Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Do you need a mother's helper? A few hours a week can make a huge difference!

Do you feel like you never get a moment to yourself? Do you have children banging on the bathroom door or hanging (literally!) on your legs while you try to cook a nice family dinner? I did, and I was about to lose my mind.

I work from home as a part-time virtual consultant, so baby's nap times are jam-packed with my business to-do list items which never quite come to completion before he wakes. That means cooking, cleaning, first grade school needs for my daughter, and any other required chores have to be done with the little hurricane boy underfoot. Kitchen cabinets and television only entertain him for a few moments at a time.

Reaching the end of my rope, so they say, I decided I needed help. My consulting work can be unpredictable, so I decided against any regular daycare option; it was just too expensive. I came to the same conclusion about a nanny; I really only needed an extra hour or two in my day to regroup and finish the most pressing to-dos of the day. The perfect solution for me? A high school neighbor, now my three-day-a-week after school helper.

Benefits of a young mother's helper:
  • Pay rate - professional nannies and babysitters in this area usually require at least $11/hour. I was able to offer my neighbor $9/hour, which is a higher rate than she was making at her retail job and she simply walks across the cul-de-sac to get here. No gasoline needed, either. It is a win-win price for both of us.
  • Limited hours - this also helps me to reduce costs. Many professionals are not interested in just a couple hours here and there because they need a full-time income. My neighbor comes over three days per week after school and stays for two hours each time.
  • Great experience - she will benefit from the experience. Caring for a baby takes maturity and responsibility and the job allows her to highlight that for future jobs or college applications. I can also act as a personal reference for her should she need one.
With my mother's helper here, I do not have to work myself into a frenzy trying to finish a report or paperwork before the baby wakes. I have a safety net and can focus better on work, knowing that I have those couple extra hours. Or if I did complete the consulting tasks, I can prepare dinner in peace. And on occasional lucky days? I may even be able to retreat to a quiet room and read a book or mess around on the iPad for 30 minutes of "me" time. 

How to get the most benefit from a mother's helper:
  • Get a planner -- Write down the tasks for the week and plan them out for nap times and mother's helper hours. This really allowed me to get a handle on deadlines and time management. Now I can find time to play with Andrew and Amelia without feeling the pull of email and deadlines.
  • Schedule meals -- Plan the family dinners for the week and buy all the necessary grocery items over the weekend or on Monday morning. I try to select slow cooker or baked meals for the mother's helper days so that I can take full advantage of the hours she is in the house - instead of chopping veggies or standing by the stove. 
  • Assign tasks -- On most days, I am happy if she simply plays with the baby. But sometimes I can benefit from asking her to be on hand as Amelia completes homework, or to put the toys in the storage bin, or to prepare a snack for them both, or to work with Andrew on images and words from his favorite book. When the temperature allows, I will definitely have her take them outdoors for exercise as well, especially this time of year when it gets too cold and dark for after-dinner play. 

It feels luxurious to have an extra pair of hands around here for a few hours each week! I feel like a huge weight has been lifted. This simple decision to seek out help gave me the dedicated time and space that I desperately needed. Happy moms are better moms!

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