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The “Perfect” Foster Parent

Someone recently commented on a Facebook post of mine and said, “You’re basically the perfect foster parent, but I’d like to read a blog about those foster parents who aren’t really well-suited for the job, or those people who want to be foster parents but don’t feel like they’d be good at it.”

Yeah, girl. I want to read about those people, too.

But here’s the thing. If there was a checklist of all the things a foster parent would ideally be… I highly doubt I’d meet even half of them. Honestly, if you knew what I’m like when I’m at home alone, you’d laugh hysterically at the thought that anyone could think I was the “ideal” foster parent. I’m so lazy and weird.

Sure, I meet all of the REQUIREMENTS to be a foster parent (which most of you would, too), but I’m really not the ideal person. Let me tell you why.

1. I can’t keep a schedule worth a crap.

I had to pull my foster daughter off of the school bus because of some inappropriate things other kids were doing, which meant that I had to start dropping her off/picking her up. She was late LITERALLY six out of seven days. We gave up on the morning drop-off and decided to just stick with afternoons. We made a plan for her to sit away from the boys who were causing problems and to speak up to a certain adult if there were problems.

But imagine if I had been able to be places on time. She wouldn’t have to put up with that.

2. I almost never cook dinner.

Sometimes my husband cooks dinner when he’s home, but it’s a rare occasion when I do. I hate cooking, and I hate the formal act of sitting down at the table together. I love the conversations we have at the table, but I hate how stuffy and uncomfortable it is. If I could choose my lifestyle, we would all eat at random times (whenever we’re hungry), and everyone would eat easy meals.

Obviously, I can’t really do that because I’m a mom with kids to raise (sigh), but I wish I could. In the fostering world, I think everyone would agree that the *ideal* parent cooks dinner every night and has their children eat around a table.

3. I’m on anxiety medication
.

This isn’t news to anyone because I’m an open book about my anxiety, but I know for a fact that taking medication for a mental illness is not something a caseworker would put on their dream list for a foster parent. Foster kids come with a lot of stress. Having an anxiety disorder is not conducive to keeping them calm during their chaos. Granted, with medicine and a lot of other resources, I manage a lot better than I used to. But, again, I’m not the preferred person.

4. I am relational to a fault.

Licensing workers do actually prefer relational foster parents, as opposed to cold, logical ones, but I would imagine they don’t want those foster parents to be relational 100% of the time. I’ve learned how to have boundaries and to be consistent without emotional input, but my heart is SCREAMING the entire time I’m consequencing one of my kids. I literally have to ignore my emotions while I discipline.

I’ve learned how to work around my own inability (haha), but it isn’t easy. I wish I didn’t always want to hug them, even when they’re making poor choices. I’m certain that DFS workers would also rather I didn’t want to hug them every five seconds.

Especially for those kids who hate hugs. (shudder)

5. My wardrobe is nothing but sweats and t-shirts.

You think I’m joking. I am absolutely not. I own 2 pairs of real jeans, and they’re both black. I wear them on days that I feel like being Hollywood fancy.

I’m not kidding.

I don’t wear makeup. I never fix my hair. I don’t paint my toenails. When I roll up to a family support team meeting to talk about my foster kid’s case, I look like someone just pulled me out of a ditch on a rainy day. No one acts like they care–probably because they’re horribly desperate for foster families–but I’m sure they wouldn’t draw a person like me if they were asked what they wished for.

6. I change my mind almost as often as I change my underwear.

On my bad days, I’m emotional, impulsive, and flighty. And those bad days can sometimes be half of my week. I really do try to ignore my impulses and do what I know is right as a mother, but I’m entirely a work in progress in that area. I take a lot of naps. I reschedule appointments when I’m sleepy. I buy things I don’t have money for. I cry when my dogs get mud all over the house. I sleep through my three alarm clocks and miss work.

(Okay, apparently a lot of my problems have to do with sleep, but still.)

I’m not very dependable.

Will I show up to hold my child every time she needs me? Absolutely. But will I remember to check her planner every night? Almost never.

I remember the names and backstories of her friends at school, but I don’t remember to sign her permission slips. I think about how often I’m encouraging her versus how often I’m correcting her, but I don’t think about buying Lunchables for four days in a row. I help her pick out gifts for her biological parents on holidays, but I don’t teach her how to do yard work or fold laundry.

I never know what I want to be or who I think I am. Some days, I want to be an artist. Other days, I want to be a public speaker. Some days, I want a job. Other days, I want to be a stay-at-home mom. Some days, I like having a clean house. Other days, I like the mess of creativity.

I’m flighty and ever-changing.

WHY WOULD ANYONE CHOOSE ME TO TAKE CARE OF OTHER PEOPLE’S CHILDREN?

The one thing that never changes about me, though, is that every day when I wake up, I love and adore human beings. Every day, I want to make a positive impact on the world. Every day, I feel compassion for those who are hurting.

Yet, every other aspect of my life is on a spinning wheel, and who knows what I’ll land on each day?

No caseworker on the planet would choose that trait in a foster parent.

All of this is to say that I really don’t think there is an *ideal* foster parent out there. If there is, it’s certainly not me. (I picture one of those moms who wears solid-colored blouses every day, buys organic vegetables, never yells at her kids, and always keeps her bedtime routine.)

But you know what? I adore my foster daughter. When I look at her, I see all the possibilities her future could hold. I see her mother’s eyes and her father’s smile, and I’m happy she looks like them. I show up for her every day, even if I don’t do it the right way. I mess up. I ask for forgiveness. I mess up, again.

I will never be the ideal foster parent, even if all of my “love the children and immigrants” posts on Facebook make it seem like I am. But the one thing I’ve learned throughout this process is that you really don’t have to be perfect to be a foster parent.

You just have to be willing.

The “Perfect” Foster Parent


W. R. Cummings


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APA Reference
Cummings, W. (2019). The “Perfect” Foster Parent. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 11, 2019, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/foster-care/2019/01/the-perfect-foster-parent/

 

Last updated: 14 Jan 2019
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network (blogs.psychcentral.com) prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.