IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Can AI actually help parents? These moms say absolutely.

OP/ED: Parenting is full of hard decisions. Here’s how artificial intelligence could make those choices a little easier.
Reshma Saujani, left, and Emily Oster.
Reshma Saujani, left, and Emily Oster.Getty Images

To say that AI was the talk of Davos would be an understatement. At the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum earlier this month, leaders were buzzing about — “obsessed with” — all the ways this new technology could change business and politics. 

But one group was — as usual — nearly left out of the conversation: parents.

As moms in the tech space — Reshma as the founder of Girls Who Code and Moms First, and Emily as the founder and CEO of ParentData — we know that this technology has the power to transform not only our jobs and our government, but our home lives, too.

Already, parents are finding creative uses for the new AI tools that have appeared in the last few years: from making schedules and meal plans with ChatGPT, to revamping bedtime stories using MidJourney.

Clearly parents have an appetite for AI, but this technology can do more than just offer quick fixes to help parents make it through the day. It can help answer the tough questions that keep parents up at night.

Take one of the biggest questions facing parents: Where should I send my child to school? Say that your child is getting ready for pre-K, and you’re weighing whether you should move to a different school district. You probably want to find out how the students at each school are doing in reading or math, depending on your child’s needs, to help figure out which school is right for them. 

So you start Googling. The good news is that every state makes some student test score data publicly available. The bad news? It’s nearly impossible to find. The data is messy — drawing a meaningful conclusion might mean weeding through thousands of Excel rows worth of data points. Even if you have the tools to do this, parents are busy getting everyone from school to soccer to the dinner table, often while trying to work somewhere in between. They don’t have hours, let alone days, to comb through every piece of available information. 

This is exactly the kind of challenge that AI was designed to tackle. The newest generative AI tools can not only crunch the numbers, but translate them into plain English — or, better yet, a chart that communicates the important stuff (and only the important stuff) at a glance. They can eliminate the research rabbit hole that parents are all-too familiar with and, in doing so, empower parents to make informed decisions for their families. 

AI can even help parents before they become parents. Many moms-to-be are kept up at night by the question: Can I afford to take time off to have my baby? And with good reason: only 13 states and Washington D.C. provide paid leave — an abysmally low number — and the average parent loses nearly $10,000 in wages when taking 12 weeks of unpaid leave resulting in too many moms heading back to work mere weeks after giving birth. 

You might think the lucky parents with access to paid family leave are using every moment available to them. But they’re not. In New York state, for example, only around a quarter of parents who are eligible for parental leave actually take it. Instead, many parents don’t realize they have it or if they’re even eligible. Or they’ve tried parsing the available policy jargon and have simply given up.  

Again, this is an AI-shaped problem. Instead of spending hours scrolling through government websites, trying to figure out which policies apply to you, what if you could quickly message an AI chatbot —trained on reliable government resources — to get the answers you need about your paid leave benefits? All of a sudden, the process is as easy as texting a trusted friend. 

We’re doing our part, in partnership with the same AI developer, to make this future a reality. Recently, Emily launched an AI tool, Zelma, to help demystify school data for parents. 

Reshma launched to give New York parents some clarity about their paid family leave benefits, and she hopes to expand it to more states in the future. 

But school selection and family leave are just two of the many, many big questions parents have when raising a child. How can I afford to send my kid to college? How can I find an in-network specialist to treat my daughter’s asthma? Are we eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits?

These decisions are hard. But they don’t have to be this hard. With AI, we can bring an unprecedented level of transparency to the information parents rely on for their biggest life decisions. 

The private sector is already racing to deploy AI technology to make workers more productive. We need more investment, in more tools designed specifically with parents’ needs in mind — particularly parents who will be using AI tools for the very first time.  

Crucially, we need to make sure these tools are accessible to the people who actually need them. That means building AI with and for women, people of color, and low-income communities now — while the technology is still in its relatively early stages. 

If we don’t prioritize access at the outset, we risk making the mistakes of technologies past. Imagine a world where, in the early years of Web 2.0, we made sure that people around the world were able to utlize the internet. Had we increased global broadband access by just ten percent back in 2014, for example, we could have generated an estimated $186 billion and 875,000 jobs in the U.S. alone. 

We’re in a critical window, and parents can’t afford to miss it. Because while the technology that powers AI can sometimes feel opaque, what it ultimately delivers is clarity. That’s something overwhelmed parents urgently need — especially in our country — where we often put parents’ needs dead last. 

With AI, maybe we can finally put them first.