Buy them a bonus mother!

For a fee, a college ‘mom’ will make your kid’s bed, bring them food and advise on their course. Just don’t expect them to turn your offspring into a fully functioning adult

Name: Rent-a-parent.

Age: Still in its infancy, unlike its beneficiaries, rent-a-parent is apparently a product of the pandemic.

Appearance: Motherly.

What fresh hell is this? It is the latest gift from the decadent death throes of late capitalism in the US: parents are paying people – well, women – to provide parenting services to their college-age kids.

Parenting services for uni students? Surely that means giving them the Netflix password, and sending cash bailouts, links to articles about the dangers of ketamine, and pictures of the cat doing something “funny”? Yes, once the ritual of driving your anxious fresher hundreds of miles in a car stuffed with duvets and laundry baskets, paying for one lavish big shop, then being summarily dismissed is over, that’s the traditional way of parenting a student.

If you are really unlucky, you may have to respond to a laconic 3am WhatsApp a few months later that reads “got arrested lol”, but that’s it. Well, according to the Wall Street Journal, these “college moms” do far more. Services include setting up students’ dorm rooms in their preferred colour scheme; making beds; taking in parcels; organising and accompanying students to medical appointments; bringing over soup; and even advising on which courses and teachers to choose.

Advice you say? We all know how much young adults love getting that from parents.

Maybe it goes down better when you are not related? One college mom who was interviewed said she “has been around long enough to know, for instance, which instructors give an easy A”.

I strongly object to the use of the word “mom” for this helicopter parenting by proxy. Yes, it’s maddening, if unsurprising and not entirely new. The concept of “sorority house moms” – employed to look after domestic matters and deal with emotional drama in those weird residential sisterhoods named after a Greek letter – is a well-established part of US college culture. The maternal load may never end, but it can be outsourced for $10,000 for an academic year (that’s how much Concierge Services for Students in Boston, which describes itself as “a mom away from home”, charges).

Isn’t the point of university that it is a time of heady, chaotic independence – shrinking all your clothes, blocking the toilet, eating nothing but kebabs, never cleaning or refrigerating anything? That’s the real education. Yes, scurvy and salmonella definitely made us the people we are today.

How will any of these kids become functional adults if they are treated like helpless babies? I expect the crushing disappointment of real life once these services are withdrawn at graduation will do the trick.

Do say: “I’ve changed your sheets, ironed your jammies, cleaned the loo, popped on a load of washing and made you a lasagne, darling.”

Don’t say: “That will be £450 plus VAT and any gratuity you feel is appropriate.”

Published in The Guardian