It dawned on me this morning after a home visit from Bug's caseworker that my "level of preparedness" (aka. housecleaning prep-work) for CPS-related home visits has definitely changed over the past five years. I realized this fact as I went to get my purse and head out the door for work and noticed what was in the pile of clean laundry that had yet to be put away on my dining room table in full view of the living room where we had our visit...
That's right. A big old pile of Mimi's "unmentionables!" If someone had told me five years ago that I would leave my undies on an eating surface directly in front of a caseworker, I would have told them they were crazy! As I grabbed my purse and left the house today, I simply thought, "Well... At least they were clean!" This pile of lingerie blatantly greeting a CPS caseworker had me reminiscing about past home visits and reflecting on how I have evolved as a foster parent over the past five years.
Then Booger Bear and Angel arrived. Being my first long-term placements, I was still learning the ropes. After several months, however, I realized that no one ever left the living room when they came to my home. Not once! I began to cut corners a bit and only concentrated on perfecting the appearance of the main living area before visits. Vacuum and dust the living room, make sure the dining room table was immaculate, and do the dishes just in case they happened to peer over the bar... This is the "Formal Living" phase.
The next year Booger and Angel moved to their permanent homes, and more short term kiddos came and went. Then Monkey arrived, and the monthly craziness of home visits began again. I had been fostering for two years by that point, and was quite frankly getting tired of constantly having to hide all of Monkey's toys and scrub the dining room walls for bits of thrown food every time someone came to the house (which was at least once a week). That's when my housecleaning routine before visits went from "Formal Living" to the "People Actually Live Here" phase. I would come home about thirty minutes before the visit to straighten up the living room a bit and make sure Monkey's high chair tray didn't have the remnants of breakfast still on the tray. Dishes in the sink, a pile of laundry waiting to be washed, and toys in the toy box in the corner of the living room were all perfectly acceptable.
Enter Bug nine months later, and I became the single, full-time working mom of a toddler and an infant. That is when I hit the "It Is What It Is" phase. I knew I was no longer a newbie foster parent the first time I told a caseworker "we should be home around 6:00pm. If we're not there when you get there, just hop over the rail and wait on the patio if you want. You'll have to ignore the mess. The house has been taken over by the little people from which there is no escape." She did beat me home, and I distinctly remember kicking a path through the toys, baby swing, pack-n-play, and other baby gear and throwing the burp cloths from the couch to the floor so she could sit down.