My personal favorite has always been, "You know you're a foster parent when your heart is bigger than your brain!"
For this month's "Foster Friday," I asked our panel to add their own!
You Know You’re A Foster Parent When…
You have a rented storage unit that holds all of your spare clothes, outgrown baby furniture, extra carseats and strollers and toys. Yes, every month I pay $40 for a storage unit to hold all of these things because I never know when I’m going to get a call for a new baby and if I do how long it might last. My needs change so often that the only solution is to store everything. I have a total of 5 carseats: one infant, one convertible, one booster with 5-point restraint, one booster that fastens with a seatbelt, and one backless booster. I have 3 strollers: one umbrella, one single, and one double and I’m currently looking to get another double or sit and stand. As for clothes, I have girls and boys clothes from ages newborn to 4T and ages 7-12. You might say that I’m going a little overboard, but as a foster parent you never know what call you might receive. My age range is infant to 13 years of age. That’s a huge range and you never know if you’re going to get that call at midnight and then have to be prepared. If I do get the call, at least I’m well prepared.
You become obsessive compulsive every time the phone rings because you are constantly checking to see if it’s the agency, a doctors’ office, a caseworker, or someone involved with foster care.
You register for everything last minute because you don’t know if you can do it and if you can you don’t know how many kids you will be bringing. For example, I want to do The Color Run in September, but I’m hesitant to register because I’m not sure if I will have an older child and if I do then I will need to register both of us at the same time or not go at all.
You buy cute baby clothes or shoes that are on clearance, just because you know you will eventually be able to use them.
You watch The Fosters on tv and mentally track everything that they are doing wrong.
You find creative recipes to use all of the beans and tortillas that you get with your WIC vouchers, to entice your picky toddler to actually eat them.
You make up cutesy names to describe your foster children in your blog or on facebook, so as not to get in trouble with your licensing agency.
Momat40.com is a blog about my journey as a single foster mom living life the best way that I know how.
You know you're a foster sibling when…
- Going to a store and only getting one receipt is a huge deal (because we have to submit our receipts for reimbursement)
- You know how to read a WalMart receipt and the tax codes better than the employees at Customer Service
- To your peers, prom means dresses, limos, and dates. To you it means an increased chance of a new foster sibling in nine-ish months.
- On December 20th, 2012 when people were preparing for the end of the world, you were thinking about the increased chance of a new foster sibling in nine-ish months.
- Jerry Springer and Maury have nothing on the stories you could tell
- Sitting in the parking lot at the child welfare agency with your sister and playing "Who is who?" (volunteer, social worker, foster parent, or birth parent) is your favourite car game
- You get to see new parts of the world without a passport and only have to drive to the other side of town
- When you arrive at your university dorm, you start a checklist in your head of what you need to do to baby-proof
- You're the only one at your school who thinks about how impractical it is to only have one baby change table in one washroom on campus
- When you are told how many ounces of an alcoholic beverage equals "one drink", you compare it in your head to amounts of formula in a bottle
- People think your brother is your son and think your sister is your daughter
- When you go out in public with your foster brother or sister, you know you're going to be congratulated, told to enjoy it now because they grow so fast, or asked "Is this your first?" (and sometimes you'll want to say "no, my third (foster sibling)" just to see how they react)
- Your favourite stores don't even have clothes in your size
- Your newsfeed is filled with pictures of partying classmates, and you were up that night too...with a baby
- You pack for college in diaper boxes
- When you register your siblings for sibling weekend at your school, you don't know who your siblings will be when the weekend finally rolls around
- The guys in the church youth group want to hang out with you because they realize your babies work well as "girl bait"
- People ask you who "your" baby looks like and your response is, "Ummm…. I don't know."
- When people were upset about the baby name "North West" you responded "Oh yeah, well I've heard of kids named Karma, Sparkle, and Lazarus just to name a few".
- You have a frequent urge to critique people's car seat safety (even the royal couples) because yes I could put that baby in safer than you
- Quick phone calls before class with mom involving the words "court, lawyer, worker, paternity test, arrested, warrant" are not uncommon
- You have a hard time writing a six-page double-spaced report on the book you just read, but could write a twelve-page single-spaced report on your view of problems within the child welfare system
- You'd love a Chicco travel system and Ergo for Christmas (and you know what those are!)
Andrea (Live with Laughter) -
You know you're a foster parent when:
- You can't cut your child's hair without permission.
- You get asked "Are they all yours?" Every single time you go out, you learn to make a game of it.
- You hear "Will you get to keep them?" way too many times.
- You have to write in "I don't know" at least five times at every doctors appointment.
- You want to scream when you hear "I could never do it, it would break my heart."
- You look at your calendar on the 1st of the month and all you can do is laugh at how full it already is.
- Your kids have to go to three different places, just so you can leave the house without them.
- You get told, "They don't look alike." When one is black and one is white.
- You ask strangers in the hair care aisle how to care for African American hair.
- You have friends and family drop everything to bring you dinner and supplies.
- You break the rules by having the newborn sleep in your bed.
- You clean more in the hour before a social worker visits than you do all week.
- You jump every time the phone rings, even if you're not expecting a call.
- You fall in love in an instant when the door to the car opens to a new member of your tribe.
- You have a "after the call" ritual. Mine involves showering and laundry.
- Your other children wake up to a new sibling that was delivered overnight.
- You never get use to the stares, but learn to ignore them.
- You have binders and folders and paperwork. Everywhere.
- You get excited at back to school sales, you can stock up on binder and dividers.
- You have a new knowledge of medical fields.
- You learn on the job.
- You have a community of women online that you've never met, but who your trust and love.
- You just have to scream sometimes.
- You just have to laugh sometimes. You cannot make this stuff up.
- You cry. More than you thought possible.
- You get involved in birth families lives, for better or worse.
- You take pictures. All the time.
- You want to laugh when people ask "You're paid for this, right?"
- You research subjects you never even knew about the day before.
- You fight the insurance system, sometimes daily.
- You hate filling out the "Is your child doing....." form at check ups.
- You just can't find the words sometimes.
- You get the immense pleasure and heartache of raising a child not born to you.
- You cry at what they don't have and never will.
- You own one nice court outfit and hope no one notices that you wear the same outfit every time.
- You get annoyed you have to waste your babysitter time on a court hearing.
- You know there's a good chance this child you love will leave.
- You rejoice when they stay, and cry for what that truly means.
- You are amazed at the people that come into your lives. People you would have never met otherwise.
- You read. A lot. Really. A lot.
- You have become a pro at researching and know who has the best websites.
- You weep when they leave.
- You know the best places to get baby gear at a discount.
- You're amazed at how quickly they become part of your family.
- You troll the waiting children websites, even though you know it's crazy.
- You can rearrange a room and make a Walmart run in an hour.
- Your heart always skips a beat with the social worker calls. Always.
- You have to realize you can't save them all, and that sucks.
- You have such comfort when you hear "It's okay, I understand" and you know that they do.
- You are filled with love when your family claims the child as their own.
- You are amazed at how loving your own children can be to a new arrival.
- You pray they stay.
- You pray they go where they belong.
- Your heart leaps when you get a new picture of a love you said goodbye too.
- You dread visitation day.
- Your anger at birth parents can shock you.
- Your love for birth parents can shock you.
- You're on first name basis with half of DSS, the police department, the judges, and even the bailiffs.
- You can't believe the support you get.
- You can't believe the support you don't get.
- You amazed at the kindness of strangers.
- You get to live in this crazy, messed up, loving, hateful, hurtful and healing world of foster care and wouldn't imagine it any other way.
Amanda S. (Fostering Hope & Love)
You know you’re a foster parent when:
- Your cell phone is with you at all times so as not to miss “the call”
- You’ve mastered the art of making sure your caseworker knows who you are, but not being so annoying that they ignore you
- Your storage unit looks like a kids’ consignment store
- You still use a baby monitor with your 12 year old
- You can’t imagine taking a vacation without permission
- Family and friends have taken to asking you if you have any new children every time you talk
- You don’t bother trying to explain why your family includes three 6 year olds. You just tell people they’re multi-racial triplets
- Taking an Advil requires locating the key to the medicine box
- Everyone comes to you for parenting advice because they figure you’ve been through every possible child-raising scenario
- You pre-screen tv shows, movies and books not just for age-appropriateness, but also for possible triggers (Despicable Me 2, anyone?)
- Your house gets cleaned on exactly the schedule your caseworker visits and you’re kind of grateful for the motivation
- You’ve forgotten what it is like to sleep through the night because you’ve had a newborn/toddler/angsty, sleepless child in your home every day for 5 years
- You wouldn’t dream of getting in the car without your custody or medical permission paperwork in case of emergency
- Every room in your house has a smoke detector and fire extinguisher
- Bedtime snuggles at your house often include long, tearful discussion about big feelings
- You’ve finally convinced your friends you aren’t a saint for fostering, and you’re well on your way to recruiting them as respite homes
- Every time your child says something goofy, you consider how the statement will sound from a bio-parent or caseworker perspective
- You know there is no better feeling in the world than helping a child heal
"Mie" (Letting Go of Mie)
You know you're a foster parent when:
- You wonder what people must think when they hear your conversations you have in public. Saying things like "you'll have to ask your attorney about that" to your 6 year old, "the CPS caseworker is coming over tonight" to your husband, and "if you're still with me next year I'll make you a chocolate birthday cake" becomes completely common and yet every once in a while I'll pause to realize the people next to me in the grocery store line probably think I'm a horrible parent.
- You carry a binder with you to the doctor/dentist/therapist/etc. office. Office staff, especially at the hospital, almost immediately recognize me as a foster parent because I carry my kids' paperwork around in their binder. Afterall, they need to make sure the kids are with you legally (placement paperwork) and that you have the ability to consent to treatment (Medical Consenter form).
- You honestly can't answer simple questions about your child. Speaking of doctor's - this is most common then but can happen at other places. I remember once when a doctor or nurse asked me what my child's middle name was and I was genuinely stumped. Sometimes it takes me a while to remember birthdates. Sometimes my challenge in answering these questions is that my brain has trouble processing through the 24 children I've had to remember the right one. Other times I honestly don't know the answer, like when they ask if the child was born full-term, breastfed or formula fed, vaginal or c-section birth...these are things a parent usually knows about their kids but I often have no idea.
- You find yourself planning a birthday party for a child you've only known for 7 days because every child deserves a good first birthday.
- You welcome a child (or two, or three, or more) into your home and no one in your circle acknowledges it in any way.
- You have a child(ren) in your home for more than 2-3 months that friends & family don't remember. Afterall, it's hard for them to keep track of all your kids. Speaking of that...
- You challenge your family to games that involve remembering all of your children's names. (Ha! Love that...)
- You cringe when daycare/childcare asks you to label everything that belongs to the child before dropping them off.
- You get excited about finding homeopathic remedies that work because you might be able to avoid medication logs and doctor visit paperwork.
- People around you tell you your crazy and a saint in the same conversation.
- You feel like you must be crazy for signing up for this journey over and over again and yet you wouldn't have it any other way.