Need someone to pick the nits out of your child’s hair, teach them to kick a ball or use the toilet? Well, you’re in luck. Outsourced parenting is a burgeoning Australian industry with plenty of paid ‘experts’ willing to take on the messier jobs.
Before a baby is even born there are services clamouring to help expectant parents manage pregnancy and beyond.
Parentprep.com.au offers an in-home pre-parenting program involving practice newborn dolls, for $345 for two people.
Baby planners are springing up in capital cities, keen to advise and organise everything from nursery furniture and design, baby clothes, prams and a pregnancy wardrobe. They’ll even organise a shower and baby moon (pre-birth holiday for couples) organise the donation, or storage, of umbilical cord blood, and book a hospital for the birth. The cost? About $100 an hour.
“Parents should man up and take some responsibility. Paying someone to parent for them is just a cop out.”
Sydney mum, Katrina Sparks, was only too happy to use a baby concierge service during her pregnancy last year. “I work long hours and I had no idea where to start planning a nursery, or booking doctors and birthing suites,” she said.
“The concierge did everything, she even took me for fittings for maternity bras in my lunch hour, and made a list of appropriate gifts for friends to give us after the birth. It cost about $1000, but it was worth every cent.”
Parenting by another name
In the US, baby name consultants will provide a shortlist of names after consultation with parents about their preferences, heritage and personalities.
A Melbourne Feng Shui consultant can even advise the best date for the child’s first hair cut, while Australian company, Momami.com.au will send round a ‘husband substitute’ if the daddy happens to be away when to babe is born, to do all those pesky man-jobs so mum can concentrate on the newborn.
The Momami website boasts, “Our trained staff … assist you in nearly every conceivable situation (except conceiving)”.
But never fear, over at Sperm Donors Australia, which has the motto, “More fun than giving blood,” sperm donors are compensated $300 for each donation, in the ultimate act of outsourced parenting.
And once the newborn has arrived there’s a small army of professionals lining up to help with everything from birth announcements, thumb sucking, toilet training, sleep difficulties, child proofing, behavioural problems, child anxiety and a host of sport, music, movement and exercise programs which are available from birth.
For about $400 a night parentprep.com.au will attend to the baby so exhausted parents can sleep.
Supporting new parents
Parentprep owner, Rebecca Stone, a registered nurse, says her service aims to empower and inform parents to help them adapt to their new role.
“I started this service two years ago because after I had my first baby I was really surprised to find that there was no education about how to care for an infant once you come home from hospital,” she said.
“People are out there looking for this information,” she said. “Our services have been really well received. We no longer live in extended families where this knowledge is passed down.”
New mum Katrina Sparks agrees. “We live in a different state to our families, so we had no-one to ask all the tricky questions, or offer hands-on support.”
And when your child starts toddling there are even more experts ready to mould and shape their behaviour
For $160 a pop, the Sydney School of Protocol will teach your three-year-old dining etiquette, while the Australian Institute of Manners helps kindergarten kids brush up on the art of conversation, tact and telephone skills.
Julie Lamberg-Burnet, director of The Sydney School of Protocol concedes children should be taught basic manners at home.
“However, they are often more receptive to hearing the message from someone other than their parents,” she said.
Ms Lamberg-Burnet launched her business last year and says she is yet to see a big uptake of her services among parents of toddlers. “But I expect that will come,” she said.
Never too young
And at Little Kickers, once babies have mastered that whole walking thing, they’re deemed ready for soccer training at the tender age of just 18 months. However the off-side rule may take a while to sink in.
According to its website, Little Kickers offers babies “Simple problem-solving activities (which) provide the perfect informal framework for encouraging our fledgling socceroos to advance their basic attention building and listening skills”. Got that?
And if your two-year-old seems directionless and unfocussed, you can get them to shape up and set some goals with the use of a life coach.
Be Happy in Life offers life coaching to children aged from two upwards. Because, “why wait until they are 40 and miserable”, the company’s website says.
If it ain’t broke …
Australian parenting educator and author, Kathy Walker, is perplexed by all this outsourcing, and the rush to teach kids expert skills.
“I say to parents, ‘what’s the hurry?’,” she said.
“Research shows that for children younger than five what’s most important is to develop relationships with family, to be creative, self entertaining and self-initiating,” Ms Walker said.
“Parents are very hard on themselves and think they should have perfectly clean houses and perfectly behaved children, with expert literacy, numeracy and sport skills amongst other things, all in the first few years of life.”
She says parents often misunderstand just how emotionally and physically messy family life can be.
“There is a lot of confusion among parents about what parenting and family life is meant to be like. These very high expectations simply set children up to fail and make parents feel as if they are failures.”
Child psychologist Michael Carr Greg is more strident. “Parents should man up and take some responsibility,” he said, “Paying someone to parent for them is just a cop out”.
He said the practice was also counter-productive, citing research that shows that teens who are least connected with their family and the most likely to engage in the most extreme risk-taking behaviour.