Admitting I hired a Mother’s Helper

Let me just skip to the punchline: I LOVE my Mother’s Helper and wish I had learned about this hybrid person-of-awesome much sooner. I don’t want to sound like a celebrity with a fleet of nannies, but a well-placed assistant totally kicks ass. Ok, now that I see that in writing, I’m sure that I didn’t try this sooner because I was afraid of that very perception. To give the impression, however accurate, that I cannot do it alone felt like failure.

Sigh.

Look at these faces. You can’t leave them alone together for half a minute.

After Alec returned to work and I was faced with the witching hour and three young children, I needed help. You, dear readers, gave me a heap of good ideas for shortcut meal prep. But, I could only get so far with lowering my standards. Truthfully, I needed at least three hands. Or maybe four: one for each child and another making food.

I decided that my ideal helper would be a high school or college student in the late afternoons for about two hours when I was home. Having never hired someone like this, I wasn’t very clear on the rest of my criteria as I began my search. Perhaps she would hold the baby while I cooked or maybe she could do the school run (an hour-long loop that resulted in half of us crying). Nah, I couldn’t trust a new driver in my megavan with my children. Like I said, the particulars were fuzzy and hormones were high.

Then I got lucky. Why do we always find something the last place we look? Because we stop looking! In the case of my phenomenally amazing mother’s helper, I looked everywhere for her. I tried friends, my preschool, Berkeley Parents Network, Facebook, Bananas, Care.com, and Urban Sitter. I really had given up hope when Lorna’s profile fell across my screen (Urban Sitter if you’re wondering).

I called all her references — who loved her — but still wondered if I could really trust a stranger with my infant. I decided that I probably would do all the baby stuff myself and delegate the helper jobs that would keep my home running: Dinner, lunches, laundry. I hoped like heck she could follow a recipe.

My previous helper had been great with the big kids, but she tended to play games only to leave the pieces spread all over the floor. I knew I’d have to be specific with my needs and wants if this was going to work. I had to find a way to get a stranger to do what I would do myself if I had more of me to go around.

Lessons learned:

  • Head off any drama. Identify hot button issues before they come up. I let her know up front that I’m a nutjob about handwashing, and if she wanted to make me happy she would need to do it as the very first thing every time. Crisis averted.
  • Write it all down. Each day I outlined the priorities: dinner, lunchboxes, laundry. If there were any special projects, I added them to the list and stuck it in ranked order so she could leave at 6pm knowing that the important stuff was covered.
  • Take it slow and Train on the job. At first I let her familiarize herself with my kitchen and food prep. After she saved my sanity in that room, she built relationships with my big boys and finally learned the details of Sawyer’s care. For the first weeks, I owned all babycare but as time went on, I trusted her more to take over.

After four weeks of helping with me at home, I left Lorna alone with all three kids. For 10 minutes. She provided bridge care until Alec’s bus arrived so I could go to the BlogHer holiday party.

Over time, she has gone from being a Mother’s Helper to being our go-to babysitter. I credit my comfort with her abilities to feed and put to bed my three little guys to the time we spent together those crazy afternoons when I was so raw and just needed more hands.

Have you used a Mother’s Helper? Do you have any tips to someone else considering this relationship?

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RookieMoms co-founder & mom to 3 boys in Berkeley, CA. Bossy big sister and project manager turned blogger helping moms enjoy their first years of motherhood. Find me on my other site on 510families.com or hiding in my minivan eating dark chocolate.