Adoptive and Foster Parents – You are Doing Incredibly Hard, Good Work

My writing partner, Jennifer, once quipped that she wanted to write a post about how being a foster parent made her fat.

We shared a moment of sad, I-know-what-you-mean laughter, about the toll that parenting at this level places on our bodies, and ultimately our lives.

This is serious work.

signature L and Beza

Sometimes I wonder if I’m getting stronger or weaker? Am I aging more quickly or does having young kids as an older mom keep me young?

Am I gaining wisdom and learning to lighten up and let things roll off me?

I’m pretty sure I cry more easily than I used to.

Adoptive and foster parents, you are doing incredibly hard, good work.

You are giving your hearts and lives to children from “hard places,” which means you are willingly going into those hard places too.

They have been through trauma, and you now enter it with them. Their nightmares wake you and maybe you haven’t slept through the night in a long time.

They have suffered, and now their suffering spills onto you. You walk with them, even when they push you away, or spit on you, calling you names and saying they hate you.

Sometimes the pain is so great, their feelings of rejection so big, that they want you to feel exactly what they feel deep in their spirits, so they reject you. And it hurts – even when you tell yourself it’s not about you, it still hurts.

Foster mamas and daddies, you may love a child so much, nurture and care for them day by day for months, only to say goodbye when the court decides it’s time. And now your arms are empty and your heart is broken.

This is the hardest work you will likely ever do.

It may be lonely and isolating. People may wonder if you’re a bit crazy, and sometimes you may feel like they could be just a little bit right.

I mean, who else worries that their preschooler might bite the teacher tomorrow, or their son will come home with a friend’s toy car in his pocket, or their fifth grader might wet her pants at school?

Folks may think your kids are a little out of control – or maybe more than a little.

People will have lots of parenting advice for you, most of it of little use because it won’t take into account the trauma your kids have endured and the impact that trauma has on their brains.

Friends and family may wonder why you do this, why you pour yourself out for children who make your life harder or more complicated.

Maybe there is something deep in the core of who you are that motivates you to love the wounded and care for those in need.

Maybe you’re compelled by a love for God that drives you to love the vulnerable and weakest among you.

Find the people who value this in you, who know this is part of how you are made and understand that denying this calling, even with all of its sacrifices, would be denying part of who you are.

You are living out the expression of what you are meant to do – it’s messy, beautiful, and life-changing for the children you’ve been called to love and for you too. None of you will ever be the same.

You won’t do it perfectly, you’ll make mistakes. Trust me, I’ve been a mom for 29 years and I’ve made countless, truly countless mistakes, some that still break my heart. Learn from them and move forward.

Take care of yourself.

Find your people and make room for them in your life.

Say no to tasks you aren’t called to and yes to those you are.

Hug your kids.

Seek joy in the small things.

Pray – if faith is part of your life, pray. I need Jesus so much, every moment.

Encourage one another.

You might also like: I Used to Be a Good Mom and Jennifer’s post, What Adoption and Foster Care Have Given My Children.

Follow us on Facebook at Thankful Moms and subscribe to our very brief and very occasional newsletter to keep in touch.

Lisa

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

32 Comments

  1. Melody
    September 12, 2016

    Oh how I needed this today. Both my husband and I needed this. Thank you for putting it into words and writing it down. Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 12, 2016

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment and encourage me, Melody.

      Reply
  2. Angela
    September 12, 2016

    I really needed this today as we face the possibility that one of our foster children whom we have cared for for 3 1/2 years may be moved to a grandparent next week if the court decides it should be so. It will be a long week for me! No matter how many times we tell ourselves that reunification or family placement are always the goal it is still oh so difficult at this point in the case.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 12, 2016

      Angela, wow, that will be hard on your heart if it comes to pass. Three and a half years is a very long time. Please let me know how I can pray for you.

      Reply
      1. Angela
        September 14, 2016

        Peace and acceptance no matter what happens at court next week!!

        Reply
    2. Lisa
      September 15, 2016

      Angela, I really feel for you. That’s so long to be their mama & to even think of this happening this far along seems insane. I’ll be praying. Stay well & know you’ve done a wonderful thing no matter what.

      Reply
  3. James Distefano
    September 12, 2016

    Excellent article. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 12, 2016

      You’re welcome, James. Thanks for the encouraging words.

      Reply
  4. Aimee
    September 12, 2016

    Beautifully written. So encouraging and profound in it’s simple truth. Thank you for sharing. Man, I needed to be reminded that when God calls, He will equip!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 12, 2016

      I’m so glad you are encouraged, Aimee. Sometimes I write just to remind myself!

      Reply
  5. Valerie White
    September 12, 2016

    Thank you for putting in print what is hard to express to others. We needed this encouragement.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 13, 2016

      I’m so glad you’re encouraged, Valerie. You are not alone.

      Reply
  6. Lisa Van Deventer
    September 12, 2016

    THANK YOU! Such a wonderfully encouraging reminder that difficult days do not equal failure. They are simply part of the challenge of loving and healing our children.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 13, 2016

      Definitely not failure – although I know we struggle with that belief. Don’t you think it’s the enemy who wants us to believe that? God only asks us to serve Him and give him our best, our broken best. He knows we’re prone to sin and stumbling and selfishness, but he trusts these children to us anyhow. He also knows we have hearts that love, that try, that want to please him and love our kids. I think that’s all he is asking of us.

      Reply
  7. RoseAnne
    September 12, 2016

    Thank you for these reflections and for the advice on how to handle it all. We recently brought our first adopted child home from Ethiopia (a 7 year old girl) just two weeks ago, and we have 4 bio children (ages 8-14). We were mentally prepared for the difficult journey ahead due to all of the wonderful adoptive parents who share their stories of the transition home. However, it’s always different to read about it than to live it. Lots of joyous moments, and lots of tears. We are thankful to God that we are finally home and we continue to ask God to guide our new life together. I always find comfort in your posts so thanks again, RoseAnne

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 13, 2016

      You’re welcome, RoseAnne. You’re at the beginning of a marathon – which you know, being an experienced mom. One day, and one step, at a time. Surround yourself with people who love and support you! Many blessings to you on this incredible journey.

      Reply
  8. JodyC
    September 12, 2016

    Just laughing and crying, laughing and crying….

    Looking AT this life is like looking at your first child for the first time. Its terrifying and hysterical with joy to the point that you think your heart will explode.
    If you can unglue your eyes or the eyes of your heart from the gorgeous train wreck ahead (or that behind you), you just look around and fathom how eveyone else isn’t having the same reaction.
    Somedays that makes me cry and some it makes me laugh out loud while I drive my car or lay sleepless next to a sleepless toddler.
    I just had no idea….

    And praise God for that

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 13, 2016

      Beautiful – and true (!) words, Jody. I’m glad God only lets us see a little distance down the road.

      Reply
  9. Anne
    September 13, 2016

    Thank you for this! Perfect timing!!!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 13, 2016

      You are very welcome, Anne. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

      Reply
  10. Jeanine
    September 13, 2016

    Yes. Every word. The timing was so perfect for my weary heart! Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 14, 2016

      I’m so glad this came at a good time for you, Jeanine.

      Reply
  11. Alisa
    September 14, 2016

    This made me cry. Thank you for taking the time to write it.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 14, 2016

      Thanks for encouraging me by leaving a comment, Alisa. I hope you’re doing well.

      Reply
  12. Char
    September 14, 2016

    Thank you so much for this article! I have asked myself the same questions as in the beginning of this article. I definitely cry more but our kids successes are also so much more than I ever Imagined and the accomplishments by our kids are awe-inspiring.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 15, 2016

      So true, Char. The valleys can be low, but the mountain tops are awe inspiring!

      Reply
  13. Bethaney
    September 14, 2016

    I am so glad I read this. Thank you for the encouragement. I literally just put my daughter to bed and felt waves of sad, regretful, failure and the shear weight of trying to rightly love this girl that God has given us. She fights me at every turn. I bristle at every frustration. How in the world can I do this parenting? She is so impossible and I am so weak. Lord help me. I am so grateful for the Body of Christ that gives courage to my soul. I don’t even know you but I am so glad you wrote this.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 15, 2016

      Bethaney, this truly is the hardest work I’ve ever done. I’ve been brought to my knees in utter and complete loss – lacking wisdom at every turn. Knowing that Jesus is with us, knowing that we are not alone, that there are other parents walking this road, helps me hold on. I hope you have your people, or at least your one person, you can call who will speak truth to you and hold you up when you can’t stand on your own. Many blessings to you sweet mama.

      Reply
  14. Heather
    September 14, 2016

    “I need Jesus so much, every moment.” 💛
    I don’t know you, but oh so thankful for you.
    We aren’t the rescuers, we are the rescued.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 15, 2016

      Amen, Heather.

      Reply
  15. Kelli
    September 21, 2016

    Taking care of myself is the one that I’m really struggling with. I just don’t know what that looks like yet. When people who haven’t fostered give me advice, it’s hard to take them seriously, because I know that it’s different. My friends are slowly becoming mostly foster and adoptive parents.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 21, 2016

      Kelli, I’m glad you’re finding your people. I hope you can find a little margin to take care of yourself in the midst of caring for your family.

      Reply

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