Oh man. Where do I begin? I’ll be honest when I say this prompt* caught me on a bad day.
A really. bad. day.
And even when I’m about done, and about to my breaking point. I still find it hard to ask for help.
I can’t speak for all foster parents, but I know it can be really tough to reach out to others. And this can be for a variety of reasons. (For me, one of those reasons includes the fact that I’m a whee-bit of a control freak, but let’s just save that for another time, okay?)
For starters, we signed up for this life. We wholeheartedly committed to raising children, who are not ours, and to taking in all the baggage that comes with them (figuratively speaking, of course. Many children in foster care don’t even come with more than the clothes on their backs #FosterCareAwareness). We endured a lengthy licensing process with strangers all up in our personal lives, only to choose to continue on the journey to bring little strangers into our home. Little strangers with big emotions, big opinions, big behaviors, big health needs, and big therapy needs.
Yes, we chose this life. We chose to give of ourselves and our families to children who did NOT choose this life.
And to have the image that we are all superheroes and the best parents ever living in a land filled with rainbows and unicorns as we provide a loving home and “make” the kids “all better” is simply ignorance.
We are human too. We don’t have superpowers. We have hurts. We fall short. We don’t have all the answers. We don’t “make” anyone “better.” We become overwhelmed by many facets of fostering. We have moments when this life seems like it’s too much. We have moments when we fall apart during this process, too. We can feel inadequate as parents. Period. And we can feel even more inadequate as foster parents. We can feel ill-prepared to deal with behaviors that come from trauma. We can feel afraid of what will happen next in our child’s case. We can feel uncertain of how to handle our child’s questions, and how to act towards a bio parent. We can feel unimportant and unheard during this process. We can feel alone in the parenting world around our peers who have little in common with us. And we can feel like we’re not supposed to talk about all these things.
Which brings me to my next point: Reaching out to others for help can be difficult when they know little to nothing about the extra challenges of being a foster parent as opposed to just a “regular” parent (whatever that means). Sometimes others don’t quite understand your child, or your family’s life. Remember? Big emotions, big opinions, big behaviors, big needs. I don’t let just anyone babysit. I don’t accept [unsolicited] parenting advice from just anyone. I don’t vent my frustrations to just anyone. And I don’t even let just any health care provider or therapist work with my kids.
Our first placement was also our first shot at parenting. We welcomed a sweet little newborn into our home, never having parented before. And that first night was crazy! I look back now, and still feel like it was crazy! All of you seasoned moms would probably just laugh at me! (It’s okay, my mom did!)
We were in love with this little five pound bundle of joy who didn’t sleep, and had a hard time eating, and gave us a good initiation into parenting. It nearly sent us into a panic attack on the first night when he projectile vomited his entire bottle while laying down in the bassinet. Regardless, we were in love. We hardly knew him, and we were in love. We knew we’d get little sleep the first few months. We knew he would be experiencing tremors for a few weeks from the drug exposure. We knew we would need to spend ample time holding and rocking him for soothing and bonding purposes. We knew the honeymoon phase would end and reality would set in eventually. It took a while.
But boy did this child give us a run for our money. (He still does, by the way). Feeding issues, sleep issues, night terrors, two-hour-long screaming fits on the regular, and his need to attach to us and us to him made me feel like I couldn’t and didn’t want to leave him with anyone. And this lasted well into a year and half old. He’s approaching three years old and still has sleep issues, we’re full swing into toddler tantrums, aggression, and we’re seeing some intense behavior struggles – including (shorter) screaming fits that we’re still trying to figure out. And again, I don’t want to leave him with anyone. Will they be patient with him? Will they understand his need behind his behavior? Will they discipline him appropriately? And on and on my worries and fears go.
Truth is, asking for help can be downright intimidating at times. I don’t want to inconvenience anyone. I don’t want to be a burden. I never know what side of my kid might come out when others are around, or when I’m away. I’m afraid of what might happen while my [foster] child is in someone else’s care. (Remember, I already admitted to being a control freak.) I’m afraid of my child needing Mommy and needing the kind of comfort only Mommies can give when I’m not there. (What mom isn’t?) I’m often afraid of what others might think of me as a parent and of our parenting choices. I don’t always feel like I can be honest about how I feel as a foster/adoptive mom because, again, we’re supposed to be some kind of superhero not effected by this process, too (or so people think).
Yesterday our #FosterChallenge2018* prompt was to brag about our foster tribe. And ours rocks! Our foster tribe was carefully chosen by us, the parents, who we knew would support us through all the ups and downs, and who could really take the time to understand our children and their needs. Our foster tribe is a close, select few who we trust.
Before I get into some NEEDS, I need to give a huge shout out to my husband. He is at the top of my support list, in more ways than one. And God bless this man’s soul who has met one of my biggest needs – a weekly break! I’m a stay-at-home mom and am with my kids 24/7. And I was getting BURNED. OUT. A few months ago we planned for me to get out and have time to myself one evening every single week. Whether I’m grocery shopping ALONE, indulging in a pedicure, working on the #JourneysAndDreams shop at @Starbucks, or aimlessly walking around @Target, this has been a much needed outlet for me. And my husband ventures through dinner time, get-every-last-bit-of-energy-out time, and bath time – during the most-apt-for-meltdown time – alone, all while being the patient, understanding, not-easily-frazzled father I know he is. Now, that’s the definition of a superhero.
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I can’t speak for every foster parent, but here are a few things that I think would be SUPER helpful. If you know a foster or adoptive family in your life, please don’t wait for them to ask. Reach out and ask how you can help them! Whether a big or little gesture, it will mean a lot. And foster parents: ask for help! It’s okay! Help is crucial to your emotional and mental health!
You can never go wrong with a Starbucks gift card.
Coming over for even just a half hour can be a lifesaver. Trust me – my kids and I need breaks from each other. Can’t come play? Gift cards to indoor or outdoor play gyms and activities can help provide some quality bonding time for a foster family!
In my house, there are always dishes to wash.
We never turn down pizza for dinner, or a meal that can be frozen and used later!
A LISTENING EAR
Simply accepting a phone call to sit on the other end while I cry and vent, or even say nothing at all, is appreciated.
I mess up and am less than perfect. And at times I can be little more snippy than usual. Please remember to show grace. Some days are bad upon bad.
You can send almost anything on Amazon Prime! Diapers, wipes, clothes, toys – you name it! When you can’t step in to babysit, or play, or cook – sending gifts and essentials can go a long way! Not sure what to send? Again, a gift card will never be turned down. Any opportunity NOT to have to pack up all the kids and take them shopping is AMAZING! Free 2-Day Shipping right to our door!
Court hearings, appointments, DATE NIGHTS. Being able to leave our kids at home for important outings, especially date nights, doesn’t happen often enough, and is sometimes necessary. Want to rock a baby or take a toddler to the park? Come on over!
The most important thing you can do for a foster family is pray. Pray for the kids. Pray for the bio families (even after adoption). Prayer for the foster parents. On any given day there are trials, hurts, setbacks, and big emotions. Having prayer warriors in our lives means the most to us!
Are you a foster or adoptive parent? Check out these Foster Care and Adoption Resources you can print to help your family stay organized and to help you document the important facts, memories, and milestones in your child’s life. These resources can be printed right from your home computer and used instantly!
*Prompt from #FosterChallenge2018 started by IG @TheTemporaryMom.