Being a mom is more than a full-time job. If you're a mother, you're usually also a chef, a laundress, a cleaning lady, a chauffeur, a butler, a tutor, a wake-up service, a personal shopper, a bank ... the list can go on for pages.
So it's only natural that concierge services aimed at busy Chicago moms have popped up throughout the city, offering stressed, overworked, tired mothers a little help when they simply can't be stretched any thinner.
These Mommy Concierge companies, as they're typically known, can provide everything from pre-baby services, such as registry planning, hospital bag packing and nursery stocking, to post-baby services such as house cleaning, errand running, school researching and babysitting.
Prices range from per service ($150 to research baby products pre-baby via Chicago Mommy Concierge) to per hour ($15-$30 per hour depending on the services, which range from home organizing to personal shopping via Mama Concierge).
For 33-year-old Nicole Rizzo Janning, a new mom in Chicago's River North, the price was worth her peace of mind.
"There are so many crazy things that you hear in the news-and I feel like because there's a third party continuous involvement, it's run like a business," she says of hiring Erin Krex from Chicago Mommy Concierge to help her find a pediatrician, to create a birth plan and to match her with a nanny for baby Chase.
When Janning, who is in advertising sales, was overwhelmed with her pediatrician search, Krex gave her a packet of questions she should ask of the perspective pediatricians.
When Janning was overwhelmed with her upcoming birth, Krex gave her conversation points to discuss with her husband so they could really figure out what would make her the most comfortable during her birth experience.
"I felt like everything that she offered was an extra layer of detail, and it was great," Rizzo Janning says. "There's so much information that everyone has access to online, but it's always nice to have someone who has experience who can sit down and talk to you."
Krex, whose parent company, First Class Care, already connected clients with nannies and other household help, realized that pregnant clients were overwhelmed with childcare, pediatrician, classes and resource options.
So Krex, of Glenview, recently founded Chicago Mommy Concierge, where she has clients ranging from dual working couples to busy single professional moms.
"The need for a mommy concierge is so huge because today's parents are inundated with choices," Krex says. "Just the number of strollers you can choose from today versus five to 10 years ago has grown, and parents want to make the most informed decisions possible. If they can hire someone to help them narrow down the choices and pick the best fit for them, then it is a win-win."
Requests from clients have ranged from how to find a great pediatrician to where to find the best green products on the market to how to fit a baby into a one-bedroom condo in the city.
New moms also can turn to Tiffany Ellis of Mama Concierge when they get stressed out by how much stuff needs to get done before they actually get to spend time with their own kids.
"A lot of times as parents, we have so much to do because we have a family, that the actual quality time gets the last priority," says the Forest Park concierge company owner. "I want to enhance the lives of parents so that not only do they get that time alone every once in awhile, but they also get way more time with their loved ones."
To make that happen, Ellis offers her clients anything they could ever want-almost like a personal assistant/housekeeper/event planner. Essentially, you could call Ellis a second mom.
"Mothers usually request that I help with school and activity transportation, child care, photo booking and event planning," Ellis says.
But while moms in Chicago are certainly busy, overwhelmed and short on time, it's not necessary to spend a small fortune paying for help, says Lindsay Pinchuk, president and founder of Bump Club and Beyond, a social event company in Chicago catering to pregnant and new moms.
"While every mom can use a helping hand, there are other options besides Mommy concierges providing this information," Pinchuk says. Her company offers events that range from $25-$100, featuring informational and educational forums that cover topics ranging from how to find a pediatrician to how to prepare your nursery and how to pack your hospital bag.
"For a fraction of the cost, attendees not only get the information, but they get a full meal, have the opportunity to meet other like-minded women, the chance to win big prizes and they take home many of the items pertinent to the topic at hand in a gift bag worth more than the cost to attend," she says.
Regardless of the decision to splurge for a one-on-one service or to attend a group forum for advice, at least moms in Chicago now have what our moms didn't have in the past: Lots and lots of services and people on hand when you need help.
Danielle Braff lives with her two daughters and husband in downtown Chicago.
See more of Danielle's stories here.