Foster care is hard. Just hard. There's really no way to get around it. We have to co-parent with birth parents and state social workers. We have to be able to drop all our plans at a moment's notice to take a new placement or because a social worker needs to do a check. For us personally, we couldn't cut our girls' hair until parental rights were terminated because that we weren't legal guardians. We couldn't pierce my oldest's ears for the same reason. Every time we gave them children's Tylenol or took them to the doctor we had to record it in a medical log so we could show workers and they could check up on it if there was a problem. And that's just the legal side of things...
After bringing home our two daughters from foster care, our once supportive community became unintentionally un-supportive. They, along with us, had no idea what all this foster journey really entailed. Our friends and family often felt ignored, offended when we used our kids as an excuse to cancel plans, and would often criticize us whenever we complained about how hard this journey actually is. I felt lonely, lost, and confused most of the time as my parenting didn't look anything at all like my friends' and I had no one to go to for support.
Not only is it hard, it's also lonely. I've been a mom about as long as most of my friends, but my kids are years older. I can't talk about breastfeeding or pregnancy or labor because I've never been through those things. I can't give advice on bottle feeding or pacifiers and they can't help me when it comes to PTA meetings or school-friend playdates. I also have to parent differently, because my kids are just different. We had to potty train in the living room because our little girl was scared of the bathroom. We ate grilled cheese sandwiches for an eternity because our other little girl had difficulty chewing and swallowing and that was the only thing she could eat and the only thing the other girl would eat for the longest time.
A year after we became parents, I launched Respite Redefined, an online podcast and community designed to encourage and equip mothers to thrive in the thick of foster care. I concentrate on interviewing real life women and give them a place to vent and be frustrated and provide them a safe place to just say 'This is so hard' without having any repercussions.
In the past year I have been so honored and humbled that God has given me this platform to speak into women's lives and tell them that You are the mom your kid needs today and you're doing a great job. Most foster families quit within their first year of fostering because they lack a community of support, and for some of us we're literally the only foster-adopt families in our towns or counties. It can feel lonesome. By using technology to connect and bring women together we can all commiserate on the hardships of foster care while encouraging and motivating each other to keep on going.
I have a phrase I say every week on my podcast: If I can do this, you can do this. Not because it's not hard (because it is!) but because if I can do it, you can, too. I'm not a superhero. I'm not an awesome person. I can be really socially awkward. I’m hard of hearing so I yell too much. I forget to write things down in my calendar so I accidentally miss things like playdates or social worker meetings. I never clean. And it’s not because I have kids, it’s because I just hate cleaning. I stress. I struggle. I cry. I mourn the easier life I could have had.
But I get through this with the trusty help of caffeine, year old Halloween candy that I eat when my kids aren’t looking, an awesome husband that let me go to the movies alone, Netflix, which guarantees me enough time to get a daily shower, and Jesus. I mean, I can’t really do anything without the One who created me and my kids in the first place.
So that's what I like to tell people who are thinking about adopting from foster care or want to become a foster parent. If I can do it through the help of caffeine, TV, and Jesus, then you can do it, too! Besides, if parenting was supposed to be easy, then what would be the point??