The awkward situations that foster parents face are endless. Something about foster parenting makes me cringe almost daily. I hold out hope that the uncomfortableness will eventually make me more empathetic and grow me as a person. Most challenging to me is the moment of ‘confession’ when I feel obligated to let others know that the daughter they are asking me about isn’t actually mine. It could happen on the subway, the playground or a party. The conversation usually goes something like this:
“Your daughter is so cute! How old is she?”
“Thanks! She’s three.”
“Oh, my other daughter is three years old, too. Do you need any winter coats? She’s outgrown them all.”
“Gosh, I have no idea if I’ll have her next winter.”
“She’s in foster care”.
What sometimes follows is “Wow, I could never do that.” or “What do you mean you don’t know how long you’ll have her?” or “I’d hate for my kids to get attached to her and get hurt when she leaves.” But usually the parents look down at the ground and then ever so slowly slink away. I don’t blame them. The idea that this little girl who adores me, and I her, will one day be taken away- well, that some heavy stuff for a Saturday morning on the playground.
Here are more awkward situations I’ve faced as a foster parent:
Joining a mommy group while childless (and not pregnant) 1 of 10
I was so swamped when I received my first foster newborn that I didn't have time to look-up local mommy groups, more less join one. It was only after he went home did I have time to join a neighborhood mommy group for support and local tips. "When are you due?" always led to a long explanation.
“I will make a baby with you” 2 of 10
It could be a taxi driver, deli cashier or simply a man on the street. First I am asked "Is that your baby?" (contrasting skin colors oftentimes gives the answer away) and whichever way I respond, the questions continue until I confess the child is foster care. This upsets many men and they assume that I want my own biological child. "I will make a baby with you" seems to be the common unsolicited offer. Thanks but I'll pass!
Asking everyone to fill out a background check 3 of 10
In the state of New York, foster parents must have background checks done on anyone who visits their home more than a few times. Additionally, foster children aren't allowed to be left with an adult (e.g. birthday parties, play dates) unless they have a background check complete.
Using WIC checks while texting on my iphone at the grocery store 4 of 10
Using the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) checks that my foster children receive can result in a lot of judgmental stares at the grocery store. Especially if I'm texting on my iphone and purchasing a bottle of wine.
Going to the emergency room for pink eye 5 of 10
If a foster child has weekly or biweekly visits with their family, there's bound to be times that the child will arrive sick. Visits are court ordered and calling out sick for the child is almost impossible. However, you bring an ill child, expect to be sent to the hospital emergency room, regardless of how minor the signs and symptoms are. Many times I've been sent for parents perceived signs of sickness that aren't seen by others. The doctors are not very pleased.
Riding the train with a 2 year-old holding a giant bag of chips and soda 6 of 10
I can't control what a mom decides to feed and gift her child with during family visits. Oftentimes this means riding the train home with a 2 year-old holding a giant bag of chips, soda, handfuls of candy bars and french fries. I get some pretty ugly stares.
Calling out my foster child’s name that I don’t particularly like 7 of 10
People tend to hold strong opinions and feelings toward baby names and I'm no exception. Shouting out for "Pumpkin Cakes Junior" across the playground can feel pretty strange.
Politely hedging off breastfeeding lectures 8 of 10
I'm pretty sure it's not legal to breast feed foster children. Nonetheless, people at the flea market, on the street and even the airport try to convince me to.
Knowing a mother’s child better than she does 9 of 10
I do my best to keep my foster kids' parents up-to-date on the developmental milestones, preferences and needs of their children. It's hard though and inevitably I get called during a family visit to help soothe a crying baby or to make a bottle of formula.
Letting other people fold my laundry 10 of 10
Foster parents need a lot of help and support. If I'm going to practice what I preach, I've got to actually let people help me. Sometimes this involves other people folding my laundry.
May is National Foster Care Month! You may also like 21 People Who Have Done 21 Different Things to Help My Foster Kids and my first post as a new Babble blogger Fosterhood’s First Day at Babble!
Read more of Rebecca’s writing at her Blog Here.