Hi friends! If you’ve been around awhile you know I’ve been rambling here in this space for some time, and you may or may not have noticed that I don’t have a lot of guest posts. In fact, I’ve never had a guest poster. Well, there’s a first time for everything and while I’m away on my trip, I’m allowing a dear friend of mine to share a very important topic on my blog.
Remember back when I was looking for a babysitter? Well Emily has an awesome mother’s helper. If you’re scratching your head wondering what the heck that is, or how you can get your hands on one, keep reading. She’s amazing.
Show her some social media love while I’m away, and see you soon!
5 Signs You Should Invest in a Mother’s Helper
by Emily Chapelle
It takes a village.
It really does. It takes a village to raise a child. But more than that, it takes a village to stay (sort of) sane. We’re not meant to live in isolation. We’re not meant to be a one-woman-band. We’re not meant to Do It All.
For many moms, this means they drop off the kids at their parents’ houses so their kids can have a day with the grandparents, or they’ll swap cousin-play-dates with their siblings. Then, the moms have a few hours or a day to run errands, go to doctor’s appointments, have lunch with a good friend, or catch up on housework, kid-free.
But this isn’t always possible, especially if you’re far away from your relatives. As the world gets smaller, families are spread across states, throughout the country, and even around the globe. And if you’re like me, your close (both relationship-close and location-close) friends all have small children at home too, and they’re just as entrenched in the daily responsibilities of taking care of their families and homes. So, that’s no help.
Who CAN help? Your friendly neighborhood mother’s helper.
What’s a mother’s helper anyway?
Different people hire mother’s helpers for different sorts of jobs. Sometimes they help with basic housekeeping tasks like getting breakfast dishes into the dishwasher and sweeping the kitchen, folding laundry, or even going grocery shopping. Other times, their main job is to play with the kids and keep them entertained (and safe). But most of the time, unlike nannies or babysitters, they’re helping out WHILE the mother is at home.
My helper is sort of like a super-fun-older-sibling-for-hire. So she might take the kids to the neighborhood playground or keep them occupied in the playroom for a couple of hours while I catch up on filing, write some blog posts, and clean the kitchen. Or she might take them in the front yard for some sidewalk chalk play while I do a toy rotation or catch up on watching my online class videos. She doesn’t do any meal preparation, cleaning (other than helping the kids pick up the playroom toys when they’re finished in there), errands (she’s too young to drive), or housework. She’s basically a playmate for my kids and they both love her to death. They get SO excited when she comes over to our house.
When I asked her to describe her job, for this post, she said without hesitation, “Fun!” I told her I really meant like a job description, what her responsibilities are, and so on. She answered, “Well, I play with the kids and take care of them…and change diapers. I really like it. I think it’s great experience, because someday when I’m older, I want to have kids.” (Isn’t she adorable?)
But do you need a mother’s helper? Are you unsure if you can justify the cost? Do you feel like you could/should Do It All on your own? Here’s how you can tell that it’s time to hire a mother’s helper, even if only for a few hours a week:
Sign #1: You stay up too late for “alone time.”
Maybe you have a handle on things, you love playing with your kids all the time, your housework is always caught up, and you’re not feeling like you really need help in general. But if you’re staying up way too late every night just to get a bit of alone time, a mother’s helper can be just the ticket to getting more sleep. So many days, I would stay up just to have some time by myself where no one was climbing on me or needing me, and it gets to be a bit of a problem after too many nights like that in a row.
Now, with my mother’s helper coming a few times a week, I get some of that alone time during the day. It’s time to recharge and just be ME, which is a completely valid need. And the only times I really stay up way too late these days is when I’m completely inspired and immersed in my work, and can’t turn off my brain. I’m much better about going to bed at a normal time these days, since I have some time to recharge during daylight hours.
Sign #2: You have stuff to do that you prefer to do without “help.”
You know the stuff I mean. Folding laundry and putting it away is a great chore to do with kids sometimes. After all, they’re learning from you, and you want them to have these skills as they get older! But sometimes you just want to get it done quickly. And that means alone.
As a work-at-home mama, I also have a lot of things I can only do on the computer. Writing blog posts, answering emails (I do some on my phone but prefer to do most of that on the computer), website maintenance, taking my online class, and so on. And if I sit down, especially at the computer, it’s like my kids are instantly drawn to me. They want to be in my lap, or the littler one wants to nurse, or they want to help push all the buttons.
I could sit them in front of a movie for a couple of hours every day and hope it entertains them enough that I can get that stuff done. I guess I could shut them into the playroom together and hope they play nicely together (and I do think this will work better when they’re slightly older). Or I can have my helper come for a little while and actually engage them in real, imaginative play. The choice is simple for me.
I can take my kids to the playground and play with them, sure. I can take them for walks and bike rides (well, tricycle rides, with me walking). I can chase them around the house. But when it comes down to it, I’m Mama. And the kids want to snuggle me, and they don’t play as hard with me as they do with other kids. They’ll climb the playground for a while before coming back to me and hugging me (which I love – don’t get me wrong).
But when my helper, who is still a kid herself, comes to play? They play HARD. They pretend to be mermaids, and hop around with their legs tied together with blankets as fins. They run around playing “goddess” wearing robes made of play silks and 8 hair clips each. And they don’t stop too much for snuggling and hugs. Because they’re all kids, just playing together. If your kids need to be seriously worn out, sometimes hiring a young teenager to play with them is just the ticket.
Sign #4: You want to “train” a sitter.
As a kinda-mostly-attachmenty parent, leaving my kids with a sitter is crazy hard for me to do. I will never understand how people can post to Facebook groups asking, “Can anyone babysit my 2 month old while I am at work this week? It’s 8:00-3:30 Monday, Thursday, and Friday.” I just cannot imagine leaving my kids with someone I literally just met.
So having a mother’s helper come pretty often while I’m home is great. I see how she interacts with my kids, and since she’s young and open to learning my family’s way of life (how we discipline, how to respond to the kids’ quirks, our special way of eating, and so on), I get to make little suggestions here and there. And since she’s awesome, she takes those suggestions to heart. She knows my kids just as well as any big sister would, and since I chat with her about her schoolwork, friends, and hobbies, I know her pretty well too.
Now when my husband and I have an event to attend or want to go on a date, we can have our helper come and know our kids are happy, safe, and in the care of someone we all know, love, and trust, and who respects our family’s way of doing things.
Sign #5: You just need to pee alone.
So is hiring a mother’s helper the right thing for your family?
Only you can decide. But for me, it was a no-brainer.
I hired my first helper (a college freshman studying Early Childhood Education) when I had 2 kids under 2, no family anywhere in my half of the country, all of my close friends were buried in their own babies, and my husband was deployed. She was absolutely a life-saver, and even if all I did during the time she played with my kids was take a nap or shower by myself, it was well worth the amount she charged. And when my husband came home from his deployment, I was able to take him out for an anniversary date without worrying about who was taking care of my kids, and if they were okay.
Now we’re on the same coast as our families, but still 8 hours away. My new helper is a tween who lives just around the corner from us. Her mother is amazingly supportive of her daughter’s love of babysitting, and is happy to help her if she’s alone with the kids and gets stuck with anything. My kids light up with my helper comes through the door, and to be honest, I do too.
One tip? When you find the helper that’s right for your family, keep her happy. Pay her a little more than you think she’d ask for, and schedule her to come regularly even if you don’t really need her to. Tell her when she was particularly amazing with the kids. Apologize if it was a super-crazy day, and tell her you appreciate her sticking it out. Give her little gifts now and then, if you want (sometimes I buy little matching goodies for my kids and my helper). Let her know how much you value her. And maybe she won’t post flyers for her babysitting services around the neighborhood, dreaming of greener grass on the other side.
About Emily Chapelle:
Emily Chapelle is an expert homemaker, having set up six different houses in seven years of military moves. She’s also the mother of two adorable curly-haired kids, wife to a Navy fighter pilot, and a former teacher, childcare provider, and nanny. Now she works from home to spread encouragement and inspiration to other homemakers with a no-nonsense attitude and lots of tough love. She blogs at So Damn Domestic. Get her free eBook, Finding the Awesome: 3 Steps to Doing More & Stressing Less for more inspiration and guided, broken-down exercises to find your Awesome.