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How much should I pay a mother’s helper?

When it comes to figuring out mother’s helper rates, there aren’t any hard-and-fast rules; however, there are guidelines to help you determine fair pay.

How much should I pay a mother’s helper?

Ever wish you had someone to help entertain your toddler while you make dinner? Or an extra person available to kick the soccer ball around with your grade schooler while you catch up on emails? It goes without saying that most parents could use another set of hands at various points during the day, but for many, hiring a nanny or a part-time babysitter is too much of a commitment. A great “in-between” option: A mother’s helper. 

While less experienced than traditional sitters and nannies, mother’s helpers — often considered “babysitters in training,” as they’re too young to care for children on their own — can be a godsend for busy parents. And since mother’s helper is going to be working alongside you, and not on their own, it’s typical to pay them a little less than a full-fledged sitter.

“Moms often ask for occasional but predictable help, and a mother’s helper, who can assist with a range of life needs while mom is at home, can provide much-needed relief,” explains Leslie Forde, a working mom advocate, researcher and founder of Mom’s Hierarchy of Needs. “When there’s another capable person present, moms can have time for self-care, managing overloaded to-do lists or taking a much-needed nap — all things mothers are hungry for.” 

“Moms often ask for occasional but predictable help, and a mother’s helper, who can assist with a range of life needs while mom is at home, can provide much-needed relief.” 

— Leslie Forde, founder, Mom’s Hierarchy of Needs

The common question, of course, is what to pay a mother’s helper. While there aren’t any hard-and-fast rules when it comes to mother’s helper rates, there are guidelines that can help you determine fair pay. 

Where can I find a mother’s helper?

Rachel Norman, mom of five and creator of the blog A Mother Far From Home, found her (beloved) mother’s helper via word of mouth. “I asked around to other members of my church if they knew anyone, and she was recommended highly,” Norman says. 

Mom of two Kelly Latman took a more direct approach when seeking out a mother’s helper for her then 5- and 3-year-olds — she asked her seventh-grade neighbor. “Our neighbor was always so sweet and patient with my kids, so I knew she’d be great at keeping them occupied here and there while I got a few things done in the house,” says Latman, who lives in Spring Valley, New York. “I first asked her parents if it was OK, and once they gave the go-ahead, I spoke to her directly about it.”

What duties and tasks can a mother’s helper take on?

The job description for a mother’s helper varies widely, as no two families need the same thing. However, mother’s helpers are generally tweens or teens who help out when one or both parents are home. If you’re looking for someone to stay with the kids while you run errands or have a date night, you’ll want to hire a babysitter instead. 

While Latman predominantly had her mother’s helper do arts and crafts in the playroom or play games in the yard with the kids while she tended to household duties, Norman asked hers to help with both the kids and household chores, when time permitted — and she obliged.   

“My mother’s helper, who was an older teen, was industrious, self-starting and helpful,” Norman says. “She cleaned bathrooms, the kitchen, the kids’ rooms and even directed the kids to help tidy up as well. She’d load or unload the dishwasher, fold clothes, clean counters, sweep, vacuum and mop.” 

What to consider when figuring mother’s helper rates?

Since mother’s helpers are considered “babysitters in training,” their pay rate generally isn’t as high as a babysitter or nanny. Much like sitters and nannies, though, there are few factors to consider when figuring out what to pay a mother’s helper, including:

  • The going cost of care in your city. 
  • The number of children you have. 

As a jumping off point, use our Cost of Care calculator to get an idea of what you could expect to pay for a sitter or nanny and go from there. That said, if you’re enlisting a mother’s helper to help with a variety of tasks, as Norman did, you may want to take the pay rate for a variety of jobs (such as sitters and house cleaners) and find a middle ground. 

“When figuring my mother’s helper pay rate, I found the local pay rate for the variety of jobs we’d be incorporating and found an average we were comfortable with,” Norman says, adding that, while it’s fair to pay “slightly more” for multiple children, a mother’s helper rate doesn’t need to be “doubled per child.” (For reference, a general rule when it comes to calculating babysitting rates is adding $1-$2 more per child.)

Mother’s helper pay rates in top cities

According to our Cost of Care calculator, the national average hourly rate for a mother’s helper is $19.51. Here’s what the rate is in five top cities:

San Francisco, California$24.86
Brooklyn, New York$20.03
Portland, Oregon$20.70
Chicago, Illinois$19.98
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania$17.90
*As of 4/2024

Should mother’s helpers be paid hourly or a flat rate?

Both Norman and Latman paid their mother’s helpers hourly, but had a guaranteed amount of hours per month in order to hit a monthly rate. 

“I paid an hourly rate but a flat amount per month,” Norman says. “I counted the number of hours I wanted help and then made that number the ‘salary.’ If my mother’s helper had to cancel one day, we would have her make it up, but keep the same monthly rate so that her pay was stable.”

“I paid an hourly rate but a flat amount per month.”

— Rachel Norman, mom of 5

How to maintain a happy working relationship

Just like how finding the right babysitter or nanny can feel like hitting the jackpot, the same goes for finding a mother’s helper — so you should extend the same courtesies you would for someone more experienced. 

If you find a mother’s helper you love, Norman recommends the following for a good working relationship:

  • Giving raises. 
  • Having open communication. 
  • Providing consistent pay. 

“I made sure to give my mother’s helper a yearly raise, at least,” Norman says. “I wanted to be sure to keep up with local rates and be flexible. We loved her so much I wanted to keep all lines of communication open, so she could share how she was feeling.” 

“I always approached our conversations as suggestions and asked her questions, really wanting to know her thoughts so she felt heard, understood and truly part of our family,” Norman adds. “Her time with us was precious to us all.”