The constant care required for a child living with diabetes may leave a parent worn out. As a d-mom myself, I believe that not only do parents need some down time to recharge, but “couple time” spent together or with other adults is also important. It can be difficult to let go and allow your child to be in someone else’s care, but I think it is important for your own wellbeing and relationships with your partner, family or friends. In addition, it can be helpful for your child to have some independence and time without you. The key to making this happen lies in finding a babysitter you can feel comfortable with, and who is equipped with the knowledge to help keep your child safe.
Here are a few of my tips and ideas for finding a babysitter that can put your mind at ease:
Family: You can start by asking nearby family members who are already familiar with your child to learn the basics of diabetes care in order to babysit.
Other d-families: Ask other families who have a child living with diabetes; they might have a good recommendation. Alternatively, consider trading babysitting with other parents of children living with diabetes. The kids might even enjoy having a play date with someone just like them.
Siblings of d-kids: Look for teen and college-age siblings of d-kids who might know the diabetes basics and may be quick to learn how you do things. Don’t assume they have this knowledge, but it’s a great place to start!
Diabetes camp counselors: Check around to see if there are any diabetes camp counselors who live in your area. You can check out diabetes camps online, and also ask your CDE* or diabetes support group for any leads.
Job posting: Post job announcements on local college or university websites, specifying that you are looking for someone familiar with diabetes. You might even find a nursing student!
Online babysitting sites: Search on the website SafeSittings, a diabetes babysitting service that pairs teens living with T1 diabetes as babysitters for children with diabetes. The site functions as a bulletin board with postings of available babysitters and families looking for sitters in their area. General babysitting sites such as Care.com and SitterCity allow you to narrow results by special needs, but they are not diabetes-specific sites.
Keep your ears open: One of my favorite “find a babysitter” tips is to keep your ears open! Katy Killilea of the blog Bigfoot Child Have Diabetes has found not one, but two great babysitters living with type 1 diabetes for her son, who also lives with type 1 diabetes. When her son was diagnosed, she found out a teacher in the school who had a son with diabetes and was also an experienced babysitter. Katy says, “Our babysitter is almost too perfect: not only does he have our favorite chronic disease, he is also an ice hockey star, tennis star, debate club captain, and has appeared on stage, television, and in a few films. Each time he comes, he brings a different board game and teaches the boys to play. They love him. However, because he’s a super-teen, he’s often unavailable for babysitting. But he sets a great example!” Katy thinks that teens with diabetes can be a great role model for your own children. She met their second babysitter who also lives with type 1 at a JDRF meeting and recommends putting feelers out when at diabetes-related functions.
Once you’ve found a babysitter, many parents wonder, now what?
Because you may not be comfortable leaving your child with someone else, consider hiring the babysitter to work as a “mother’s (or father’s) helper.” The sitter can watch your child while you work from home, do yard work or laundry, or run errands close by. You will be available for any questions and in time, you may feel comfortable taking the next step and allowing someone else to care for your child for a few hours.
Create a one-page instruction sheet to give to babysitters, coaches, and anyone else who may watch your child. Include the symptoms of low blood sugar, what steps to take, and what to do in an emergency, including the emergency phone number. In big print at the bottom, include several phone numbers to reach you, another parent, and the family caregiver.
Allison Nimlos, blogger at The Blood Sugar Whisperer, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a child, and has ten years’ experience babysitting children living with diabetes. In my book Kids First, Diabetes Second, she shares tips on finding a babysitter. Allison says, “Remember, the idea of a night out is to relax and spend some quality time with your significant other. Keep in contact via text or a quick phone call, but try to limit the frequency and length. This will become easier to do the more familiar your babysitter becomes with diabetes and your child. When I’m getting to know a family, I try to limit my conversations with parents to just the blood sugar reading, or if I have a question. After a while, I get to know the child’s diabetes and the parents learn to trust me. Trust takes time to develop, and it develops through communication.”
While it may be a little daunting to hand over care, remember that you are just a phone call or text message away. Take the time to train your sitter on the ins and outs of your child’s diabetes, and once you are comfortable going out, try to enjoy it!
Leighann Calentine is the author of the book Kids First, Diabetes Second and the website D-Mom Blog. She is married with two children – including a daughter with type 1 diabetes – has a graduate degree, and works for a major university doing research. Calentine is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
*“Certified Diabetes Educator” and “CDE” are certification marks owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services.
© 2014 The DX: The Diabetes Experience