When Becca D’Onofrio had her daughter Charlotte two-and-a-half years ago, she was blindsided by how difficult parenting was.
“I feel like it’s something that nobody talks about,” the Center City resident said.
Her master’s degree in education and teaching experience helped her figure out the best strategies for navigating teething and temper tantrums, but she knew other parents were also struggling. When the pandemic hit, raising children became even more hectic as families were confined to their homes and cut off from support networks.
That was the inspiration behind Partner in Parenthood, a text-based parenting advice platform she launched in February.
“I want to help parents stop feeling so overwhelmed and exhausted through parenting, and give them strategies and tools to be able to actually enjoy the moments they have with their children because they grow up so fast,” she said.
Subscribers can text Partner in Parenthood at any time with parenting questions or problems. They receive on-demand advice from parenting and early childhood education experts, who check in with clients to make sure everything is going smoothly. The concept was partially inspired by the text-based therapy apps that have become increasingly popular during the pandemic, which connect users to mental health professionals on-demand.
“To my knowledge, there isn’t anything like this in the parenting world, where you can instantly ask for expert advice. I find that parents tend to post in Facebook groups, they tend to scroll through Instagram looking for answers, but there isn’t anything that’s immediate these days in the parenting world,” D’Onofrio said.
This model allows parents to ask questions about long-term issues, such as preparing a toddler for the arrival of a new sibling months in advance, as well as more immediate problems like tantrums.
D’Onofrio, who is Jewish, said Partner in Parenthood clients have children from a wide range of age groups, and questions can range from best practices for baby-proofing homes to helping kids follow directions to get ready for school in the morning.
Jess Bird is a Partner in Parenthood client who asked for help handling her youngest child’s teething irritability. One day, her daughter was screaming for snacks as Bird tried to make dinner, but she didn’t want to cave and ruin her appetite. D’Onofrio advised giving her a healthy snack as an appetizer to calm her down. Bird gave her cucumbers with cream cheese and said it made a big difference.
“It also just helped me to be able to overcome these things now on my own without having to stress each day when things come up, because she presented me with options,” she added.
Lindsay Catarino, another client, has relied on the service for advice as her child transitions into day care. She said the personal aspect of one-on-one texting has helped ease her stress levels more than other online parenting resources, which makes the monthly $35 cost worth it.
“I follow a ridiculous amount of parenting Instagram accounts, but they’re really not personal,” she said. “I find that in Facebook groups like New Moms of Philadelphia or sleep training accounts and all of that I get a lot of basic information, but it’s definitely overwhelming.”
D’Onofrio also gets a lot of questions about helping children learn from home. Before Passover, she even had a Jewish family ask about the best ways to prepare children for the holiday. She advised them to tell the story of the escape from Egypt and explain ritual aspects of the seder in advance to make sure the kids knew what to expect and could get excited about participating.
She said Partner in Parenthood is an educational resource and cannot offer medical or therapeutic advice. For problems that are more specialized, such as children’s dental issues or disagreements with a spouse, D’Onofrio said clients are directed to ask the appropriate professional.
D’Onofrio also reminds caretakers who are burnt out from more than a year of pandemic parenting to make time for themselves.
“When you’re too stressed out, children feed off that energy, so you want to make sure that you’re calm, you’re composed and you have the self-care that you need to keep things together,” she said.
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