lunch yourself, or to buy one at school. You can decide whether to celebrate your child’s birthday with an elaborate birthday party or with a simple family outing.
But many things you have to do, no matter what.
It doesn’t mean that you personally have to do them all, all the time. You can get help from your spouse and other family members. Or if you can afford it, you can get paid help from a nanny or a babysitter.
Still, somebody has to do it, and you still have the ultimate responsibility that they get done.
So for all these non-optional things you have to do as a parent, there’s Calroo.
Reason #7: Being a parent is hard. Buying groceries shouldn’t be.
I text my husband: “Honey, can you stop by Safeway on your way home”? He responds promptly with “Sure, what do we need?”
And it starts.
I dig up a Safeway list note I have on my phone, and update it.
I text it to my husband.
Then I remember several more items, so I text him separately about each one of them.
He asks me what brand of dishwasher detergent I need. I take a picture of the detergent box that we just emptied, and text it to him.
By the time he gets home with the groceries, 3 of the items that were on my list aren’t there. (Including the dishwasher detergent I had so lovingly photographed).
He missed them in the 10+ texts that I had sent. There’s no way to mark down the items in a text thread, or within a Note.
Before you tell me that there are grocery list apps out there, yes, I know. We’ve tried them all.
The problem is that we just don’t have it in us to combine 5 different single-purpose tools (a calendar, a to-do app, a grocery list app, plus email and texting and calling), so we end up going with the “lowest common denominator” and just use text.
With Calroo, you don’t need 5 different tools to coordinate something as basic as what to buy for dinner or who’s picking up your child. Calroo combines a family calendar, to-do list, grocery list, and messaging functionality in a single app. It’s the ultimate family organizer for busy families.
Reason #6: Because getting to 50-50 at home is a worthwhile goal.
Among the many parenting and family dynamics books I’ve read, one of my favorite books is “Getting to 50-50: How Working Parents Can Have It All” by Sharon Meers and Joanna Strober. It’s well-researched, thoughtful, and articulate.
After interviewing hundreds of parents and employers, surveying more than a thousand working mothers, and combing through the latest government and social science research, the authors have discovered that kids, husbands, and wives all reap huge benefits when couples commit to share equally as both breadwinners and caregivers. Mothers work without guilt, fathers bond with their kids, and children blossom with the attention of two involved parents.
So the 50-50 model is great for everyone involved.
But let’s face it.
Even in today’s enlightened day and age, we’re still far from attaining the 50-50 ideal. In many families, Moms still do most of the heavy lifting at home, whether they work outside of home or not.
There are many different reasons for this continued gender imbalance at home.
I believe that one of those reasons is a lack of good tools that make true collaboration at home frictionless and easy. Sometimes it’s so hard to ask for help that Moms just end up doing everything themselves because it’s easier.
At work, we have many great productivity and collaboration tools.
At home, we have nothing.
Nothing specifically designed for Moms and Dads to do the most important job of all – raising kids.
Calroo is our way of helping more families get closer to the 50-50 ideal.
Reason #5: Because getting to 50-50 at work is also a worthwhile goal.
As a woman in technology, I’m painfully aware of the gender gap, especially at senior or executive levels.
I’m frequently the only woman at the table when critical business decisions are being made.
After nearly 20 years of working in high-tech companies, I’m used to it.
But I still don’t accept it. And never will.
Many articles and books have been written about the causes of the continued gender gap in high tech.
One of the arguments that rings particularly true is that when women choose to step out of the workforce to raise their family, it automatically and irreversibly puts them on a different career trajectory than their male peers. Even if they ultimately return to work, they can’t just pick up and continue their career progression where they left off.
Biology dictates the timeframe for when we can bear children. It just so happens that our most productive years at work when our careers kick into high gear are also the same years when we have families.
I believe that when Moms get more help from their spouses and other family members with raising children, more Moms will choose to stay in the workforce during those critical childrearing years. And that means that more women will get to senior executive levels in companies, and we will have greater diversity in the executive suite and in the boardroom.
Don’t get me wrong. I wholeheartedly support a Mom’s right to choose whether she wants to work or stay at home to raise a family. It’s a deeply personal choice that a Mom should make for herself. (The same applies to Dads – they too absolutely deserve the right to choose between working or staying at home).
But what I am saying is that this choice has to be real rather than forced. Moms (and Dads) deserve to have it all. They should not be pressured to choose between working and being a great parent.
When we get closer to 50-50 at home, we can also get closer to 50-50 at work.
It has been proven beyond reasonable doubt that more diverse work teams deliver better business results. So getting closer to the 50-50 split in the workplace is a very worthwhile goal indeed.
Reason #4: Because it takes a village.
No man is an island. And certainly no woman is either.
It’s particularly true when you have children. You need all the help that you can get not only from your spouse, but also from other family members.
My children are very fortunate in that their grandparents – my parents – live very close, and are a daily presence in their lives. The kids learn another language, and benefit from the wisdom of two loving grandparents.
On Calroo, you get to define who’s in your family. You can include just your spouse and kids, or also include your siblings, your parents and other extended family members.
Reason #3: Because it takes a Mom to know a Mom.
Let’s face it.
Most of the 2,088 calendar apps that you see on the AppStore today were built by men in their 20’s and 30’s.
Not surprisingly, these apps look and function like they were designed for men in their 20’s or 30’s.
Some of these calendar apps are great… For work. Or for personal (i.e., individual) productivity.
But I’m yet to see a calendar or a productivity app that I open and say: “Finally! This app looks like it was made for me!”
Many calendar apps include some type of sharing or collaboration features, but the language isn’t quite right.
Many to-do apps let you “assign tasks”. But for some reason my husband doesn’t like it very much when I “assign tasks” to him (or “check in” on his progress later).
Many calendar apps let you “invite” someone to a meeting or an event. But when I “invite” my husband to a school concert, what does it mean? Are we both going? Is he going so that I don’t have to? Or am I still on the hook to go, and I’m just keeping him informed?
With Calroo, we are careful about using the appropriate language, and avoiding any ambiguity about who is doing what.
On Calroo, you don’t “assign tasks”, you “ask for help”. If the person declines, the decline notification comes with an apology. When the person you asked for help agrees to do it, you get a jumping kangaroo saying “Woohoo! He agreed to help”.
Which brings us to the next reason…
Reason #2: Because sometimes you need a jumping kangaroo.
When the daily grind gets to you, sometimes you could use a jumping kangaroo to remind you just how awesome of a Mom or Dad you are.
But it’s not just the kangaroo.
We designed the whole app to be lighthearted and fun.
Instead of the usual blue color, which seems to be the “industry standard” for calendar apps, we use a distinctive teal color. And then each family member’s icon comes in its own playful, bright color:
Reason #1: Because you’re worth it!
To borrow the famous L’Oreal ad tagline, you should get Calroo “Because you’re worth it!”
Whether you are a Mom, a Dad, an aunt or uncle, a grandparent, a wife, a husband or another family member, you rock!
And you deserve great technology tools to help you manage your family’s busy life.
We built Calroo for you. Because you’re worth it!
If you have an iPhone, you can download the app from the Appstore today. If you have an Android phone, request your beta access at Calroo.com – our Android app is in the works.
If you want to join our team, become a launch partner, or participate in some other way, send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org – we’d love to hear from you.
So here’s to the 2,089th calendar app out there!