The Lost Art of the Mother’s Helper

We’re in the middle of a big move.

My little family is pulling up our roots (my roots anyway) in California, loading up a moving van and driving a bit north and a bit east, eventually landing in a tiny Rocky Mountain town (my husband’s roots).

You may remember that my husband is a Marine–a job that requires extended periods of time in a combat zone. We’ve done the deployment thing before… and it’s time to start over. In about six weeks, my beloved will be heading to Afghanistan for 13 months. It will be long, and it will be hard, but we’ve experienced enough of God’s sufficient grace to know that we’ll get through it.

Which brings us to this move. We have about a week until we haul ourselves and all of our belongings into the mountains, where the boys and I will have the opportunity to be near John’s family for the next year and a half. I love the mountains, I love the snow (which we’ll have more often than not, living at over 10,000 ft. elevation!) and I love my parents-in-love. While I’m not at all looking forward to leaving the people and places we love here in California, when it comes to living in Colorado, I’m basically, in a word, thrilled.

But the moving part? The sea of cardboard boxes? The Everest of packing paper? Not so much.

Combined with John’s extremely long pre-deployment training hours and me still just as busy as ever caring for our little people, I was beginning to freak out get a bit overwhelmed.

Until the knock at my door last week that brought me a blessing. Two of them, actually. A pair of sweet fifteen year old girls with smiles on their faces and hearts eager to just… help.

They fed the boys lunch. They read books. They played with toys. They made cupcakes and let my three year old crack the eggs. They cleaned up messes and wiped hands and faces. They raced up and down the stairs, running for tape and permanent markers, blankies and stuffed Pooh Bears.

I packed boxes. I checked off a long list of phone calls. I wrote about ten urgent emails. I packed more boxes. I sorted through paperwork. I organized and threw out old craft supplies. I folded laundry. I packed MORE boxes.

We had long conversations about life and struggles during nap time. We packed up all the books from our last two bookshelves.  We stacked boxes and labeled them. They helped me figure out what to keep and what to toss. We did a lot of laughing.

I could have kept them for days.

These girls aren’t perfect. They didn’t step straight from a nineteenth century story book. They’re normal fifteen year old girls living in 2010, complete with texts messages ringing in every few minutes. They like to laugh and they deal with the same everyday issues every other young lady faces. I’d even guess they might not always be quite as eager to wipe faces and play with Legos in their own homes.

But they both have hearts that love Jesus and are quick to do whatever needed to be a blessing. They shared their hearts with me that day and I saw beauty and maturity in that glimpse. God is at work in these girls’ lives. They put themselves aside for a day in January and sweetly gave their time and energy to a busy mom of two little boys.

When I was a teenager, I made a trip to visit some friends in Texas, splitting my time between two sisters who were each married with active little ones and only lived a short distance apart. In preparing to head out there, my young self was anticipating being busy making meals and cleaning the house so these young moms would have some free time to spend with their children.

What I didn’t expect was the reality of mothers needing time to catch up with all the million and ten other things that never get done because they do spend most of their time playing and cuddling and feeding and changing and training their busy tiny people. While I did make a few meals and bake a couple desserts and do a bit of shopping and mop some floors and change several diapers, I spent the majority of my time playing and cuddling and feeding and changing the children. It freed the mothers to get caught up on other important things and feel a little more rested.

I consider myself very blessed to be surrounded by willing mother’s helpers. I’ve had several here in San Diego. When I get to Colorado, I know of two other young ladies who are just as sweet and just as eager to help (also YLCF readers, incidentally!).

But I know not every mother of little ones is in the same situation. Perhaps you know of one such mother. Maybe she’s busy and weary, waiting for a single young lady to step forward and offer a few hours of time so she can catch up. Perhaps she’s overwhelmed with a move or a new baby or a husband’s busy schedule–or maybe she would just like to take a nap or make dinner with two hands! She could be wishing, right now, that there was someone who could spend a few hours playing with her little ones and maybe vacuum the living room carpet.

And maybe you are just the girl for the job!

I’ve been given a gift with these various young women. Mothers, don’t afraid to accept help, and young women, don’t be afraid to offer it! Get out there and get helping!


  1. It is so nice to have someone help with the kiddos for a bit so you can get some things done! My in-laws are down the road from us, and it’s simply amazing how much I can get done when my younger sister in law (18 years old) comes over for a bit and plays with my almost-1 year old! Sometimes, my younger brothers-in-law come over too. They love their niece (and I usually bribe them with some fresh-from-the-oven cookies!). :o)

  2. I never knew that it had a name before, that job which I have been performing most of my whole life (as the eldest sister). Now that my younger brothers are past the “playing and cuddling and feeding and changing” stage, thanks for encouraging me to offer my time to other mothers out there who could use both hands.
    Praying for you to experience greater and greater grace as your husband is deployed.

  3. Thanks so much for this encouragement! I have been praying about this recently, so it was timely.

  4. Aletha M. says:

    Very sweet…and very practical!

  5. Such a sweet post. I’ve never really been a mother’s helper outside of my home, but as the second oldest of ten, I have been able to be my mother’s helper. I haven’t always helped willingly, but it has surely prepared me for the day that I am a mother, God willing. Thanks for the post. I was a good reminder to me of how I need to try harder to always be, not just my mother’s helper, but her willing helper. She can tell when my heart is in it. When I find joy in serving her, then I give her added joy. Thanks!

  6. Jeannie Castleberry says:

    I’d like to encourage those of us who are well past 15 now 😉 to see if there’s a way we can do this, too. Some of us have friends who are married with several small children, and while it can be emotionally hard to “play mom” when we want the real thing so badly, it can also be a great blessing.

  7. This is worth it’s weight in gold. I so wish more young ladies would jump on this band wagon. I myself spent many years doing just so and it is such a blessing to see that this is not a lost art. 🙂

  8. Excellent post! I love this gentle challenge, especially after your story of how those girls helped you!

  9. Great post – i read the whole thing, remembering my own days as a mother’s helper, and wishing more young ladies would use their teen and single years to serve in just such a manner. There are two very good reasons – One – we mothers need the help!! and Two, you will be doing yourself a favor. My days as a mother’s helper were wonderful preparation for motherhood – thanks to the experience I gained, there was less unknowns to fear in motherhood, and familiar pleasures to look forward to. I already knew how to change a diaper, warm a bottle, comfort a sick child, and potty train them, too! I am so grateful for that season, and sure wish I had one or two young ladies to come visit me once in a while now that I have 2 and our 3rd on the way! I promise to give you lots of great experiences!! LOL

  10. hey ashleigh, i don’t know where you’ll be living in Colorado, but we live in CO too and if you want you could contact me by my email on my blogger profile – just go to my blog and click on “about me” and click “email”.
    p.s. i read/follow YLCF and my internet name is jessica faith so that’s why it says “jessicafaithcharity”
    email me if you need anything!!! i loved your post – very encouraging

  11. Good post, Ash!
    And a good reminder to those of us who are single, in our teens or twenties who have a willing heart and can lend a helping hand.
    Jac and I have had the opportunity to help a young mother with 2 children by cleaning her house before they moved. While we did get paid something, it really was a blessing to be able to help her out and give her a peace of mind that her house was getting cleaned regularly.
    It’s a blessing to give like that.

  12. Wow! I worked as a mother’s help for a year or so – it’s lovely to get a peek into “the other side of the story”! I spent a lot of time reading and playing and cuddling, so “my” little guy’s mother could work on homeschooling projects with the older children. I’d definitely encourage young single ladies to consider working as a mother’s help. It does require sacrifice, but there are definite compensations to going more or less whatever with and for with a little person so his or her mother can get some rest and invest in some one-on-one time with her other children!

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