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.