There is something unique about being in a room full of people who share the same life experiences as you. When I first become a foster parent I didn’t know a single other foster or adoptive parent in real life. I had a few internet friends I leaned on for support through email. But real life come-to-my-house-and-vent-about-the-struggle-to-get-your-child-to-eat-something-other-than-Mcdonald’s friends, I didn’t have. Although I am generally an introvert, I started longing for connection. Someone else whose family stuck out. Someone else whose kids were having a hard time. Just someone else like me.
Now I don’t want to be a downer, and there are many positive things about being a foster parent. Which I talk about a lot. But I would be lying if I didn’t say that sometimes being a foster parent was really hard too. Especially those early days. I’m not sure what I thought my life as a foster parent would look like, but I’m pretty sure it involved lots of handmade wooden toys and story time at the library. In reality, the whole experience felt very isolating. My kids were having a hard time. Visits were scheduled and then cancelled constantly. I didn’t know how to get the services everyone needed. Caseworkers rarely returned phone calls, or showed up when they said they would. I remember many evenings of fighting back tears, only to realize I wasn’t entirely sure what I was tearing up about.
Slowly I became more and more exhausted. I have a distinct memory of Mariyah crying and Rob trying to talk to me at the same time. My brain sent the message to my body to listen intently to Rob while giving Mariyah a pacifier so she would stop crying. Something misfired and I ended up sticking the pacifier in Rob’s mouth. He was a little confused, and less than thrilled about the mix up. I was just so tired and overwhelmed that those sort of things were happening. Often. I emailed a foster friend many states away and confessed that I didn’t think I was cut out for the whole foster care thing after all. It was hard, and at that moment, it felt impossible. She responded with encouragement, and said that I should ask my agency if they had a support group.
I called first thing the next morning. They didn’t.
We kept trudging along, and things did get better as the months went by and we got into a routine. But one of the major turning points for me as a parent, was finally meeting other families like ours. This was before the days of Facebook groups, and it took several months to find a network of other foster/adoptive families in our community. When I finally did, it changed everything. Unlike our kid’s overworked caseworker, other parents didn’t mind spending an hour discussing the best occupational therapists or most effective techniques for getting your 4 year old to fall asleep before 1 AM. They had either been there themselves, or were there right now, and happy to lend support. Sometimes just knowing you are not alone in a situation is enough to make it bearable. I think it’s more than coincidence that right around the time I started connecting with other foster or adoptive parents, I started realizing just how badly I wanted to make being a foster parent work.
A few months ago I read the book Everything You Ever Wanted by Jillian Lauren. I reread the book last week, and was lucky enough to be able to host a book club with Jillian and several friends (most of whom were members of the adoption triad). While reading, I was transported back to my early days as a foster parent. The struggle. The isolation. As I looked around the room at book club, I couldn’t help but think about how much it means to have so many friends who are adoptive parents or adult adoptees. Life is so much easier now. But the ability to sit down with a group of people and have them just get it, is still so very valuable.
Now on to the Adoption Talk Linkup!