Hiring a Mother’s Helper: The Ultimate Guide
Today I wanted to talk about hiring a Mother's Helper because it has been a fantastic experience for me. There are many important questions to consider, like what does a mother's helper do, to how old should a mother's helper be, and lots more. Let's just in and see if hiring a mother's helper is right for you. I am adding a few affiliate links to this post.
As a young mom, I had never heard the phrase Mother's Helper and I certainly never was one myself. Quite the opposite as I was NOT a baby person until I became a mom.
I needed all the advice I could get, and had to learn a lot on my own- everything from learning what baby gear I would actually USE, to toddler potty training advice.
I didn't even hear the term Mother's Helper until my daughter was two years old. I really wish I'd known about them sooner!
So first of all, let's clarify that when I say Mother's Helper I am NOT talking about the handy kitchen stools for kids, which come up when you look for this term. And I am DEF not talking about valium which sadly got the nickname Mother's Helper due to the famous song, Mother's Helper by a well known rock band.
What is a Mother's Helper?
A mother's helper is someone (often a tween or teen) who comes over and looks after your baby while you are still at home (so there is a lot to consider when choosing one). Consider your mother's helper a babysitter in training.
The purpose of a mother's helper is to allow the parent peace of mind that your baby or toddler is being supervised, while you are in another part of the house.
You can use this time to tend to chores, rest in the next room, get some work done or just have some “me time” while your baby is played with, changed and maybe even fed. Plus your Mother's Helper gets a safe place to learn some babysitting basics!
This arrangement can be beneficial for everyone involved but there are some considerations before you begin.
How to Hire A Mother's Helper
When starting your hunt for a good mother's helper, there are plenty of places to look. Don't overlook these people or groups when thinking of someone you trust:
- Nieces & nephews
- Siblings of your child's playmates
- Neighborhood moms groups
- School groups
- Church communities
Don't rush out and ask the first tween or teen you meet though. Some questions to ask about your Mother's Helper candidates before choosing a mother's helper include:
- Does he or she like younger kids and babies?
- Would he or she really like to spend time doing this?
- Is he or she mature enough to be “in charge?”
- Will he or she require supervision by you in order to play with your child? (The last thing you want is to get into a situation where you are now babysitter your child AND someone else's!)
- Will the time spent at your house detract from school work?
- How will he or she get to and from your house?
- Does he or she have any allergies or medical conditions? Either way it is best to have emergency contact information handy.
What is the Mother's Helper's Job Description?
I know I found it hard, amidst the exhausted fog of early motherhood, to think about anything other than getting some relief. However it really is important to spend a little bit thinking through your own expectations for this arrangement. What are you looking to get from this? It sounds silly to ask this but it is important that you and your mother's helper talk about what is expected so that you are both on the same page.
Here are common duties of a mother's helper. You will have to decide if your Mother's Helper is ready for each one or if he or she will call you if you are needed. Whether or not you plan to pay your Mother's Helper may help you decide which tasks he or she is responsible for.
- Diaper changes
- Cleaning up toys
- Backyard playtime (can the Mother's Helper lift your child and supervise in a swing, for example)
- Perhaps some light chores if your child is sleeping
Be sure to set out clear communication with your Mother's Helper about the following considerations.
- How far away will you be (the next room, the back yard, the basement) and how should your mother's helper let you know when you are needed?
- Are there any off limits behaviors? For example is TV allowed? If your kids are mobile, are the allowed to climb or stand on furniture? Is your child allowed up or down stairs?
- Help your Mother's Helper to learn what to do if your child fusses and what he or she likes to do for fun. Keep in mind that your Mother's Helper likes to do big kid things and may need help thinking of what smaller kids might light to do.
- Do you require any outside training? Classes are available for kids to learn CPR and basic babysitting skills. It might be worth the investment to split the cost of such a class with the parents of your Mother's Helper as an investment in your future full-time babysitter!
- Do you have more than one child? If so decide if your Mother's Helper will be responsible for one or more of them.
How much to Pay a Mother's Helper?
Will you be paying your Mother's Helper? Siblings or cousins might be asked to fill this role without pay but anyone else would probably expect to be paid. Even family members should be offered money if he or she is regularly asked to supervise a younger child on a regular basis (think of it as a house chore which you might offer an allowance for).
How much you pay a Mother's Helper can range depending on their age, what responsibilities you give them and if he or she has any extra certifications.
- Pay for a Mother's Helper can start as low as $1-$2 per hour. That is great money for a 9-11 year old kid and it shows that you value their time.
- If your mother's helper is older or more mature, always cleans up before leaving, has had any babysitting classes or CPR training definitely consider paying him or her a little more if possible.
Helpful Gear for your Mother's Helper
If you want to get into a good solid routine using a Mother's Helper, here are some helpful items to get you started on the right foot. These are obviously optional but as your child gets older it would be great to already have all this in place.
These childcare basics are handy to have no matter who is caring for your child. Click through the links below for details:
There are several great Babysitter Guide Books on the market that are perfect for a new Mother's Helper. Most will include the basics and safety information as well as games, crafts and other ideas to entertain kids. Click through the links below for details and to find the best match for you:
- Babysitter's Survival Guide
- Smart Girl's Guide to Babysitting(I love the whole series of American Girl Guides)
- The Babysitter's Backpack Book
- Don't Sit On the Baby!: The Ultimate Guide to Sane, Skilled, and Safe Babysitting(Don't let the title fool you- this is a seriously awesome book!)
You know I love me some Etsy, and these babysitting printables make communication and entertaining the kids a breeze. Click the links below for details:
- Babysitting Activity Pack (includes songs, games, first aid information and more)
- Babysitter Bag Kit (another set with games, songs, first and and even behavior tips)
- Babysitter Emergency Information Pack (two pages, I'd print them front to back and laminate them to make them last)
- Babysitter Activity Packs (Depending on how old your kids are, these are themed play packs to help create a fun time)
Some parents and Mother's Helpers/babysitters like to have a unique set of books or toys that they only bring out when the Mother's Helper is there to make them extra special. Consider some of these sets for yours. Click the links below for details.
Note: Some of the items below focus on educational topics, yes even for babies! If it seems overboard to read or “educate” a baby from early on, think again! Simple tasks like pointing and naming an object, showing them new shapes and patterns, reading a simple board book, and even singing songs help to create new pathways in their brains. Don't believe me? Check out the 1,000 books before kindergarten website and start your reading routine today. We read our kids 2 books before bedtime and naps every day and it doesn't take much time to snuggle in and read two quick books.
- High Contrast Books & Toys (These are perfect for infants whose new eyes are still learning to focus. However, babies can get overwhelmed and fussy if looking at them for too long though, because it's a lot to look at, so it's perfect for short visits like with your Mother's Helper.)
- Teach My Baby Learning Kit (What a cool way to allow your Mother's Helper to enrich your little one's learning)
- Colorful Cloth ABC Cards (I love the ones that come with a nice little tote bag)
- A Toy Dish or Food set (Quite possibly the best toy investment ever, in my opinion, mainly because of the longevity. Depending on the set (look for forks and knives that are not pointy) you can start with these as early as six months old- and my 6 and 8 year olds still plays with ours today!) We love Green Toys and Melissa and Doug Kitchen Sets.
Real Life examples of how a Mother's Helper Works out
I've had the pleasure of hiring two different young ladies as my Mother's Helper and in case it helps you to pick your own I thought I'd tell you about my experiences.
When my daughter was about 2 years old I met a neighborhood mom with two daughters, one of whom was in high school and one was in 7th grade. The mom saw me with my daughter and mentioned that her girls both babysit, the older one at night and the younger one as a Mother's Helper.
Months later when I was ready we set up a weekly session with the 7th grader. She walked to our house from school and her mom would come pick her up. She had babysat with her sister before and took a class about babysitting. She took right over when she walked in, engaging my daughter in play, handling diaper changes and feeding her. My daughter loved her and it went really well. We did this for several months after which time her and her mother decided that moving on to 8th grade would mean a harder school load and we would have to stop. I really enjoyed it and will keep her number handy for a few years down the line for when she will be ready for prime time babysitting.
Fast forward a year to when we had a son who was 19 months old and my daughter was almost 4. We had another nearby neighbor with two kids about as far apart as our kids are, but obviously years older. The daughter was 9 now and she has always been super sweet to our kids. We mentioned a few times in conversation that it would be great to have her come over as a Mother's Helper and she and her parents loved the idea as well.
Things were a lot different in out house because instead of one docile toddler, we now had an active preschooler and a very, VERY active toddler. Our lovely 9 year old neighbor came over and the kids just loved her, they all had such a blast! But I will say that I made the mistake of assuming this would all be the same as it was with our first Mother's Helper. I did not talk through my expectations or give her any suggestions on how to keep the kids busy, I just assumed she was a kid and would know what to do.
We had weeks of great play time and then my daughter started to change. She seemed less interested. My son stopped napping in the afternoon so now he was going to be awake for more of the time our neighbor was here. I could see that it was getting harder but it took me a while to realize my oversight on expectations.
We had a heart to heart and I was really surprised to hear all the feedback that SHE had about how hard it was and how things had changed. She was SO sweet and forth-coming and honest. It was one of the hardest things to do to initiate this talk because the last thing I wanted to do was to make her think I thought badly of her. This was a hard thing she was doing- occupying two very different kids!
We talked with her father as well and kept communication lines open between us. We took a short break and when she came back it went really well. I had learned to lay my son down for a later nap, which would mean he would still be asleep while she was here. This would give her and my daughter time to play together, which my daughter LOVES. Our neighbor started to bring over a toy or game that she used to like to play with when she was little, which has been such a treat for my daughter too! When my son wakes up, they all have a snack and now that the weather is nice the girls go out to the back yard after the snack and I have some time alone with my son. This schedule is perfect for me.
I really love that my daughter got such quality time with a very sweet older girl. I'm grateful that I get some time alone with my son as well as time to get things done around the house. I also really like that our Mother's Helper is getting some valuable babysitting experience.
All in all I have found having a Mother's Helper a real life saver! I hope these tips and stories help you to find one too!
I loaded my Mother's Helper video up top but in case it didn't pop up, you can check it out here:
These are great tips. I’ve never had a mother’s helper but may be relying on one of my nieces after kiddo #2 arrives. 🙂
Oh yes! Consider it for sure! We have really enjoyed it and with a new baby in the house it can be an opportunity for toddlers and preschoolers to have something special to look forward to… and give you one on one time with baby!
Thanks for sharing your experiences and tips!