Although these are our top picks, we've found many other great products and services that are either Must Haves or Great Finds (which are nice to have but aren't truly Must Have products). You can read our recommendations and those of BlueSuitMom readers in the following categories:
- Blackberry, iPhone or other Smart Phone
There is no greater productivity tool outside the office than a blackberry, iPhone or other Smartphone that lets you take calls and read your email. In today's business world where people value immediate responses, we can't imagine not being able to get to your email when you're away from the office. Having access to your email round-the-clock and having others know that you have a blackberry can mean that people expect responses to emails at 8 p.m. when you are trying to put your kids to bed. So at times it can impede on your balancing act, but it also means that you can respond as if you were in the office while you're really sitting in the carpool lane.
- Online Family Calendar or Mom-Based Day Planner
It can seem like a full-time job to keep track of when and where everyone in your family needs to be, not to mention keeping track of work appointments and meetings. Which is why using a central calendar is the key to making sure that you don't miss a single school play, soccer game or lunch with an important client. Whether you prefer keeping track electronically or via a traditional paper and pen method, the key is to find a system that works for you. We've reviewed many products and have come up with three that we think stand out from the crowd. Read our reviews of online and traditional mom-based calendar systems.
- Crock Pot
One of the biggest challenges of being a working mom is dealing with the dinner hour. After a long day of work, mustering up the energy to make a nutritious home-cooked meal isn't always easy. It should come as no surprise that BlueSuitMom readers named the Crock Pot as one of the top Must-Have Products for working moms. Crock pots may have once been considered a relic of the 1970s, but for working moms they are making quite the comeback. It just takes a few minutes in the morning to prepare a few ingredients and toss them in the crock. Hours later you arrive home to a delicious home-cooked meal. We've picked a great cookbook for the crockpot and other great finds in the kitchen, click here to read about other Kitchen Must Haves.
- Flip Digital Camcorder
It's amazing how quickly your children grow up. Do you remember the way your baby (who may be a teenager now) used to do the GI Joe crawl? Or your daughter's first piano recital or son's first home run? The Flip digital camcorder makes it easy to capture those memories. Once you take those videos, upload them to NewBaby.com to share with friends and family. You can choose to either share the video with all NewBaby visitors or keep them private just for family and friends.
- Cleaning Service and/or Roomba
At the end of a day after a long day at the office, dealing with rush-hour traffic and playing chauffeur for your children, the last thing you want to do is scrub the toilet or dust the bookshelves. A housekeeper may seem like a luxury, but it is cheaper than you think. I have a good friend who once told me, "hiring a cleaning lady will change the quality of your life." I thought that was a bit of an overstatement and then I got a nanny who cleans my kitchen and vacuums while my daughter naps. And now I understand what she meant. Not having to do the dishes means I can spend quality time with my daughter and husband instead of spending time with the dishwasher. Read our article, Can a Housekeeper Fit Your Budget.
If you can't afford a cleaning service, then we highly recommend the Roomba. Actually the Roomba is good even if you do have a weekly cleaning service. The Roomba is a robot vacuum cleaner that you just have to turn on and it runs around your house vacuuming up the dirt. Some of the more expensive models even have automatic scheduling so you can have it run while no one is home. The Roomba won't replace your vacuum cleaner completely because it doesn't do corners as well as a traditional vacuum but it will keep the dust bunnies at bay. iRobot also makes the Scooba - a robot mop, but we haven't tested one yet. Learn more about the Roomba.
BlueSuitMom reader and working mom Claudine M. Jalajas, owner of Ink Free Media says, "I cannot say enough about iRobot. Both their vacuums and floor washing systems are amazing. It really helps to be able to just turn the robot on, and walk away to do other things (including, playing with the kids outside while we wait for the floors to be done)."
- Automatic Backup Hard drive or Online Backup Service
Imagine if you lost all of your digital photos. All those captured memories, gone forever. Most people don't realize how important and in some cases irreplaceable the pictures, documents and videos that they store on their home computer really are until they are gone. Hard drive failure DOES happen and it might not be an if it happens but when it happens scenario. At the office important files are backed up from the server, so why not take the same precautions at home?
For a portable hard drive that can backup multiple computers, we recommend the Clickfree Automatic Backup. There is no software to install - just plug it in to your computer via USB and viola it finds your files and backs them up automatically. A 160GB drive is only $79.99.
For an online service, we recommend Carbonite it's only $49.99 per year no matter how much you need to back up. It installs a small application on your computer that works in the background to find files that have been changed. It's completely automatic and hassle free.
If you've ever found yourself lost in a bad neighborhood or frustrated because you are now 30 minutes late and still don't know where your new client's office is, you'll understand why we think every mom needs a GPS. These days you can get a basic GPS for under $100.
- Breast Pump
Breastfeeding may be natural, but it certainly isn't always easy. And if you're a working mom it can be complicated by the need to pump at work and tote home bottles of milk every day. Not to mention that the stress from returning to work can decrease your milk supply. We've gathered what we think are four Must Have products for the breastfeeding working mom. Any breastfeeding mom who is returning to work needs a good electric breast pump. It's not just a Must Have, it's an item you can't live without. Read more about our recommendations for Must Have products for breastfeeding moms.
- Wireless Video Monitor
Getting an audio monitor has long been a standard for keeping track of baby at night or during naps, but we believe video monitors are the only way to go. With the Lorex Wireless Monitoring System you can check on your baby all night long without having to get up and peek into their room. The camera is equipped with night vision so you can easily see your child in daylight, low light or even complete darkness. If your child is prone to crying or making noise in his or her sleep, having this video monitor will save you from a middle of the night trot across the house.
The hand held unit has a range of up to 450 feet - we had no problem using the monitor in any room of the house. You can also hook up the hand held unit up to a TV or computer if you'd like a larger view. The Lorex system is expandable; you can switch between four different cameras from one hand held monitor.
Setup is extremely easy - just pick a location for the camera, plug it in, charge the hand held unit and you are ready to go. Having a video monitor for your child's room enhances your peace of mind. We think it's a Must-Have for any family with babies and/or small children. The Lorex Wireless Monitoring System is available on Amazon.com and other retailers.
I now totally understand why the Kindle is truly the Must Have tech gadget of the year. I used to be a reader, I always had a few books going at once and read the paper daily. Then I got busy, life got in the way especially after my daughter was born. I mean what working mom really has the time to sit and read a book or the Wall Street Journal? The paper is bulky, you don't really want to read it in the car. Lugging a book or two around isn't practical. You can store thousands of book on your kindle and subscribe to top US papers like the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post - and they are delivered automatically and wirelessly. You don't have to plug the Kindle into your computer to transfer files, you just turn it on. Buy a book from Amazon either online or directly from the Kindle and it is available in under a minute. The Kindle is smaller and lighter than your standard paperback book. The Kindle's screen isn't like reading on a computer screen, it is really like reading a book. You can also transfer Word documents and pictures to the Kindle for viewing on the go. Learn more about Kindle: Amazon's Wireless Reading Device
BlueSuitMom reader and working mom Liz Jewett also is enamored with the Kindle. She says, "It could hold up to 4000 books. MUST HAVE!"
- Amazon Kindle
A few months ago Martha Stewart was touting the Kindle - Amazon's wireless reading device. I really didn't get what all the hype was about. I couldn't imagine reading an entire book on screen. And then last month Oprah got on the bandwagon and said the Kindle was "life-changing for me." I couldn't imagine how an e-book reader could really be so earth-shattering. But I was swept up by the hype, so I bought one figuring that I could return it if I didn't like it. The hefty price tag of $359 gave me pause.