Self-care and foster care. Mutually exclusive? It definitely feels like it sometimes.
In our earlier foster care placements, “self-care” was something that happened a couple of months in – after we had found a routine and the initial whirlwind of appointments and visit scheduling had settled down. Time is a finite commodity, and something needs to shift to make room for all that goes with a new placement, so it is most often the parents’ “extras” that drop to the bottom of the list.
In a sense, this is simply what needs to happen. And until very recently, I didn’t really like the idea of focusing on self-care anyway. (I know that I am focused enough on myself and don’t need extra encouragement to take it any further.)
But over the last year or so, I have realized that in order to fulfill the calling God has given me – parenting vulnerable children during difficult seasons – I need to be intentional about choosing self-care activities and opportunities that truly fill me up.
In order to do this well instead of absent-mindedly and ineffectively, I have to reflect on what will really make a difference in my days – and what will keep me equipped for the long obedience ahead. Because parenting, adoption, and foster care are all “long obedience” callings.
The essential thing in heaven and earth is that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.
Yes, the quote is from Nietzsche. But it is a good, good one. Isn’t it such a clear picture of what faithfulness is? I want to be faithful for the long haul. I want to end each day, and this life, tired. Tired because I have spent my days and my years walking in the long obedience of binding up the brokenhearted.
Finding ways to stay the course is important. As I began to spend more time outside over the last year, hiking and snowshoeing, I realized how those pockets of time to be alone, think, and pray were spilling over into the rest of my days. Those brief spaces of retreat and rest were filling me up for the busyness and the need in between.
I haven’t quite figured out how to fit in a hike yet with the two new littles; but even though they have been with us only a few weeks, I have found some regular self care moments are fitting into the schedule pretty easily.
Here are a few that are easy to manage, even in the midst of a new placement:
* Morning coffee routine – Once the girls are up and seated at the table with their breakfasts, I start my coffee. Don’t judge, but I actually use three separate appliances and seven ingredients to get my coffee just right. When the littler sees me pull out my coffee mug, she starts to ask me “toffee?” Yes, sweet girl! I’m getting my coffee!
* 40 Days of Refresh – I have this devotional from the Refresh Conference (2015) and pulled it out during our most recent placement. It’s very easy to get through the short daily sections while the girls are eating. I alternate between chatting and reading and wiping up milk spills. Just a glance of it sitting on my table throughout the day reminds me of what I’ve read that morning – all of which is so applicable to my life right now.
* Moment-by-moment prayer – I don’t have a lot of extended time to spend in prayer, but I am desperate throughout each day for God’s wisdom into parenting these little ones – and our bigger ones! While I know I will feel some relief as we settle into routine and our days become easier, I don’t want to lose this close dependence. Desperate moments bring a heightened awareness of our need for God and His presence and provision. I learn to recognize it more and more through each placement.
* Play dates, park days, and visits with friends – Having toddlers again makes me remember how very much I relied on weekly visits with other mamas at parks, in kitchens, and in backyards when my four were little. We are fitting these back into our schedule again. It has been a joy to see each day through little eyes again, to remember what an adventure an hour with a friend’s bunny rabbits and chickens can be!
* The gym – In the weeks leading up to this placement, I was having a hard time getting to the gym regularly – even though I know how essential it is in keeping me energized and feeling strong and ready for what each day brings. Surprisingly, I have easily fit this into the routine with the girls. Our gym provides free childcare in a brand new playroom – the girls love playing there, and I get an hour of self-care. It has made going to the gym easy again!
* Creating time with my older kids – Because our time each day is a finite commodity, and a new placement inevitably takes up more of our parenting time, we work to make sure to create new pockets of time with our older kids. Bringing one of them along with us when running errands creates a good time for conversation and connecting (and we have found teens talk more easily when in the midst of another activity). We also instituted Thursday family night with our last placement. Time after the little one(s) have gone to bed, time with no screens, time to catch up as a family with our older kids.
* Date night – It would be easy to let this one drop by the wayside, but we try to keep it going. We often have Wednesday evenings free when our older kids are at youth group, and we can fit in an easy date night then. We are working to make that happen even with the two littles – whether it’s finding someone to sit with them while we grab a quick dinner out or eating an at-home special dinner on our own after they are tucked into bed.
I know that we are each on the road of a long obedience. I pray for you now – that you would find time to reflect on what might fit into your days that fills you up and keeps you energized for the calling God has placed on your life. I pray that you will be:
…strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.
with hope and gratitude,
for more about our family’s foster care experiences,
read What Adoption and Foster Care Have Given My Children
and Ten Ways to Support Adoptive and Foster Families
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