When my daughter and son-in-law first stepped into foster care, it was an “aha” moment for me. I say this because the many hard challenges they had overcome in their young married life seemed to have prepared them for a life more than ordinary. All of the nonsensical trials they had endured made better sense with foster care in it.
I had endured this emotional roller coaster ride with them and took an early retirement from work to help with their newborn as my daughter healed from a traumatic birthing experience. In time, she was physically and emotionally strong again. With her husband by her side, they were even stronger.
But, what about me and my role in all of this? Was I ready?
My heart was weary, tired, spent. I just wasn’t sure about them stepping into foster care. I understood their good intentions. There were kids in need. But, could I do my part in this?
Now, more than four years in, I can speak of the joy being grandma to foster kiddos has brought me. I cannot imagine my life any other way. Had my daughter and son-in-law not jumped in, I would have missed so much!
But, if I had written an openly honest letter to my daughter and other foster mamas when I was first introduced to foster care, it might have gone something like this:
Hey Foster Mama,
I see you! Going against the grain! Rising above the selfie-centered culture of today to care for “the least of these.” Vulnerable kiddos that need you and your influence in their lives. Kids that need a safe place to call home for a while or maybe forever. Kids of all ethnicities and backgrounds. No matter the cost, no matter the emotional strain on your own weary heart, you are in it! You have chosen “hard over easy.” And, I admire you so much for that! You don’t want to be called a hero, but in my eyes, you are!
Can I ask you to see me, too? Unlike you, I fell prey to the culture of the day when it was presented to me. I was told “it’s nothing but a man’s world out there, and you’ve got to get into the workplace to change that for the future of all women!” You see, if a woman worked outside the home just one generation before mine, she was typically a teacher or a nurse.
So I studied hard in college, graduating with magna cum laude honors, and joined the business world along with my like-minded peers. We became “difference-makers” of our day. Work positions typically filled by males were secured by females. Many of us were harassed by those males in the workplace before laws were established to protect us.
It wasn’t “easy.” We questioned our abilities. Could we really do this? We were not respected by many (both men and women) who thought we should be home full-time raising our babies.
But, the truth of the matter is, we did that too! We worked two full-time positions. One outside the home by day. And the other, as soon as we returned home to greet our babies. We got out of bed during the night when our littles cut teeth no matter if we had an 8 am meeting the next day at the office, and we found a way to get our children to all doctors appointments when needed. We hired the most loving and competent babysitters we could find. Even still, some of us wrestle with guilt from not spending more hours at home with our littles. Yes, we did our “hard” too.
And, when we finally reached retirement from work outside the home, we were just plain tired. Fatigued with it all. We hoped it was worth it.
With a sigh of relief, we exhaled and thought “I finally get a do-over! Maybe I wasn’t there enough for my children, but I’ll be there for my grandchildren.” We found great solace in this new role! We looked forward to all the light-hearted fun of book reading and sleepovers, play-dough creations, cookie-baking and shared treats with our grandchildren. We anticipated the sweet rewards of this second chance.
Yet—now you ask us to love “our grandchildren” with our whole hearts all the while knowing our hearts may be fully broken when they leave us?
We must again question our abilities! Can we do this? It seems too “hard.” We were so looking forward to some “easy” during our “winter season” of life! We just aren’t sure we are up for this. Yet, we know we can do it. Our past successes have proven our fortitude and toughness. We are “tried and true” seasoned warriors who have been strengthened by the culture of our day. Perhaps, even so we might be better prepared “for such a time as this!”
If I’m hesitant at first, can you just show me a little grace? Give me some time to embrace “hard over easy” at this stage of life.
If it looks like I’m trying to protect my heart and not loving with sheer abandon, can you just work with me? Encourage me in this. I won’t do it well all of the time. But, I promise you, I’ll try.
Consider how much your heart hurts when a child leaves. Know the hurt is doubled for me. I hurt for the loss of the child, and then additionally for your grief. It’s a one-two punch on this aging heart!
You chose foster care. Yes, I admire you so much. You and your fellow foster moms (and dads) are “difference makers” to a much greater degree than the women of my day. I can only hope and pray that maybe a small piece of my past helped strengthen you to become the woman of confidence that you are today. Keep on keeping on!
With love and great respect,
A Foster Mama’s Mama