Two and a half years ago my body decided it was done having children. I wasn’t so sure. My husband and I were married for 7 years before we had our first child and waited 5 years before having our next. During all of those years we often talked about adoption but not until we were truly faced with the fact that my uterus was uncooperative did we discuss further.
Our discussions would often lead to exploring foster care. Throughout my years as a public school teacher I would see teenagers who had grown up in the system. I had a yearning to do more. After a lot of research and discussions with social workers, we decided to become licensed foster parents. We decided our ideal age range was 2-10 and that since we had two girls, we’d prefer a boy and were open to sibling groups.
I had all these ideas of what fostering would be like. (I think I watched The Blind Side one too many times.) How we would love and cherish whatever child came into our home. That our girls would have another sibling to play (and fight!) with, and possibly, in time, we could adopt and grow our family. That there would be this fairy tale ending.
When our social worker tells us of a child in the shelter, we know the right thing to do is to bring this child into our home. Regardless of age, background, or interests, we can provide a safe, caring, stable environment for the child. So we say “yes!”.
A few weeks in reality hits. I am parenting a high schooler. This was not the “plan”. Teaching them is one thing, raising them is another. My motherly instincts have pretty much flown out the window. This stage in life requires much more structure and firm expectations than snuggles and stuffed animals. It requires a parent, a dependable, often unyielding parent.
Mom is who you run to when you skin your knee. Mom is the shoulder you cry on when you’ve had a fight with your best friend. Mom is the person whose hugs are warm and endless. Mom is who you snuggle up to when you’re watching a movie and eating popcorn. Mom is the person who loves you unconditionally. Mom makes everything better.
But I am not this child’s mom. What’s worse, I don’t feel like it either. When it comes to fostering I have no maternal instinct. Turns out that unconditional love piece is kind of important to being a mom. Even on the days when my girls drive me absolutely insane, I take one look at them when I tuck them into bed and my heart simply melts. I ooze love for them. This is different. I am doubting myself and the path I’ve chosen.
What scares me most is not that it’s the teenage years keeping me from truly being a mother, but rather that I am not capable of loving a child the same as if he or she were my own. I never pegged myself as that type of person, reality blows.
Regardless of my self doubt, I know this child needs a parent figure. Someone to establish guidelines, expectations and accountability. A parent who is supportive and conjures self-esteem. From my experience as both a parent and a teacher, I know that children crave structure and need discipline, I can provide both. But being the person who constantly dishes out punishments and has reiterating discussions concerning behavioral expectations is exhausting. And it’s not very rewarding.
So I am stuck in a conundrum. Trapped between what I should do, what I want to do, and what I am capable of doing. I should let my guard down, I tend to have my defenses up. I am capable of being a role model and support system but I want to be more. Maybe in time I will get there. Maybe in time I can just be a mom.