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One bite at a time together: Get help (project 51)

I’m still slowly working my way through Tsh’s ebook One Bite at a Time and journaling my progress here.  My favorite part of the book is that it can be done in any order, which is helpful for my oftentimes scattered brain.

Somehow there is so much mama guilt out there.  Or rather, in here.  For some reason, I’ve come to believe that not only do I have to do it all, but I have to do it all basically perfectly, and without complaint, hesitation, or even so much as a sigh.

And you know what?  For a while I tried that.

And you know what?  It didn’t work for long.

So this year, I made the decision to not put my daughter in preschool and instead use the money we would have allocated to her tuition to hiring a mother’s helper.  

There are a lot of reasons (too specific and boring for me to bother laying out in detail here) why I made the decision, but part of it boiled down to the simple fact that by the time I did all of the load up, car seat buckling, unbuckling, driving to and fro, I would really only end up with a whopping one hour of unencumbered time.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that was a very expensive hour.  What I really needed was just an extra set of hands for a few hours per week.  Someone to put the baby down for his nap and keep my 4 year old occupied while I did my part in the hybrid homeschooling program my son attends.  

And if that someone could do a few simple household chores while she was at it, well, that would pretty much be heaven on mama earth.

After much hemming and hawing, back and forths, and heaping tons of guilt (Why couldn’t I just do this by myself?  Other moms set up lavish work boxes for younger siblings to do during home school time…why can’t I?  My grandmother would be appalled that I am hiring help!  Ack!), I finally hired a mother’s helper.

Three months in, and it is one of the best decisions I have ever made.  Here’s why I love it, and why you might want to consider hiring one yourself:

  1. There is no picking up/dropping off.

    Honestly, even though I live in a fairly small town and nothing is very far away, loading up multiple kids into multiple car seats just to drive 2 miles away, somehow manages to eat up a lot more time than you would think.  And somehow, it’s always right when the baby is napping.  Which, as you know, is the WORST.

  2. The kids think they have a personal playmate.

    As far as my daughter is concerned, Miss Bri is here to play with her.  Miss Bri works through her alphabet with her and minutes later, dons a ruffled apron and plays kitchen.  Sometimes, she even takes the kids to the park, and I have an hour of quiet time.

  3. Not only do I get help with the kids, I get the added bonus of help around the house.

    Every Wednesday, Miss Bri folds and puts away kid laundry.  Let me repeat: she folds and puts away kid laundry.  The amount of laundry I do weekly is now a fraction of what it once was.  I feel like I have so much more time.  I cannot express to you how huge of a difference this one task has made for me.  

    She also helps the kids with cleaning up their rooms, empties the dishwasher, tidies up the playroom, and sweeps the kitchen.  (She doesn’t do all of these everyday, but these are the types of tasks I ask of her.)

  4. I can run quick errands without littles in tow.

    I’m typically at the house a majority of the time she is here, but it’s really nice to be able to pop out for a quick run to the grocery store, or to pick up a prescription without toting along all the kids. Again, the efficiency is incredible.

  5. I can truly focus on homeschooling with my older son.

    I realize that lots of mamas home school with toddlers and preschoolers underfoot successfully.  I, however, am not one of those mamas.  I suppose that perhaps I could be.  But I feel a whole lot less stressed when I’m not trying to juggle multiple squirrely balls all at once.  I like that I can focus on one thing and do it really well.  Plus, since we can be really focused, we finish up sooner and he can have some Miss Bri time too.

  6. She folds and puts away kid laundry.

    I know I already said that.  BUT SHE DOES KID LAUNDRY.  (Actually, my kids put away their own laundry…but she’s there to facilitate and put away for the younger ones who can’t yet.)

photo (28)

For now, she comes two afternoons per week for three hours at a time.  Next year, I will have 3 out of 4 kids in school so things will look completely different and I don’t know that I’ll need a mother’s helper.  Or maybe I will.  I don’t know.  But for now…for this year…I’m so glad I stepped outside of my comfort zone, quieted my shame, and said yes to getting some help.  I’m much less frazzled, and I’m really enjoying home school this year.  Which is saying quite a bit over last year.

Have you ever hired a mother’s helper?  Has there been anything stopping you?  Am I the only one who feels really guilty and “less than” for hiring help (because it’s still totally there.  no matter how hard I try.)

Are you working through One Bite at a Time?  You can get it here for only $5!  Join me!  It’s really kinda fun!

Reading Time:

4 minutes





  1. Heather

    I’ve never had a mother’s helper but I do have a cleaning lady every 2 weeks. I too hummed and hawed about getting one. I finally decided to go for it for the last 2 months of my last pregnancy and the first 2 months after the baby was born ( 4 months total). When the 4 months was up, I was going to cancel the service. My husband approached me and told me that I was a better mother and wife to everyone when we had a cleaning lady. He said I should not cancel her.

    I think the mother’s helper idea is the same. It helps us moms out. It frees up some time and de-stresses our daily lives. This allows us to be more relaxed, present and giving. There should be no shame in hiring mother’s helpers, cleaning ladies, etc. My shame at not being a super-human has simply turned into gratitude, from me and from every member of my family for the great help that we receive.

    • jeannett

      Over the last several years, I’ve hired cleaning ladies too. But it never seems to last more than a few months. For me, I’ve found that the rushing around all morning to get things picked up…and then trying to stay out of her way (with kids in tow) either by leaving or being in another room was actually more stressful than just doing the work myself. Now I clean when my helper is here…I can get it done so much faster when I don’t have kids underfoot the entire time.

      And isn’t it so true? Your point about feeling shame for not being superhuman…ha!

  2. Angela Mills

    My kids are 6 years apart, so I never really needed a mother’s helper, but I could have used one when I was on bedrest for 4 months.

    If I could afford a housecleaner that comes once a week, I’d do it in a heartbeat!

    • jeannett

      Maybe you can afford one that comes once a month? We did that when I was pregnant with my twins. I still had to clean certain things in the interim, but hard scrubbing like showers, tubs, etc. really could hang in there for the month until she came again.

  3. Naamah

    We made the same decision this year and it has honestly been such a sanity saver. I have huge mother/wife guilt but have had to come to realise that at times pride plays a bit of a part in those feelings too. We only have 3 hours, one day a week, but she helps clean, does random jobs that I don’t get to and generally acts as a bit of a motivation for me to have some things done by the time she gets here.
    Better a happy wife/mother for the home environment than a stressed out, time poor one. Everyone else is happier as a result.

  4. rachael

    This is great idea! I wanted to hire a babysitter yesterday so I could go do groceries during the day but felt silly and guilty. I ended up not being able to go until 8 at night. It was poor weather out and I got home late. Next time I will follow my heart and go for it.

    • jeannett

      I know exactly how this feels. It’s awful. And really not worth it. I’ve learned to time my errands for when she is here…last week I even went to an eye doctor appointment for myself! Normally, I would have had to do it on a Saturday…which is always a bummer because that’s sacred family time in our home. Maybe you could have a babysitter weekly for a couple of hours? (And obviously I know nothing of your finances). But if you could load everything into those two hours, it’s really nice. Sure, it’s not a “break” but being able to knock a bunch of to-dos out in a short time, frees up time the rest of the week. Good luck!

  5. Jennifer

    How did you find her? What qualifications did you look for?

    • jeannett

      A friend of mine is in a homeschooling co-op and she sent out my email request to the group. My helper is homeschooled and is a senior in high school. I was looking for experience babysitting, changing diapers, and a willingness (and understanding) that this wasn’t just babysitting…but also light chores. The girl I hired has babysat for years and is the oldest of four kids so she was a perfect fit!

  6. Katherine

    I have to chime in on the point about buckling kids into car seats and driving back and forth. That was a factor in homeschooling my oldest for kindergarten this year. It just didn’t feel worth it to do the driving, as (seemingly) minimal as it was.

    • Jeannett

      It’s amazing how long it takes to go 2 miles!
      And then getting settled back in…by the time you really sink your teeth into a task at home, it’s time to go pick them up again!

  7. Jessica

    I love the idea of a mothers helper. I only have one baby girl at the moment, but I’m hoping my family will continue to grow and I’m also hoping to homeschool. Even though I’m an organized type, I definitely think I’ll get a mothers helper for a few hours a week. This way I can be sure to focus some time on ‘schooling’ the older ones without the distractions of the house and littler ones. I think it’d also work well the other way too, helping me to have 1:1 time with the littler ones, whilst the older kids are entertained!

    • Jeannett

      Yes! We’ve figured out a system where we sneak in some of the easier homeschooling activities in the morning when my helper isn’t here…then we focus on the harder stuff for a couple of hours when she gets here. So we usually end with an hour of her still being here and we are done with schoolwork…so I use that hour to either run errands and/or spend some one on one time with the others too. Last week, I took my 4 year old out for ice cream while Bri stayed home with the others. It just allows for a lot of flexibility.

  8. Alana

    I NEED to do this myself – but curious, how old is your mother’s helper? And how did you find her? New to a small town myself and just don’t know where to start. Thanks!

    • Jeannett

      I found her through a friend.
      There are babysitting websites out there you can try (although I haven’t so I can’t speak to them specifically). is one of them.
      Another option (which I did when we first moved here) call a local church and ask the youth pastor for a few references. I explained that we were new to town and looking for babysitters and didn’t know where to begin. We found a great girl we used several times that way!

      • Jeannett

        Oh, and my helper is 17. She’s a (home schooled) high school senior.

      • Elizabeth

        I know quite a few people who’ve found babysitters/nannies through Instagram. There are lots of resources available through social media.

  9. Jessica

    I WAS a mother’s helper for the last two years of high school and I absolutely loved every minute of it. The children 4 of them, all 2 years apart, were delightful and their mother is still a great friend of mine.

    I don’t think I’d be the mother I am today without that life experience. As a mom of 3, I actually HAVE some experience of doing this before, and its completely invaluable. YES it is normal for people to spend a month hating each others guts, It’s probably OK if the toddler refuses to wear clothes for awhile, No one’s going to die (except of maybe embarrassment) because the baby pooped on the floor. This many kids just *IS* kind of Insane, and that’s ok. Thanks to being a mother’s helper, I know that deep deep in my bones, and it makes me realize that I’m not failing, I’m just normal =)

  10. Rachael

    I don’t have kids myself (yet) (although I totally get the guilt thing, since I feel guilty when I don’t make dinner for my husband, even though I work more hours than he does and he’s perfectly capable and happy to cook).

    That said, I was a mother’s helper/nanny/housekeeper for a couple families when I was in high school and college (especially during the summer), and I feel like it was a really valuable experiance for ME. The families expected different things (one mother NEVER left the house when I was there and frequently worked alongside me, while another would use my day there to do out of town doctor’s appointments and shopping while I tended the kids), and their households naturally ran differently then the one I was raised in. Working alongside those women, some who worked outside the home, and some who worked in the home, I learned a lot about how to be a productive member of society, and more specifically, a woman in society and the different ways I could fill that role, and a whole, whole lot about mothering. I think my experiances were probably unusual (I mostly worked for women from my church who already knew me and my family to some extent), but besides the non-material things I learned, I was able to pay for all my high school “extras” from my yearbook to my prom dress to my choir trips myself, and save my parents the expenses which they really couldn’t afford.

    • Jeannett

      This is so cool to hear! I love knowing that yes, I’m paying her, but she’s also learning some important stuff too! Thanks!

  11. Becky

    Mother of seven children ages 21years down to 8 months. If this were possible in our situation, I would totally do this. In a heartbeat. Wouldn’t have when I was in my 20s and 30s, but now, in my early 40s? Oh yeah. Pride is gone. Perfectionism is on its way out the door. I am able to realize I can’t do it all, and that is ok. It’s a wonderful freeing place to be.

    • Jeannett

      Perfectionist: when I had one child.

      By the time my twins came along, that started going out the door.

      Four kids: live life the best way you can. And by live, I mean really LIVE and enjoy it. Whatever that entails.

  12. Anitra

    I have hired help before. But I’ve also learned that for ME – I can’t stay at the house, or I still don’t get anything done (including relaxing). But it can be invaluable to simply be able to go grocery shopping by myself or go take a nap in my car, and come back to a house that is cleaner than I left it (or at least no worse) and happy children.

    The silly thing is that I ALWAYS feel guilty about it. If I’m paying a teenager, it’s because I should be able to do this stuff myself and not “waste” the money. If I’m asking my mother-in-law (who now lives close by), I feel guilty that I’m taking up her time – especially if I have to ask her more than once in a week.

    I just try to remind myself that it’s WORTH the money, (especially since we rarely need a paid babysitter anymore), and that my mother-in-law WANTS to spend time with her grandchildren and she has no problem telling me “no” if she’s busy.

    • Jeannett

      I still feel pangs of guilt.
      And I wonder if she thinks we are somehow this “rich” family (although yes, obviously when compared to the world at large)…and we’re really not. We just chose to skip one thing and use the money for another.
      But so totally worth it.
      And for now, I think it’s only for a year. Next year, it will just be me and the youngest…but who knows?

  13. Kate

    Thank you for this – I needed it today. I can’t quite figure out what I need yet in the way of help, but I know I need help. I need to let go of the idea that someone else out there is doing it all themselves, and therefore I should be able to, too.
    In answer to your question about guilt, sometimes I have guilt about the fact that other women cannot afford the same help. Instead of just feeling grateful for the times I’ve had a cleaning lady or a mother’s helper, I allow myself to feel judged by others who have no choice but to take on greater burdens all to themselves. When the reality is that as women and parents I think we should all be cheering each other on, and asking for or accepting all the help we can get, even if unfortunately, not everyone has access to the same amount of help. Right?

    • Jeannett

      Oh girl…
      I don’t tell many people. Because SHAME. And like I’m somehow less than. And guilt that I know that so many others don’t have the help and/or can’t afford it.
      But I still drive a car even though a huge percentage of the world can’t afford it. Not exactly the same idea, but similar.
      I get it.

  14. Kerry

    That sounds wonderful. I truly believe it takes a village to raise a child and keep a mother happy 🙂

  15. Rachael

    I’m so glad you posted this! I just had someone come to clean my home for the first time this week and I was vacillating between supreme joy (someone else cleaned my toilets while I played trains with my boys!) and guilt (come on, you should have done it yourself). What I’ve realized is that things that were totally doable for me in the past when I had one or two toddlers–like keeping my house to the standards that I crave–are not possible now that I have five children, a new baby, a severe case of postpartum depression, a couple of classes I’m teaching at our local university, and a husband who is frantically finishing his last year of his doctoral program. (Wow, just typing that made me realize how crazy my life is right now!)

    I think we mothers take on so much guilt that we really don’t need to be carrying around. We are mothering! We’re heroes! And whatever helps us to mother more effectively is fabulous and worthwhile.

    • Jeannett

      Your life is totally crazy. 😉

      But seriously.

      Also, I just thought about this: so many households hire gardeners…pool guys…we pay mechanics to fix our cars and change our oil…plumbers…and there isn’t the shame associated with all of that. Granted, some of those are skilled trades and perhaps the homeowners don’t possess them…but still. It’s quite the double standard when you think about it. Hmmmm….

  16. Danni

    We have recently welcomed our second Au Pair into our home. Just like many mums, I have a hubby who works long hours(shift work), kids, a home business and I work part time also. That added to running a household and ensuring everyone gets to their activities meant we never got to spend any family time together. Having an Au Pair living with us has made a huge difference to us, having an extra set of hands to help with the children, picking up/dropping off, dishes and clothes etc. It means we have more time to spend together. It has also allowed us to make some good friends and have learned about different cultures in the process.

    I still have pangs of mothers guilt at times, but the way I see it, this small change is making a big difference to all of us and that good feeling wins out every time.

  17. Kelly

    Great blog Jeanett! I think anyone who can afford it should at least consider getting some help. Look at everything that needs doing and choose your least favourite tasks to farm out. For me it’s always been laundry and ironing my husbands work shirts. (I can’t iron to save my life!)

    Don’t feel guilty if what you want is someone to look after your child for periods of time so you can do other things.

    My boys were born in London where it’s very normal to get home help. You can get anything from a cleaner to a nanny to a Mother’s Help which is more for laundry, ironing and light household duties. Au Pairs from other parts of Europe are very common too. They get to improve their English while you get an extra pair of hands around the house.

    Even hiring a young local girl to come twice a week to change bedding and fold laundry means a bit less for you to do and earns her some pocket money. (I did this myself when I was a teenager.)

    I say – drop the guilt, get help and be a better mother for it 🙂

  18. Tonya

    I’ve had mother’s helpers come in a couple of different times. When my oldest was little, I worked part-time three days a week and he went to day care, but my company had regular staff meetings on the days I didn’t work. So I hired a local college girl to come in for a few hours while I went to the meeting and usually stopped off at the grocery store on my way home. When we moved to another city, I kept my part-time job and worked from home. But we were having trouble finding the right daycare fit, so a friend who was finishing her last semester of college came in and hung out with my son while I worked upstairs. She often helped with simple kitchen tasks (like dishes or sweeping while he napped). I never felt guilty because I was doing something productive while the girls were watching the dude.

    However, I currently have a cleaning lady and feel terribly guilty about that (sometimes). I started with the service when I was working full-time (plus 10 hours a week over time) and just didn’t have the time to keep up. I moved to a less stressful job with no overtime, but kept her because she kept our homelife sane. Then I got pregnant and ended up (for many reasons) not going back to work. I’ve kept her, even though I feel like it might be out of our budget.

    My husband tells me to “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” And I know he’s right, but when it comes to cleaning I want EVERYTHING done at once. If I do it myself, I have to do it in fits and starts around the 10-month-old’s nap schedule and the big one’s school schedule. (We don’t homeschool, he’s gone from 9 to 4) I know if I did it myself it would never get done because I feel like I have to have time to do it all in fell swoop. Plus if I have a big kitchen project to do, I KNOW my kitchen will be completely clean and ready for it on Wednesday, so I can plan things for Thursdays.

    I know I shouldn’t feel guilty, because the money spent makes our life sane. For the price of a meal or two out, I have a completely cleaned kitchen and I’m less likely to suggest going out or take out. But I sometimes I feel like since I’m at home all day, I should be doing it myself.

    For those comments above that speak to feeling judged – I have found that most of the time, the perceived judgement comes more from within than without.

  19. Melissa

    I finally broke down and hired a mother’s helper a couple of months ago. The reason? My nineteen piano students. I was trying to teach four afternoons a week and find things to keep my three littles occupied for the two hours or so that I was busy, and it just was not working. Seriously, it’s been one of the best decisions my husband and I have ever made. I LOVE teaching, but I was so distracted trying to juggle everything, no one was happy by the end of the day. Now, my kids get read to and played with during those two hours (instead of watching endless episodes of Curious George), and I can concentrate on my students. It gives me a little piece of sanity back. Now, if I can just get this homeschooling thing figured out… 😉

  20. Melissa

    I finally broke down and hired a mother’s helper a couple of months ago. The reason? My nineteen piano students. I was trying to teach four afternoons a week and find things to keep my three littles occupied for the two hours or so that I was busy, and it just was not working. Seriously, it’s been one of the best decisions my husband and I have ever made. I LOVE teaching, but I was so distracted trying to juggle everything, no one was happy by the end of the day. Now, my kids get read to and played with during those two hours (instead of watching endless episodes of Curious George), and I can concentrate on my students. It gives me a little piece of sanity back. Now, if I can just get this homeschooling thing figured out… 😉

  21. Jennifer

    I have never hired someone to help in this way before, but I did swap childcare with a friend for awhile. We were both wanting time to work on writing projects. So each week we took turns watching the other’s children for an hour or so while we wrote. I just wanted to throw this out there for those who really may not be able to afford to hire someone.

  22. Ryann

    I haven’t hired a mother’s helper before, but I have an extended family network nearby that I can tap. I think that before families spread out so much mothers had a lot more help than they do now. When grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings, and neices and nephews lived in the same house or on the same street, mothers didn’t have to do it all by themselves. Now we do. We shouldn’t feel guilty for getting the help that used to be built in!

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