iCarpool

081514_carpoolFive work deadlines, four kids, three schools, two cups of coffee, one tired parent.

From crawling in traffic to sprinting to afterschool pickup, busy working parents never get a break. Luckily, the digital world makes their lives a little easier. With new phone and computer applications, many parents are indulging in modern technology to deal with the stresses of carpooling.

“The combination of phone, email and text keeps my carpooling schedule in check,” says father of two Aaron Mannes. “My carpool involves several children in several locations. There needs to be a lot of technological communication going on to make it all work. Some of my biggest questions of the day include, ‘Do I take the minivan?’ and ‘Which child has a doctor’s appointment today?’”

Serving as a researcher at the University of Maryland’s Lab for Computational Cultural Dynamics, Mannes strikes a balance between work and carpool life. With flexible hours, he is frequently responsible for afternoon pickup.

“Often, I’ll get an afternoon email from working parents asking if I can pick their child up,” he says. “I have run carpools where my kids are not even involved.”

Mannes shares his carpooling adventures in a parenting blog, “For Fathers Only.” Under the pen-name Father Goof, Mannes reveals the comical ins and outs of the everyday dad.

“I’m not going to lie; talking about carpooling is good material for a blog,” says Mannes. “I try to make it both funny and sweet. It is a great way to cap off my day.”

While some parents use technology to decompress, others use technology to help their carpools run smoothly. A number of new smart phone mobile applications are geared at carpooling parents. Free applications such as Carpool: School Edition, Karpooler, Car Pool Party, Looptivity, and more, allow stressed parents to organize their carpools directly from their smart phones.

Android and iPhone application Toogether, for example, connects drivers offering rides to passengers needing them. The application also displays how much the driver wants to be compensated, provides suggestions for local carpools and links different drivers together via social networking.

“I don’t use any technological applications, but maybe I should,” says Baltimore mother and Jewish religious school educator, Zahava Kimelfeld. “With six children, everything has to run smoothly. If we are even one minute behind schedule, everything falls out of place.”

As the mother of six, Kimelfeld must remember all of her children’s schedules by heart.

“Our entire schedule is based on transporting the children and making sure everyone is ready,” says Kimelfeld. “From my husband driving back home to switch from the car to the minivan, to staying up until 2 a.m. preparing school lunches and Friday night dinner, my life is a juggling act. It can often be a lot for one person to remember. Staying organized is the best way to take care of my big family.”

With mobile applications such as Cozi, parents like Kimelfeld can program all of their children’s timetables into their mobile phones. With close to 12 million users registered, Cozi comes to the rescue of busy parents.

“We got started because we saw that families had literally no tools to help them manage the chaos of day to day life,” says Cozi cofounder and CEO Robbie Cape. “The Cozi family organizer includes family calendars, shopping lists, to-do lists, family journals and meal planners. The mobile application integrates all parts of family life and helps families with everything they have to do.”

While Cozi sets up the calendar, KangaDo is a parent organizer. The application allows parents to chat and coordinate schedules with their friends. From carpool planning to daycare pickup, the application is equipped with private, free messaging that can share photos and current locations. In addition, users can turn a chat into an event on their iPhone calendar.

As great as the new technological wonders are, fathers like Mannes joke about wanting more.

“Through technology, my children always know where I am,” says Mannes. “I am always getting texts asking how close I am, and I can tell them instantly when I am stuck in traffic. I am still waiting for the day when Google makes those self-driving cars. That would make my carpooling life so much easier.”

Allie Freedman is a local freelance writer.

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