I think one of the most important things as a special needs parent is to have some balance in your life. A lot of times when we are the sole person for our kiddos, we have no space to do anything else. The more you do that, the more your kids get dependent on you to do everything and it will get harder to step away for even a few hours. So, in this episode, I will be answering all of your questions and begin by telling you how we found our first babysitter.
Life Before a Babysitter
Before I had Remy or Nora, I was a mom of two boys for ten years. When my boys were born, I was 22 and I was a full-time stay at home mom. We had a lot of help from my husband’s mom, which was such a blessing. She helped watch them so Zach and I could have date nights or go on trips. For a long time, she lived with us so it was super easy and we were very blessed. Whenever we needed help with the boys, I would call on my brother in law or two sisters-in-law. They were the only people who ever watched the boys because I used to think that I could never trust a babysitter to take good care of the boys.
Then we had Remy and the same thing. When she was born, no one ever watched the kids. My husband’s mom was living in Oregon at that point, so we had the kids full time. When she started having seizures at 9 months old, we DEFINITELY didn’t have anyone watching Remy or the boys. As she got older and started having more seizures and her behavior was an issue, I started to get really overwhelmed. Then I got pregnant with my fourth child.
How We Found Our First Babysitter
I had pulled my oldest son out of school, and I was planning on homeschooling him. I would work with him for 2-3 hours, but Remy wanted all the attention. Nora was born, and I had Remy, and I was trying to homeschool. I realized I was doing a horrible job at all of it. I was crying to Zach when he came home, and I felt like I was failing at everything.
Zach suggested that we get a babysitter to come for a couple of hours four days a week. I didn’t think it would even be an option. But he gently brought that idea up a hundred times or more, before I finally agreed. I had all the doubts at times a million.
I didn’t know anybody we could talk to, so I went on care.com. You could either make a post for a job description and people could apply, or you could go through profiles and find the people you like and reach out to them. You can narrow it with the criteria that you’d want.
I did all of my filters. I wanted someone with experience with special needs, epilepsy experience, doing the job for more than five years, someone close, available from 9-11 4 days a week. I had all of these criteria. When I finally filtered it, I had four people that had profiles. I reached out to them and I wrote these long messages about what I was looking for and gave a background on Remy’s medical history. I told them about ALL the stuff.
I only got one response from that. And then she couldn’t even do it.
So, I lessened my criteria. I wasn’t so strict about what I was looking for. I didn’t mention epilepsy or special needs.
I got a lot of responses. We chose a day when Zach was available and reached out to them and had several interviews on a Saturday, in person, at our house. We sat down, talked about our family, and asked them all the questions. Then we had them meet the kids and saw how they interacted with Remy.
What I realized was that you just have to meet someone face to face. Sending an email makes it hard to get a good feeling about someone.
What I was looking for was a person who seemed good with kids, who I clicked with, and someone willing to act fast in case of something urgent like a seizure. I wanted someone to be able to lean into a high-stress situation.
The Interview Process
We had a final interview around 9 pm that same day. When this girl came in, I felt like she was Mary Poppins. Remy walked up to her and wanted her phone, and she was gentle with her and she paid a lot of attention to Remy. It was something we hadn’t seen throughout the day with other people. We asked her comfort in high-stress situations, and she said she watched another boy with epilepsy and she had a family member with epilepsy as well.
We finally told her about Remy’s medical needs, and we ended up talking to her for a really long time. Elizabeth said she’d love to help us out.
We had found three other options earlier that day and decided to use all four of them just to see how they did. But we ended up realizing that Elizabeth was the best fit out of all of them.
How Do You Trust the Babysitter?
Elizabeth started to come over, and I was really nervous at first. Even though I was in the other room, I was worried. I told Elizabeth what to do, and that was basically it. We weren’t leaving the house so we didn’t train her very much. I saw how well she worked with Remy and how much she loved coming over. It was the very first time that a non-family member was helping me with the kids and could give me a little time to relax.
Eventually, I trained Elizabeth to take care of Remy when she had a seizure so that Zach and I could both leave the house together. I did a full training, showed her the medication, and went down the list of how to take care of Remy. She was completely willing to do everything.
Just knowing that Zach and I were able to leave the house, that Liz knew exactly what to do, and that she was able to take care of Remy properly was so freeing. I started to realize that I was running so fast without having a breath, that it was taking its toll on my mental health.
It was just such a huge relief for me. Even in the most stressful times, we had someone there who was helping. She was with us for two years. Slowly we had increased her hours and responsibility. By the time she left us, she was doing full days, and Zach and I were able to go to Hawaii for a week and leave Liz in charge.
Why You Can Make It Possible
If I can do it, you can do it. I want you to start thinking about how much life you can get back if you have a little help. If you are struggling right now and feeling like you should be able to do it all on your own, just think about what if someone could help you? Even for an hour a week, or a few hours a month, so you could have a space to do some self-care or laundry. I know the kind of stress that you are under. Raising a special needs child is no small feat. You may think that no one is equipped to handle your child except for you, but I promise you from experience that thought is wrong.
I hope this episode opens your eyes to the possibility of entrusting someone else with your kid. You need space. You cannot be with your child 24 hours a day and you cannot pour from an empty cup. Even having an hour to yourself, or a meal alone, or in the other room on your phone, that space will give you life back. When you have that time to spend away from your kids, knowing they are in good hands, you can be the kind of mom that you know you want to be.
- If someone has offered to help you in any way, take them up on the offer, and get over yourself. I know what you are thinking. What I hope you get out of this is that yes, you are the mom, but your main focus is making sure your kids are taken care of. Who cares if a family friend is helping you do that? It might not be you, 24/7. Why is that a bad thing?
- You can find someone and train them on taking care of any child that you have. Anyone that you hire can learn the same thing as you. Think about it. Did you have experience before becoming a special needs mom?
- I suggest that you build up to leaving someone for a long time with your kids. I needed baby steps and to see how Liz worked with the kids. And that’s what I did. I was there for a long time, just observing how she was with the kids. Even having someone one room away still gave me time to do laundry, or clean out my closet.
- If you are thinking you can’t afford it, I want you to get it out of your head. You can make it happen. There are things you are spending money on that you could do without so you could save up for a date night once a month. You will have to make some sacrifices and save up, but the benefit of doing it and the payout of doing that is SO worth it.
- You cannot pour from an empty cup, and balance is super important. Work up to it, and find a way to give yourself a well-deserved break. You may take a while to find someone or to train them, but that’s okay. It didn’t happen for us overnight either, but the result has been life-changing.