By: Jill Rippy
Full disclosure: Tonight I’m triggered. This tends to happen for us kids who have been through childhood trauma. Out of nowhere, we can find ourselves triggered by something that doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. But, it can eat at you and eat at you and eat at you to the point of driving you crazy. So, I’m going to channel this into an article tonight.
Foster parenting is hard. There are so many emotions, doubts, and insecurities that come along with this journey. So when people who we love share criticism about whether we should be fostering, it tends to strike a chord with us. When this criticism is offered, one of two things tends to occur.
When you are a fairly new foster parent, you tend to internalize the criticism and second-guess yourself. Especially when you are wrapped up in the first month of a new placement when it’s the absolute hardest, you tend to accept that criticism at a much deeper level and wonder if this person is right and you have done something completely stupid.
However, seasoned foster parents who have been down that road tend to handle it a little differently. We tend to want to tell people to ef off. But we generally don’t. We usually just deal and slowly pull away from those people. We are confident in our abilities and confident in the fact that we are doing exactly we have been called/inspired/feel determined to do and don’t really care about anyone else’s criticism. But it takes a LONG time to get to that point. It takes a lot of experience, multiple placements and it takes you going through the deepest, darkest trenches and coming out victorious for you to realize all of those negative people in your life have no freaking idea what they’re talking about. They are projecting onto you their own cowardice.
People who don’t live their lives bravely have a very difficult time being around people who do.
Foster parents are the epitome of living their lives bravely.
Foster parents, you are welcoming strangers into your home, welcoming their families into your life and blindly saying you will step up to the plate when no one else offered to do so. You are cleaning up a mess you did not create because there are other humans/children of God who need you.
So I want to share a little bit of advice for the newbie foster parents out there. Stop listening to people who don’t live their lives bravely. Stop listening to people who want to tell you that you have ruined your life, that you have taken away any opportunity of meeting a special someone or that you’ve gotten yourself into a mess. People who don’t live their lives bravely will tell you all kinds of cowardly reasons why you shouldn’t be doing this thing because they don’t understand it. Your hearts do not align and that’s not on you.
Once upon a time I was a 25-year-old, single teacher in Indianapolis, Indiana who became a foster mom. I caught a lot of flack. I can remember feeling in the very first weeks of having two teenage girls that maybe everyone around me was right. Maybe I was making a big mistake. Maybe I had completely screwed up my life. Maybe I would never find Mr. Right because I now had “baggage.” In my lowest moments, I listened to those words and I contemplated whether or not everyone else was right. But I had one really strong voice in my life who told me I was doing everything right. That voice gave me encouragement on the late nights when I needed to cry. That voice gave me the pat on the back to keep going and told me that my heart was absolutely in the right place. That was the voice of my Dad. For that, I am forever grateful. My dad’s strong voice got me through a lot of difficult nights. I had two teenage girls for the better part of a year. It was one of the hardest years of my life and one of the best years of my life. I grew tremendously as a human, as a teacher and I gained a lot of insight that I would not have gained otherwise. I also met my husband at the end of that year. If I had quit the second weekend of my first placement, like I wanted because of all of the voices coming at me, my life would not look like it does today. I would not have these gorgeous daughters. I would not have just thrown a big, beautiful wedding for one of my kids. I would not be a Director of a foster care agency. I would not be writing this article today. When I was 25 years old, I made a choice to do what I knew I was supposed to do. It was really, really hard. There were naysayers all around me.
It took me a while, but eventually I tuned them out and I carried on. I lost friends, felt strife with family, but I carried on because I can’t live my life trying to please other people and what they think is right. I had to live for me and I had to do what I knew was the right thing to do.
I want to share some words with the foster parents out there who are struggling right now. The loneliness of foster care is a beast. It can take you down in your darkest moments. Loneliness causes insecurities, second-guessing, worry, illness and will make you think you’re losing your mind sometimes. The fact of the matter is, if you are a foster parent who is feeling lonely and you are feeling all of these big emotions, you are feeling exactly what your foster children feel when they come to your home. Being a foster child is a very lonely feeling. Being a foster parent is a very lonely feeling. Keep going. They need you and maybe you need them. And that’s OK.
Stop taking advice from people who don’t live bravely.
And if you are the naysayer for a foster parent, we really want to tell you to just ef off, so please don’t push it. Your opinion will not stop us. It just makes you look like a jerk.
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