Spotlight: Margaret Zablocka, founder of Onoco
As much as we want to be present in the moment with our kids, we also need to keep track of a multitude of schedules and milestones as we care for them. Onoco helps us to exactly that, and their mission to reduce the mental burden of caregiving is super inspiring to us.
GRASP: Onoco is an app that helps track the routines, developments and milestones in a young one's life, in order to lessen the mental burden that comes with monitoring each of these things. Where did this idea come from?
Margaret: The idea for Onoco came directly from my own experience as a parent. When I had my daughter, I was overwhelmed by the early days and weeks, and how much I was expected to remember in terms of her sleeping and eating habits - I was barely sleeping or eating myself as I got to know my new addition, let alone making the notes the health visitor was requesting of me! It was when I had my son a few years later that I knew there was something missing; nothing had really changed other than the addition of even more information at my fingertips thanks to social media (which, although a positive on the whole, isn’t always a great experience as a parent as you find yourself down rabbit holes of misinformation or pure opinion quite quickly!) and the fact I was also balancing the needs of my now toddler daughter…
Speaking to other parents, it became clear that everyone was seeking the same thing; a tool which would help them lessen their mental load by providing clear and accessible information about their child at the touch of a button, especially if they were considered the ‘key carer’, and help them to share the care of their children with their partners or extended family members. This and to be able to ditch the copious amounts of post it notes we all found ourselves leaving as reminders for feeding and sleeping and prompts for our partners!
The tracking tools and analysis were very much inspired by those early days and weeks of trying to properly understand what on earth was going on, and the milestones came through watching my daughter explore the world around her. When she started nursery I became aware of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework and felt it was essential to include in the app, to help parents achieve that extra peace of mind that their child is learning and developing as they should, and not only focusing on ‘traditional’ areas. The EYFS does cover literature and mathematics, but also children understanding the world around them and developing relationships.
So, Onoco became a reality in October 2020 and since then we have welcomed thousands of families to the app and celebrated a number of milestones - such as one million feedings tracked! - and the roll out of a range of new features inspired by user activity including Onoco Premium, Medicine Tracking, and Shared Timers.
GRASP: Like here at GRASP, Onoco is designed with the village that raises a child very much front of mind. What are some of the benefits of getting aunts, uncles, babysitters and more on board with baby's routine?
Margaret: The role and influence of collaborative care cannot be underestimated and like you say is a core feature of Onoco - our name actually means ‘success starts where sharing begins’, which we think reflects the experience of modern parents around the world.
For children, having additional family members and carers involved is a fantastic way for them to understand how to communicate their needs from an early age, and to develop special bonds in addition to those with their parents to help them feel secure and supported in new situations. Having these external influences can also help expose a child to new experiences and backgrounds as they grow and continue to develop their sense of self.
For parents, it’s the opportunity to not only take a much needed break or be able to return to work without that additional stress of wondering whether someone’s remembered the next bottle or nap!
Culturally we have very much moved into this way of thinking of families as independent structures, but can we really see this as a good thing where 50% of breadwinning moms are still managing the majority of the household workload, and 40% say that more support would help them avoid burnout?* It’s important for us, as an app and as a community as a whole, to recognise and listen to these statistics and provide the tools which can tangibly help parents thrive on their journey.
GRASP: Young children have had a tumultuous few years - many have lived a good chunk of their lives in the pandemic. What would you say to families worried about the impact this might've on their early years' development?
Margaret: If you’re worrying, stop!
It has been a really difficult few years for so many, but children are resilient, and so are you. Development is never about ticking boxes but rather recognising and celebrating those new skills your little one is learning. Yes this might look like them being able to recite their numbers up to ten or being able to read more independently, but it might also be how they recognise the changing seasons or being increasingly imaginative with how they play.
Your children are like sponges at this time of their life, so don’t underestimate how the little things can influence big change.
GRASP: What are the key ingredients of bonding time with a young child?
Margaret: Naturally it depends on the age of your child but I’d say the core elements are to openly show your love through touch and eye contact; to be fully present and available for your child in that moment; to never forget the importance of play and being imaginative together; and to create rituals which mean one-on-one time - in early stages this might look like breast or bottle feeding, but in the future could become movie nights at home and special storytimes.
GRASP: What does the future hold for Onoco?
Margaret: It’s a very exciting time for Onoco!
We’re always releasing new features inspired by our users - we’re especially excited for custom logs, which will allow users to add whatever tracking they find most useful, such as tummy time and bathtime. We are also looking at how we can be more innovative in the way we support parents, such as implementing AI powered tools to help parents find their family’s optimum routine earlier (more on that coming soon!)
On the whole, we hope the future holds even more parents discovering how Onoco can help them on their journey, and continuing to support this new generation of families.
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