Mommy blogger Ellen Seidman’s blog, Love that Max, has developed a large following of devoted readers. With every post, I find myself moved beyond words – either because she makes me laugh out loud or she moves me to tears. For those who don’t know, Ellen writes about her son, Max and his struggles with cerebral palsy. As Ellen writes, “Cerebral palsy has not defined his life.” Through her eloquent yet honest words, and by Max just being Max, I continue to learn about the unique challenges that face special needs families.
We have been incredibly privileged to have Ellen join our team of contributors, and I asked her to tell us about how she finds trustworthy care for her little ones, Max and Sabrina:
In the search to find qualified babysitters or care providers for Max and Sabrina, do you have any interviewing or screening tricks that you use to ensure they meet your family’s needs?
When I've screened sitters over the years, I've been very upfront with them about Max's needs—I spare them no details! He has cerebral palsy, and needs help with everything from feeding to toileting. I want to make sure they understand what is involved and feel comfortable with that. I also ask them to share an example or two of challenges they've handled when they've been babysitters. Once I think someone is good, I'll hire her for a "test" babysit; I'll pay her to come in for an afternoon so I can see how she interacts with the kids. You can't glean things like patience and creativity from an interview; you have to see how sitters interact with the kids.
What is your favorite go-to activity to keep Max and Sabrina occupied while you write your blog?
I make it a policy to never blog when they are around. This is why I typically post late at night--I do the blog after they go to sleep. That's not to say I'm not guilty of Tweeting when they're around or checking out Facebook!
Would you ever use a “nanny cam” or any other kind of video surveillance to monitor your kids and their child care providers?
I have never felt the need. By the time I hire someone, I'm comfortable with the person, and I've done my research, checking multiple references and background. I trust who I hire, and want them to feel trusted.
How do you talk about Max’s disability with Sabrina? What kind of questions does she ask?
Sabrina has asked several times what happened to Max. I've explained to her that he has cerebral palsy because his head was hurt when he was born and that, as a result, it can take him longer to do things, or he does things in a different way--but he still does them. That last part is important for her to understand; I want her to grow up knowing that even though Max may seem different from other kids, in many ways, he is like other kids. He loves to play, laugh and have fun, just like they do. This something I want the world to know about kids with special needs; they are still kids at heart, no matter how they look or act.
What is the #1 most helpful bit of advice you can offer to fellow special needs parents looking for a babysitter and a break?
Don't feel guilty about getting out; you not only deserve that break, you need it. It will make you a better mother. Spend time looking for a sitter you truly feel comfortable with and you will have no regrets when you go out.
Thank you, Ellen, for sharing your story, each blog post at a time. Readers, do you have a special needs family? Are you able to get that much needed break? Leave a comment for Ellen and me, and check out her blog: Love that Max!