Parents are spending big bucks on snack-time consultants and sports companions to make sure their kids are expertly cared.

When it came to organizing a playroom for her children, Michelle, a stay-at-home mother of two, decided to outsource the task.
The 39-year-old shelled out $2,100 for an expert to come to her hillside home in Los Angeles’ Pacific Palisades neighborhood. There, the expert overhauled the space, tossed outdated items, and recommended a list of new toys from luxury shops like Maisonette and Scandibørn, including a $115 wooden vegetable set and a $90 rattan doll bassinet.
“My kids had a million toys and played with hardly any of them. I wanted to create play spaces that would encourage more independent play with the expertise of an occupational therapist to help their development,” she said. 
Michelle, who asked that her last name not be used for fear of social backlash, said she and her husband were feeling overwhelmed by the clean-up project. So they decided to deal with it the modern way and pony up for Nicole Lucking, owner of Playfulnest, which offers play space consulting starting at $200.
After all, time is money, and what better to spend money on than kids? 
“My friends probably think I’m crazy,” Michelle admitted.
She’s not the only mother seeking professional help when it comes to basic aspects of parenting. Wealthy parents are increasingly hiring everyone from snack-time consultants to swim companions to make sure their tots are expertly cared for.
Spending a fortune on child rearing isn’t new. According to a 2017 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average cost of raising a child from birth through age 17 is $233,610 excluding college. That’s up nearly 40% from the year 2000, and that figure can nearly double for those living in expensive areas like NYC, says USDA economist Mark Lino.
In recent years, there has been a surge of businesses catering to even the most menial of parenting tasks. Millennial parents in particular are more than happy to pay for convenience and expert opinions. According to The Shelf, a marketing agency, mothers feel more pressure than ever to be seen as “picture perfect” on social media. They found one in four millennial moms are willing to pay at least $50 a month for someone to help them keep their home lives in order, and 20% would shell out up to $150 a month.
“I have definitely seen an uptick in parents seeking my services over the past few years,” said parenting coach, Allison LaTona. “I’m busier than ever.”
Increasingly, parents will spare no expense when it comes to their children, from handwriting coaches to blow drying hair tutorials.
Amanda Uhry, founder of Manhattan Private School Advisors, is no stranger to the lengths Manhattan’s upper crust will go for their kids.  
“A lot of parents we work with are not particularly prepared to be parents until they have a kid and they don’t trust their own intuition,” said Uhry, adding that her clients have turned to professionals to teach their kids how to ride a bike, blow dry their hair and even stop sucking their thumbs. 
“These parents are wealthy and they can afford it, but the big picture is why are they doing this — is it because their friends are doing it?” Uhry asked.
Uhry said even handwriting tutors are increasing in popularity.
Occupational therapist Robyn Taniguchi charges $100 to $150 for 50-minute sessions to help children perfect their penmanship. 
“Most parents are just hoping their child can keep up with the demands of written work,” said Taniguchi, who is based in southern California. 
Ann Bolten, a mother of two in Chevy Chase, Maryland, relies on Vanessa Rothstein, an academic and organization coach, to teach her fifth grader cursive.
“Before I had kids, I had dreams of being the parent who helps her kids with their homework, but my older son quickly disabused me of that dream — he has no interest in me playing the role of the tutor,” said Bolten. 
As a former history major, she worries that her children, who aren’t learning cursive in school, won’t be able to read historical, handwritten documents. “Vanessa is my go-to for anything academic that requires my son to commit time and effort without complaint or resistance.”
Want to teach your kid to like sweet potatoes? There’s an expert for that. 
Los Angeles-based registered dietitian nutritionist, Julie Swift, said the demand for assistance in feeding kids is at an all-time high. 
Swift’s $300, 90-minute initial consultation includes a nutrition assessment, goal setting, recommendations and follow up emails. She typically steps in when babies begin eating solids at six months. 
“I usually do home visits for the first appointment so I can see the feeding set-up and dynamic. I also observe the child eating if they are under two years old,” Swift said.
Then, along with the parents, she develops a tailored plan for picky eaters by providing feeding resources, recipes and strategies to make mealtime easier. In addition, she offers farmers market and grocery store tours for an extra $200.
“I teach people how to choose produce,” said Swift, who also helps clients learn to read food labels.  
“When they were single they would order in, so they never had to pick out a butternut squash. Now that they have kids, they can’t just order food all the time and they actually have to cook,” said Swift. “My goal is to take the stress out of meal times.”
Hillary, a finance executive and mother of one, has paid hundreds of dollars for Swift’s services since her daughter was 6 months old. “I thought my daughter didn’t like sweet potatoes, but Julie encouraged me to keep introducing them to my daughter and now she loves them. I just would never have given them to her again,” she said.
Bonding activities, like playing catch, are a thing of the past for many affluent adults who would rather shell out hundreds of dollars for a professional play-time companion.
For parents who can’t manage to find their own experts, there’s a thriving industry of kid concierge services that tap networks of professionals to fill every need.
New Jersey company Kid Care Concierge, for example, tackles tasks like organizing homework, assisting with school projects, coordinating play times and shopping for and preparing meals. 
Luxury Manhattan buildings including One West End in Manhattan’s Upper West Side lure tenants with dedicated kid concierges to help parents. Rachel Lerch, lifestyle director at One West End said, she fields and executes a constant stream of requests ranging from orchestrating scavenger hunts to scheduling tea parties at The Plaza.
Families are also employing outsiders for outdoor play. 
Joel Cedeno works for Southern California-based company Fun & Sports, which sends athletic coaches to people’s homes for private, hour-long sessions, starting at $65 an hour. These can range from kicking soccer balls to riding bikes.
His bike lessons, which cost $260 for four sessions, include learning how to kick start and pedal, balance, maintain a straight line, brake and  stop. 
“I’m sure parents try to teach their kids to ride themselves, but they’d rather pay,” he said. 
Jen Gardner, a mother of four, relies on Cedeno to come over and play sports with her three sons, ages four, six and nine. The goal: to wear them out.
“He comes over whenever my kids are full of energy and he’ll play sports like basketball, soccer and hockey on my sport court and even games like tag with them for an hour so that I can get things done around the house,” said Gardner. “Joel comes every Friday at 12:30 for my four-year-old…they’ll play with water balloons when it’s nice out, or he’ll get in the pool with my kids and play sharks and minnows.” 
Manhattan Private School Advisors’ Uhry understands why parents increasingly have this pay-to-disengage mindset, but it comes at an additional cost. 
“It’s boring. Why not hire someone to do it?” Ury says of teaching kids to ride bikes. “What it means, however, is that the parent is missing important parts and milestones in their kid’s childhood.” 
Paying for ease of mind and the pursuit of perfect parenting
Parents, especially first-timers, live in fear of making poor decisions that will negatively impact their kids. 
Fortunately, there are coaches for parents, too.
Lauren T., a 39 year-old mother-of-two in Los Angeles, has spent thousands of dollars utilizing a parenting coach for the last five years. She calls it: “the world’s best parenting hack.”
“My life has been made infinitely easier by having the advice of baby whisperers and child development pros to help me navigate all the crazy ups and downs of raising little humans,” said Lauren. “Even something as simple as transitioning from a bottle to a straw cup — never a sippy — is confusing to new parents with so many options available. If my parent coach said get the bear straw cup, that’s the one I bought.”
And with social media projecting an endless stream of seemingly effortless parenting, individuals are willing to pay whatever it takes to keep up.
Allison LaTona, a licensed psychotherapist in Santa Monica who has also been a a parenting coach for 23 years, has seen the toll Instagram takes on parents first hand. 
“Parents today feel more pressure than ever before to be perfect,” she says. “Social media often solely portrays the joyful aspects of parenting and all that is going well. It filters out the messy, challenging moments, giving onlooking parents a false comparative, resulting in unrealistic expectations of themselves.” 
Ury calls parental insecurity in the digital generation a “time bomb” that’s set to explode.
“Since there is no such thing as perfection in the real world, never attaining it makes parents feel horrible about their self-perceived failures,” she says. “They believe that they are not the best parents. Believe that long enough, and you really won’t be your best self at all.”