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Childcare solutions: What is a mother's helper?

Naomi de la Torre is freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom with two delightful boys, ages three and six. Naomi has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona, is a self-proclaimed salsa diva, and can make a killer octopus ...

How to find a good mother's helper

You love your kids, but sometimes they drive you to the edge of sanity. It would be great to hire a regular babysitter, but your budget is just too tight these days. Have you considered enlisting the assistance of a mother’s helper?
Mother's helper with toddler

What is a mother's helper?

A mother's helper is a little different than a nanny or babysitter because she assists the family while one or both parents are still at home. Mother's helpers can help with childcare, laundry, cooking, cleaning or other household chores. The best part about a mother's helper is that because a responsible parent is still at home, the pay is significantly less than that of a nanny or babysitter. Oftentimes, young girls who are not quite full-fledged babysitting age will work as mother's helpers in order to gain skills and training for future babysitting positions.

Mother's helper job responsibilities

Mother's helpers can be asked to do a variety of household chores. Do you work from home? Hire a mother's helper to entertain your children while you finish up important projects that require more concentration than you can achieve while you have a 2-year-old hanging from your ankles.

Household chores getting you down? Ask your mother's helper to pitch in and together you'll knock out an enormous amount of work in no time at all. Do you homeschool? How about asking your mother's helper to play with your toddlers while you do lessons with your older children? There are many ways that you can tailor your mother's helper to the specific needs of your family.

Real help

Victoria Hudson, mother of two toddlers, talks about her mother's helper experience: "As a work-at-home mom with two little ones in the house, I was going crazy. I would try to work and the kids would be climbing all over the computer. I wanted to hire a part-time nanny or babysitter, but the rates were completely out of my price range. Then a friend suggested that I hire a mother's helper. I found a wonderful girl who lives just down the street from us. She comes over for a couple of afternoons each week and it has made all the difference!"

How to train your mother's helper

If you choose a young mother's helper that is just learning the ropes, it will be your responsibility to train her to assist your family in a way that is most useful to you. Don't think of this as a drawback. While you will have to put in a little more time and effort in the beginning to teach her how to do certain chores, on the positive note, she is coming to you with a learning attitude and she should be happy to follow your instructions.

Don't be shy. Tell your mother's helper exactly what your family's needs are and give her detailed instructions on how she can help. Don't just say, "Please entertain the children while I work." Instead, describe exactly what your expectations are. "I'd like you to play with the children while I finish this project. I will need approximately two hours. Please take them out in the backyard where they can play with the sprinkler or in the sandbox. If they get hungry, clean them off outside and then bring them into the kitchen for a snack."

How to find a mother's helper

The best way to find a mother's helper is to utilize the connections you have in your own community. Ask around at church, playgroup, the YMCA, Zumba class, knitting circle, etc. Most moms of tweens are eager to help their daughters gain babysitting skills before they reach legal babysitting age. Arrange a time to talk with your potential mother's helper and her parents to make sure everyone is in agreement before you start working together.

Mother's helper compensation

Depending on how much training they need, compensation can vary widely for mother's helpers. If you are the first family she has assisted, $3 per hour is a generous rate. As time goes on and your mother's helper reaches legal babysitting age, you will want to raise her rate to at least minimum wage or whatever the going rate is in your community. (This can vary widely around the United States, but in many states pay may range anywhere from $7-10 per hour.)

Once your mother's helper becomes a full-fledged babysitter, you can also feel confident to leave her with your children while you leave the house. This is also a wonderful way to gain trust in a babysitter before leaving her with her children, because you can really get to know someone while you are in the home together.

Says mother of three Tania Turner, "I am so pleased with our mother's helper! She started working with us when she was only 11 and she helps out with everything around the house. She has always had a great attitude and the kids love her. Now she is 14 and she is a babysitter for lots of families in our neighborhood. But she always works for us first because we have such a close relationship thanks to our mother's helper experience."

More on childcare

The lowdown on live-in summer nannies
Mannies: Would you hire a manny?
Setting babysitter expectations

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