How to Level Up Your Childcare/Personal Help (When Money is No Object)

how to level up your childcare | extended options for very busy momsIf you’re a busy working mom, good childcare is a must — but what happens when a nanny doesn’t even begin to cut it? How can you level up your childcare and household management? (Warning: this post is not terribly budget-friendly.)

I’ve wanted to talk about this ever since I read this post from Penelope Trunk (written in 2008 but I first read it more recently than that) about hiring a house manager — an entire position I never knew existed but would love to have if money and time allowed. So if you need more than a nanny, let’s review the “additional childcare options for very busy moms” that I know of (beyond, obviously, getting your husband to be an equal partner and sharing parenting duties)…

Mother’s helper: Relatively budget-friendly. A lot of people will hire a teenager or young woman to “help the mother” — the idea is that you will be present and in charge, but the mother’s helper can help manage the kids, clean up a crazy mess, put laundry away, do the dishes, and take care of all those other household tasks that need to be done.

Nighttime baby nurse: This is what some moms do when they have a newborn — the idea is that a qualified baby nurse (who specializes in newborns) will stay at your house with the baby to be awake all night to tend to him or her, while you sleep. If you really can’t take the 6-12 weeks of sleeplessness that comes with a newborn, this can be a great option. (Text updated to account for commenters who note that a nighttime baby nurse was very breastfeeding-friendly!)

Second nanny or babysitter: I’ve heard of this happening in two main situations: The first is when your primary childcare is an au pair, who is strictly limited to a set number of hours a week, but you regularly need coverage outside those hours. The second time I’ve heard of this happening is if you have multiple children — some parents like to have one nanny per child.

Housekeeper: Readers have mentioned this as an ideal option for older children — the idea is you have someone at your home in the hours after school who is providing some supervision for your children while also cleaning and making dinner. Think of Alice’s role in The Brady Bunch (pictured at top).

Personal assistant. This option isn’t so much for childcare, but in theory frees you up so you can spend more time with your children yourself. PAs can do family shopping, pay bills, call customer service, plan vacations/make travel arrangements, and sometimes more. (This post on LinkedIn has a good breakdown of the differences between a butler, a personal assistant, and a housemanager.) A somewhat budget-friendly corollary: these days you can find a lot of virtual help online, whether it’s through one-off tasks on Fiverr, virtual personal assistants through spots like Zirtual or Upwork, or overseas virtual assistants like those mentioned in this classic Esquire piece (reprinted in The Four Hour Workweek and on Tim Ferriss’s site) or mentioned in fiction like Where’d You Go, Bernadette. (Full disclosure – I’ve worked with a number of virtual assistants over the years for the blog, mostly sourced through Virtual Staff Finder, but I don’t usually give them personal tasks.  Once I did ask a VA to make a chart for me of all the local preschools, what the price range was, what times classes were offered, and when the deadlines/application fees are, though.)

Housemanager: This is what Trunk was talking about; in 2008 she reported hiring someone to take care of her house for $50,000 a year. The idea is that this person totally manages the house, coordinating cleaning, deliveries, stocking the refrigerator, looking into why your toilet is rattling, etc.  (It reminds me of that classic essay, “I Want a Wife.”) More info, from the British American Household Staffing page:

A Housemanager is responsible for one household and and smooth running of the household. A Housemanager will live in or live out and can double as the Butler or Executive Housekeeper in residence in addition to performing the duties of a Housemanager. Some families appoint their Nanny as a Personal Assistant and Housemanager when the children are of school age. A Housemanager will ensure the house is fully functioning by managing vendors, creating and maintaining vendor relationships. A Housemanager in a townhouse may oversee from three to fifteen members of staff and manage their schedules weekly and monthly.

And, of course, when you can’t afford any of these, you play the game the rest of us working mothers play, Do, Don’t, or NOPE.

Ladies, what else have you heard of? What have you considered — or at what price range would you consider bringing in someone else? 

The discussion below is great; you can also check out this March 2017 discussion on Corporette.

how to level up your childcare -- what the options are if money is no object for a working mom


  1. Is anyone else a fan of Intolerable Cruelty? This makes the think of the scene in the trial when Klaus the Baron Vonespy talks about the difference between a butler (?) and a majordomo.

  2. (was) due in june says:

    Night nurse can be extremely bfeeding friendly. My night nurse, who I had a few nights a week for 12 weeks, would stay with the baby, bring baby in and wake me up to nurse, take baby away to burp, change, soothe, swaddle the baby back to sleep. So instead of me being up for a hour to do all that, I stayed in bed and was awake for 30 minutes. And if the baby cried, I didn’t hear it.

    I nursed to 18m.

    • awesome! I’ve updated the text accordingly. I’ve only known a few people who’ve had a night nurse so it’s great to hear another opinion.

      • (was) due in june says:

        She was the greatest thing in the history of things and I am certain the only way I didn’t have full blown PPD because I actually got some sleep.

        • Agreed – our night nurse was the best thing ever. I was losing my grip on my sanity until we brought in a night nurse for 2-3 nights a week, starting around 3 weeks old. $30/hr in HCOL area, plus placement agency fee, but my only regret is not doing it from night 1.

          • If I was to have another baby, I would totally get a night nurse a few nights a week. Our son NEVER slept and my husband actually started having hallucinations from not sleeping at one point, and I had full-blown PPD. We weren’t financially able to do it at the time, but I regret not having one. It would have made life so much easier (and, I think, more enjoyable. I don’t remember much about my son’s first six months, I think because of the sleep loss).

    • Anonymous says:

      So, those of you who had a night nurse… is this a crazy thing to do for an older baby? I mean, I’d love to just sleep-train my 5 month old. But I am so. tired. and I have to work in the morning. and if I hold him in bed with me, we can both go to sleep. So it ends up that we’ll let him cry himself to sleep (doing the 5-10 min interval “there-there” pat on the back) when he initially goes to bed, but after about midnight he just starts waking up every hour or two and DH an I lose our $h1t and give up because we just want to sleep too, darnit. Maybe this is a job for a sleep consultant instead? Can I hire a sleep consultant to sleep-train my baby for me?! Or do they just give me advice on what to do. I know what to do, I just lack follow-through.

      Sorry for this stream-of-consciousness post, I’m running on fumes and coffee at this point.

      • Kindergarten boy says:

        This is my dream too!! It’s a vicious circle: no sleep training no better sleep for anyone but no better sleep for anyone means no energy for sleep training. I’d love someone to pipe in about this and also – where do you find a night nurse?

      • Meghan says:

        Yes. I did this. I put in ear plugs and the sound machine on and gave her the monitor. She watched him to make sure he was ok but had her do the first two nights of CIO. I slept and by night 3 it was so much better.

      • Anonymous says:

        Spend $300 on a sleep consultant!

      • No, not crazy. It is a job for a sleep consultant but they are all different in how they work.check out a local mommy blog for recommendations. Also, think about taking a wee vacation. Can you get away one night, recover on sleep and then do it? It may be easier to implement from a point of rested and recovered. Just a hotel sleep during daycare hours? If those aren’t options, assign sleep blocks. Each of you get dour uninterrupted hours and you take turns dealing with it.

  3. biglaw says:

    we have a toddler in daycare and spend about $1000/month (HCOL area) on a housekeeper who comes 3 days a week. she does all cleaning, of course, but also does all laundry, including folding it and putting it away (i try to not feel too judged when she thinks that some of my clothes go in my husband’s closet), as well as all dishes. it has been a great investment for us. my husband and i both often work in the evenings after baby bedtime, and we both prefer spending time on our work than doing dishes. our housekeeper is also much better at these tasks than we are. of course it’s a big expense but it has made biglaw + baby pretty tolerable.

    • Famouscait says:

      This is what my husband and I actively daydream about. How did you find this person? Had she worked like this before for another family or did you have to train someone?

      All of these domestic employment options are so very common in other countries. Living in Mexico gave us an all-new appreciation for how much employment we could provide within our home. Now we see it first as a healthy job-creating option, and just a little bit of a personal extravagance.

      • biglaw says:

        my husband’s parents have friends in the area who know her, i’m not sure how. they certainly don’t hire help themselves, so i’m not sure. tbh her english is not great so we are not close but she does an excellent job and is very trustworthy. i originally hired someone on craigslist who did a good job when she came but was very unreliable.

    • biglaw says:

      i’ll add some other non-“cleaning” tasks that magically get done by her: replacing TP, refilling soap dispensers, taking out garbage/diaper pails, flattening all boxes and taking them out to recycling, clearing all dishes from random places in house, general tidying, putting away groceries when i time my grocery deliveries right.

      • That really does sound like *magic*.
        I need her too. My husband does most of this because I travel a lot and we parent equally. We’ve been talking au pair but I feel like a housekeeper who dealt with these little details would make us so much more relaxed.
        Do you have issues with the way she does things, or are you pretty flexible? I’ve given up control in a lot of areas but things like folding my own laundry- I have preferences.

  4. Anonymous says:

    We have a nanny who is a nanny when the kids are around and a effectively house manager when they’re in part time preschool or napping. Is this more help than most people can afford? Yes. But it’s a far cry from a staff of 15 and not that much more than a family with two professional, working parents is already paying for childcare.

    • Anonymous says:

      Miss the edit function!

    • Anonymous says:

      This is my dream once my kids are in school. Housekeeper + aftercare and transport to extracurricular activities for the kids. Or maybe by then I’ll have a <40+ hours/week job.

      TOTAL side note: Is anyone else watching this season of The Bachelor (I know, I know). One of the contestants is 24 and still has a nanny who makes her bed, fixes her lunch and snacks, etc etc. I would let the housekeeper/nanny go well before this point, for the record. I also expect that my adult children will not live in my house anymore…

    • Kindergarten boy says:

      Would you mind sharing where and how you found her and if you are comfortable how much it costs all in?

      • Anonymous says:

        When hiring I went through all the usual channels – word of mouth/emails and FB posts mentioning I was looking, care dot com and a local nanny agency. I made it clear I was looking for a nanny when the kids were around who was also willing to do errands, grocery shopping, cooking and laundry when the kids weren’t. No cleaning (other than cleaning up after herself and the kids) – we have a biweekly cleaning person for that. Pay is market rate in my area for nannies, slightly more than $15/hr. On the books. Preschool is several hundred bucks a month. If our kids weren’t in preschool we would be spending more money on activities for the nanny to take the kids to… not as much as the cost of preschool, but still something. Our kids love their preschool and no one person, not even Mary Poppins, could recreate what they get there with all the different teachers, kids, play areas, etc.

        It’s not a perfect. There’s still plenty left for my husband and me to do around the house. But it’s good enough for now. And it’s not so much work that our nanny can’t find time to run her own errands during the day, watch TV or read on the couch during nap, etc. and she says she’s happy too.

  5. A note on night nurses–I had a friend who supported herself this way for several years, and she specialized in triplets–apparently night nurses are more commonly hired by parents of multiples. I can see how they would be particularly sanity-saving in that situation!

    • Anonymous says:

      Yup. I had twins and wanted to kill the people that said – it can’t be that much harder, you’re up anyway. Uh yeah…except you have to feed and change two babies instead of just one which takes twice as long. Duh!

  6. Short threadjack in case anyone can help-looking for recommendations for food gift certificates for a friend in Seattle who has a premature baby/mom is recovering for surgery. I don’t live there any more and am a little stymied. Mom likes health stuff. Thanks in advance for any recommendations!

  7. Kindergarten boy says:

    I would love someone like this. What would make this post helpful rather than just reminding me that such things exist for some spheres would be details about costs and where/how one hires for this kind of thing. I would be super curious too the kinds of incomes people have who do this. DH and I combined make 250ish in MCOL and I feel like we could totally swing 50k for someone to save our sanity….but we don’t have student loans or car payments, our mortgage is $1500 because we chose to live in a perfectly nice but not fancy neighborhood. So part of me worries about whether we really do have the income (I guess maybe my real worry is that we’ll be judged by the housekeeper for not being fancy/rich enough. Which I know is ridiculous.) but still some baselines would be helpful. Also, logistics.

    • Anonymous says:

      I am the Anon from 3:15 who you asked about costs. If you have $50K to spare to save your sanity, do it! $50K will cover it. We’re in an average cost of living area. Salary works out to $35K, then there’s several thousand to pay in taxes plus we choose to spend about $1K/year on homepay dot com (I’d love to find a cheaper option but I don’t want to have to do any work or even think about it at all). She provides her own car, we pay gas and car insurance.

      • Kindergarten boy says:

        Hey thanks for this. I realized I sounded a bit snarky unintentionally. Also I meant to start my own thread responding to Kat’s post but thank you for responding.

    • Anonymous says:

      Also, consider looking into a share. Families I know are often looking for either morning (parents leave early and want someone to get kids to school and straighten up the house) or afternoon (kids are young enough they need care after school) help only. If you paired up with someone who had schedule needs opposite yours, you could keep your costs down but employ someone full time (which would make it an easier position to fill, in my experience).

    • EBMom says:

      If you find the right person, they won’t judge you for not being fancy enough. My husband and I live in a house (MCOL area) that costs about $100K less than what we make in a year. It is a great neighborhood, we don’t need anything fancier, etc. But the nannies we bring in are usually used to working in much nicer houses. You can tell right away in the interview whether it is going to work or not.

  8. We had a mother’s helper when our kid was two and IT. WAS. AMAZING. Since my husband’s job entails so much travel, I’d be making dinner while my kid did everything in her power to dive had-first into the oven and there was no one around to run interference. So we hired a twenty-something college grad to come over 6-8pm, M-F.

    We put a carseat in her car so she could pick up from daycare when I had to work late. She and I took turns cooking dinner while the other played with the kid. She did laundry and post-dinner kitchen cleanup. She eased so much stress, I could spend more time with my kid, and I could actuality go to bed at a decent hour because there wasn’t all that cleaning piled up. I found I really didn’t need any more than the 10 hours a week, but it was nice on the occasional date night that we could call on her because she already knew the drill.

    For those wondering about logistics, we found our mother’s helper on I interviewed the ones whose resumes looked good, then my husband and kid came to meet the top two. offers criminal & driving background checks which we happily used. Their payroll service seemed over-priced, so we had our tax accountant handle it instead. We paid $10/hr.

  9. we went a slightly different direction and hired a home cleaning service that also semi-kondo’d our entire house. they also use all-natural cleaning products. we had to do work too to purge stuff but having them sort through what was left, put like with like, and then organize it all was amazing. they went thru piles of paper and sorted by subject and date so we could decide what needed to stay. we feel so much more ready for #2. without them we would still be trying to get guest room cleared out so that we could move #1 out of the nursery. and i’m due in 4 weeks. instead we were able to move him around new years. best part is now the cleaning crew that comes 2-3 times/month actually knows where everything is supposed to go.

  10. Anon in NOVA says:

    Finding care in my area is so frustrating. I’m paying appx $800 a month for before/after school care. I tried to find a local college student etc. willing to pick my son up at 3:45, bring him home, feed him a snack go through his backpack etc. until someone can get home (usually 5:30 at the latest) and I offered $200 a week. Everyone wanted more money, and many of them wanted to do it at their own house or bring their own children along. It was really discouraging. Also, there was no guarantee they could cover the “two hour early release” days etc., so it wasn’t a stable situation.

    I really stress about what to do when he’s further in elementary school and a bit older than most of the kids at the daycare center that provides his before/after school care. Having a housekeeper who comes daily and will at least be an adult body in the house seems like a good arrangement, but I guess we’ll have to see what his responsibility level is when he reaches that age.

    • Anon in NOVA says:

      Because I do find it helpful to put these conversations in perspective with salary, I’m in a relatively HCOL, our combined household income is about $160K/year before taxes, but I do also receive child support.

  11. Housekeeper FTW says:

    For about six months after I came back from maternity leave with our second, we hired someone to come in once a week for a full day. She cleaned the house, but also cooked one meal and prepped ingredients for four more meals. – stuff like chopping and roasting vegetables. We use a meal planning service (Fresh 20) that includes prepare-ahead instructions, so she did all that. It meant that one of us could actually cook dinner in 20-30 minutes, which in turn meant that we could eat dinner before our older kid melted down from exhaustion. She didn’t do laundry, because my husband works from home, which means that laundry is a pretty easy task for him.

    This service cost $160/week, and I found the person on I would love to keep doing it, but while we make pretty good money for our area (180k combined in a MCOL city), we also pay 3.5k/month for daycare and we want to keep contributing to our retirement accounts. So now we are back to a cleaner every other week ($80), and I try to do the prep on the weekends.

  12. Housekeeper Hired says:

    We have had a housekeeper for a few years in addition to our nanny. Housekeeper comes twice a week to do all laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping and meal prep. Some weeks is more, some is less. We pay $14/hr but she’s due for a raise. MCOL. I’d say she averages 8 hours a week.
    We have a shared grocery app that is accessible by nanny, husband, myself, housekeeper. We update it constantly and whatever is on there when she grocery shops (on her way to our house) she buys. Nanny will pick things up at Target if they’re on the list and she’s there getting kid stuff. It’s easy to cross something off the list but not remove it entirely so the others know it was purchased. We have a reloadable debit card that we put money on weekly to pay for groceries and cleaning supplies and dry cleaning. She leaves receipts each time so I can see how much needs to be added for next time, or I can check it on an app.
    Housekeeper cleans/cuts produce and puts groceries away. Nanny does kid laundry, housekeeper does ours and linens, including folding and putting away, dry cleaning drop off/pickup. She will also do holiday decorations around the house and pretty much anything we ask of her. (Extra walk for the dog, wait for cable guy, backup child care if nanny is sick, wrap birthday gifts, etc.) She’s amazing.
    She also starts dinner the two nights she is there. Usually it’s something in the crockpot. Other times it’s marinated baked chicken/veggies that we can warm up.
    Both husband and I travel for work, so one of us is gone every night. Add all the sportsy stuff/school activities and real life things and it makes life so much easier. I don’t spend 4 hours on Saturday doing all the laundry and I don’t drag my kids through the grocery store after a 10 hour workday and a 90 minute soccer practice.
    We found her on

  13. Anonymous says:

    Ok so I realize this could sound ridiculous, but has anyone hired a driver? Or help that is responsible for a lot of driving in addition to other household tasks?

    I live in the SF bay area where commutes are brutal (90-120mins in traffic) and I unfortunately do not have access to one of those cool tech buses that take you almost door to door. Public transit requires transfers and is unreliable.

    For various reasons (house, preschool, family help) I cannot relocate and even that would be a huge budget increase. If I had basically my own driver I could get a ton of work done in the car, then in between commute times the driver could help my parents run errands or do household stuff. Does anyone have experiences or suggestions on how to make something like this work?

    • Kindergarten boy says:

      I haven’t done this myself but I was in LA last year using uber a lot and one guy who picked me up one day downtown told me he basically does that (at least the driving part) for someone. Basically the driver and this other dude live way out in the valley so he picks up the guy every day, drives him downtown where he then gets a lot of uber customers during the day and around 4 he drives back to his town. Depending on where you are in Bay Area a taxi or lyft/uber situation could work out.

    • Anonymous says:

      My brother in law (attorney) has had several drivers over the years. He gets so much done on long commutes. They drive his car and he pays them hourly. Not sure how insurance works.

    • I’m not sure how to vet safety but Nextdoor has a bunch of guys in our neighborhood that offer to drive, since they already live nearby. They used to work for Uber but not anymore, due to city changes.

  14. Most important factor for parents is to choose quality facility staff for their child. Hire staff who will take care of the healthiest meal plan.

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