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Why I Won't Charge More to Babysit a Child With Special Needs

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I recently started watching a little boy with special needs, and people have been telling me I should charge more, even though I’m asking for the same fee I usually request for babysitting. I hadn’t really taken it into consideration. But I realized they were probably right, so I looked online and found out it’s true. I could charge a lot more, but I don’t want to. As I thought about it more and more, I realized charging more to watch a child with special needs — we’re talking developmental needs here, not medical needs, which would be a different service than babysitting — seems to be based on two assumptions I think our society buys into.

Alicia Mendoza.2

The first assumption is that people with special needs are a burden. We tend to see people with any sort of difference as holding us back. If someone doesn’t think at the same rate as us, they’re wasting our time. If someone doesn’t move at the same rate as us, they’re slow. We forget we made up these rates. We defined what is “typical” and what is “less.”

The second assumption is difficult things are bad, and the easiest road is the best one. If you have to take the hard road, you should be compensated. You’d have a hard time finding a college student who hasn’t used the Rate My Professors website to find the class they should enroll in to put in the least work for the best outcome (guilty). Obviously, it comes in handy and saves a lot of time and energy. But I don’t think we can take something that applies to inanimate things like grades and apply it to people. Some of my favorite friendships are the most difficult ones to be in at times. They ask the hard questions, they challenge me to do things and they hold me accountable. They’re difficult and they’re good. They’re people.

I think the first assumption is based on years of deciding who people should be and what they should accomplish to be considered a worthy part of society. And what’s the reward for being worthy? Being human. Because I think when you decide someone is a burden, you make them less human. That’s truly unfortunate because in taking away the humanity of someone else, I think you’re stripping away a little of your own, too. When we view people as less because they don’t measure up to our typical standards, we also set ourselves up as less in our eyes and in the eyes of others. We all go through periods of relying on others and being relied on, but that doesn’t mean we’re a burden.

I think the second assumption is simply human nature. We process and rank things, but we mindlessly forget this shouldn’t apply to other human beings. This assumption is especially interesting to me because I would never do it while babysitting. I have watched kids who are hard to work with. They taunt their siblings or refuse to eat dinner or cry during homework time. But I have never felt the need to ask for more money from parents because their child demonstrated behaviors that were hard for me to handle. I am compensated for my time. I am never compensated for their behavior.

Please don’t compensate me for your children’s special needs. They’re not a burden. They’re human beings, and I enjoy spending time with them.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability and/or disease, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: October 7, 2015
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