A mother’s helper is basically a nanny who only works when you’re also there. Ze generally also does light cleaning.
With infant childcare there are several options. You can go the nanny route, and work at the office while the nanny stays home with the baby. You can do in-home childcare, which is similar except the care provider is in hir home rather than yours. You can do center daycare, which is regulated by the state and includes many people taking care of many children.
We decided to go the mother’s helpers route for several reasons. First, it was suggested to me by a famous woman in my field who had done the daycare route and was constantly sick (and the baby was constantly sick) and she wishes she’d done the mother’s helper route instead. Oddly, when she had a second child she went the daycare route again and completely disremembers having any such conversation with me. (She’s not the first famous person in my field to pour hir heart out to me and then forget I exist…) Second, with our first baby, I was terrified of having a nanny looking after the baby unsupervised. What if ze left the baby to cry all day? What if ze shook the baby? The fact that I didn’t trust myself alone with the baby added to that paranoia. Third, the daycare centers didn’t have an opening for an infant until 8 months *anyway*.
Enter college students.
We always had at least two mother’s helpers at a time. When one was out sick with the plague it meant we didn’t lose an entire week. (And presumably if one had to leave the job we would have been left partially in the lurch.)
With our first child we had some stunningly great mother’s helpers, and DC got very different things out of each (for example, that first semester, H was super active, M was basically a pillow for DC to recuperate from hir wild days with H).
With our second child we’ve had more scheduling difficulties, and we did have one quit before midterm to take a daycare job, despite having assured us when we hired her that she would stick out the semester. So it’s been a bit stressful from that aspect. However, I’m not sure that alternatives would have been any less stressful. Fortunately this semester I have leave from teaching which I did not my first year, and DH is a lame duck with his job, so it’s been easier to weather these interruptions.
The mother’s helpers job is basically to entertain the baby when ze is awake and to either hold the baby when ze’s asleep or keep an ear out if ze is sleeping in the bassinet or pack-n-play or on the floor. When I’m gone, they bottle feed the baby. When I’m there they bring hir to me when ze is hungry and do light housework, starting with the kitchen. When the baby is upset, ze goes to DH or me and we comfort.
As good as the childcare my kid is getting, I have to say my favorite part is having a clean kitchen at the end of the day.
What childcare arrangements have you or your kids done? How did those work out?