On our first date my then girlfriend Stacey asked me if I’d ever consider Foster Care/Adoption. Without even thinking about it, I responded by simply saying, “yes.”
She likes to tell people that at that moment she knew that she would marry me.
Now, one might not think that this would be a topic of discussion on a first date, but we had been friends for 10 years before we dated. So at that point, any and all topics were up for discussion.
The weird topics worked, though. Two years later we were married. Three months later we were Foster Parents to two 13 and 15 year old brothers. I had two kids from a previous marriage, so just like that, after being married for only few months, we were a family of six.
Imagine you are dating for a quick minute. Everything is fresh and new; it’s exciting. You are constantly having your emotional cup filled by someone that you love and care about. The “I love you” texts; the quick two-minute phone calls just to hear her voice. You have dinner on a Tuesday night just because.
That was how you started out taking care of each other. Before kids, you also had time to take care of yourselves. If you wanted to go for a run, or to get your nails done, you simply went when it was convenient.
Then the day comes for you to bring your kiddos home. Life as you knew it is now much different. Those lovable parasites have sucked all of the emotion out of your cup. By the time you get home from work, prepared dinner, help with homework, take Johnny to basketball practice, bribe them to take showers, and get them to bed, you are exhausted. All you want is a pillow. Three weeks of this and you look up to see you haven’t taken care of yourself once.
Ahh, but there is a solution. Intentionality!
In order to take care of yourself you must be intentional about it.
Self-care is a vital component to surviving as a Foster Parent. On an airplane, they give you swift instructions on what to do in case of an emergency. “Put the mask on yourself, before you put it on someone else.” The reason for this is that we must make sure that we are okay before everyone else can be okay. Nothing can be truer when it comes to being a Foster Parent.
Do my wife and I still take care of each other and practice self-care? Absolutely we do
It’s different now that we have five children in our home. Time management is huge and good communication is imperative. We are lucky enough to have things in common that we can do together. We are both basketball coaches – our definition of a Date-night is going to a high school basketball game. I’ll still go hoop with buddies and Stacey will still go get her nails done, but now it has to be put on the family calendar.
We still do “happy hour,” except it is at 9pm after the little ones go to bed. We still get coffee in the morning before the kids wake up and the day turns to chaos. We take lunch dates while the kids are at school. We also make a point to go away for a night once a month without kids. Ultimately, all these ways of sneaking in self care has to be deliberate, intentional, and constructed with the support of others.
Being a Foster Parent has been one of the most rewarding things that I have ever done. It has also been one of the most stressful. So in order to fill the role of a foster dad and chase my goals and dreams, I know I need to focus on my own well-being as well.