Feeling Inadequate as a Foster Parent, Until I Realize I’m Not

Mom eats Pringles in the pantry

Yesterday was a rough day of fostering. The baby wouldn’t sleep in her crib, staying asleep in my arms but suddenly awake when laid in her crib. Apparently she’s in a growth spurt, which causes her to wake up twice as often as usual in the night. And throughout the day, she demanded bottles as often as I could make them. We are headed out of town first thing tomorrow morning, and I hadn’t had time to pack. Or do the laundry required to pack. Or even make lists of what we need to pack. 

I went to bed feeling inadequate and woke up feeling the same way. I was already tired when the day began, and questioned my ability to continue fostering. But then something magical happened. I dropped off my biological children at an afternoon summer camp and sweet baby girl fell asleep in the car. She stayed asleep as I carried her into the house in her car seat (this isn’t my preference, but you know what they say about desperate times). I am typing this two hours later and she is still asleep. I have done dishes and laundry and moved kids’ belongings closer to the rooms where they belong. I made chicken salad for dinner from last night’s leftovers. I ate chocolate! I painted my nails! And still she sleeps.

Most of the occasions I find myself in a room filled with other foster parents, I feel like I don’t belong. I feel like other foster parents are more and I am less. They are more caring, more thoughtful, more courageous, more skilled. I am less generous, less knowledgeable, less experienced, less resilient. 

Then I start a conversation with one of these parents and am quickly reminded nearly all of us feel this way. We second guess ourselves. We feel inadequate. There’s no doubt fostering is tough and it gets ugly, but the truth is we are all in this together. We are exactly where we are meant to be, doing what we are meant to do. Our resilience is collective, and our courage is contagious.

The local Foster and Adoptive Parent Association in my county hosts monthly meetings. I try to attend as often as possible because it truly fills my bucket. I may walk into the room feeling inadequate, but I always leave feeling rejuvenated and hopeful.

And on other days when I need a confidence boost, I hold a sweet, sleeping child and am reminded of why I became a foster mom. Or I watch one of my biological children sleep soundly, simply watching them breathe each peaceful breath. (Let’s be honest, there are just as many times I hide in the pantry closet to scarf down potato chips or peanut M&Ms, or try to hide in the bathroom for five minutes.) It’s in these simple, quiet moments we have room in our hearts to breathe in the reminders and the joys and the big picture and the long term. The relentless chaos of day-to-day tasks required to care for children just doesn’t allow us the space we need to breathe. To reflect. To remember why we became foster parents in the first place.

So a little breathing room and careful reflection is usually all it takes to replenish my spirit and make sure I’m ready to tackle whatever chaos comes my way next. Because I do belong in the fostering world. I am imperfect, but as long as I have love in my heart and room in my home, I am exactly what a child needs. I am enough.

If you need a little support as a foster parent, join over 600 South Carolina current and prospective foster parents in our SHAREfostering community.

Sara has been a foster parent since 2017. Her and her husband have biological twin daughters, as well as a son who was born prematurely and died as an infant. She is a proud fundraiser for the March of Dimes and an active volunteer for the local, state and national organizations of parents of multiple birth children. In addition to caring for foster children in her home, Sara also is passionate about recruiting new foster parents and increasing public awareness about issues related to foster care in South Carolina.

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