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Skype is Mommy's new best friend.

girl using laptop computer

Dr. Wendy Walsh: I often wonder how my mother managed. She had three babies in three years, never a housekeeper or nanny, and we often lived on foreign military bases with Dad and extended family thousands of miles away. When I have these thoughts of concern for my mother's plight, I am reminded that we were raised in a different era, when the carefree life of childhood still existed. After school, we would walk home ourselves, run inside the house just long enough to grab a cookie, and then head out to find other neighborhood kids and a game of kick-the-can. The common rule across all families was that kids went home when the streetlights came on. Does that mean that my mother was in blissful peace from 3 to 7 PM? What a thought.

With that, I wonder how she would have managed in today's world of multiple school carpool schedules and intricate calendars of ever-changing playdates. I look at the dizzying array of dates on my kids' calendars and even I am confused. My children know this. That's why my 11-year-old often sends me a Twitter to make sure I know where I pick her up. There is no bliss in my 3 to 7 PM schedule. It's a maze of pick-ups and drop-offs, with homework and dinner crammed in there somewhere. It gets so hectic that I often put my foot down and simply say, "NO MORE playdates! I'm exhausted."

Now I will remind you of two things. Necessity is the mother of invention, and though today's kids may not be free to climb trees, they are free to surf -- the Internet -- that is. That's how my daughter found Skype. It's a free Internet-based video phone that has been popular in Europe and Asia for years. Here in America, it is exploding in popularity, in my opinion, partly because of moms who are too tired to drive.

Now, when my middle-schooler begs me to drive halfway across town at rush hour to have a "homework" playdate, I simply say, "Skype her, honey." There are a couple of great things about Skype playdates. The computer is in the living room, so I hear everything, and there's no bodily contact, thus no tears over "owies" with my 6-year-old, nor risk of any middle-school groping with my older one. Best of all, Skype can work as one big conference call. Sometimes I hear the giggles of five rambunctious girls in my living room, and nobody is making a mess!

Of course, I have a Ph.D. in psychology and I specialize in human attachment, so I know that a world of Skype relationships is no substitute for real, face-to-face emotional intimacy. But, in a pinch, Skype playdates can be a godsend to busy moms.

Best of all, since my 11-year-old functions as my personal IT department, she hooked me up on Skype with a team of computer experts in New Delhi, thereby reducing my IT fees by 90 percent. Munish, the CEO, and I have become good friends via Skype, and I hope he and his wife and baby will visit soon. I've already given them a tour of my home via my laptop and Skype.

The best thing about Skype? It's completely free! Skype away, kids.

next: America Only Has Room For One Octo-Family
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