Let’s start with off with this nugget. Parenting is hard. Working and parenting is hard. Staying home and parenting is hard. It’s all hard. Over the last 8 weeks I have stayed home in every sense of the word. I have always worked or side hustled throughout my entire motherhood. I worked until the day before I had my daughter. Went back after 8 weeks. Had twins and went back after 12 weeks and then became a foster mama to an 8 week old while working a home business….and then went back to work when he was bigger. Throughout all of these years I have also benefited from having jobs that either allowed me to bring the kids along and pay for a sitter, had a daycare in my place of work, worked from home in the middle of my chaos or had amazing grandparents that helped so I could work.
For the last 8 weeks I have not side hustled, worked, pursued a job or in all honestly, left my house so much. Some observations on myself.
I’m not the best at this. I have friends who absolutely slay the SAHM gig. They craft, sing, playdate, creative lunch and do all the things like a boss. I am not good at much of this. I hate the mess of crafting. I can’t carry a tune in a bucket. I would be happy to drink coffee for all the meals of the day so creative lunches are out of the question. With that said, I have playdoughed, colored, sticker booked and flashcarded over the last 8 weeks so A for effort, F for enthusiasm.
I am finding myself swallowed whole with anxiety over my tiny humans. Full disclosure, prone to anxiety to begin with but the singular focus over the last couple of months is ramping it up in ways I never imagined. I have become the spelling word nazi and the reading time enforcer. There have also been lots of water works (theirs and mine) over trivial school stuff that wouldn’t matter that much or at least shouldn’t. In short, we are going to need to divide my anxiety/energy or I may be voted off of my own island.
The SAHM gig can be very isolating without a magnitude of effort especially right after a relocation. We have signed up for the all the things. We are in mom’s group at church. We go to story time at the library. We are working the park circuit. And each of the places I go, I feel like a guy in my late 20’s walking my dog around the park trying to pick up women…..except I’m not. I’m something marginally sadder than that. I’m a late 30’s mom chasing her toddler around the park, trying not to spill her over priced coffee while attempting to make small talk with other exhausted, overly caffeinated SAHM’s like myself. Who knew I could be middle school girl awkward in my 30’s. Fun.
In this transition, it has been a huge blessing. I can take and make calls for therapy services for our little guy in the middle of the day without having to worry about anything. I can also tell therapy places, “We are wide open. When is your first available?” All the boxes are unpacked and the curtains are officially up. I went to my first PTO meeting, so there is that. One of the big boys failed his vision screening at school and I will be able to take him to the eye doctor and get glasses without having to call off work at my new job.
It has been amazing getting to know and enjoy Benton. We do all the things together. We read the stories, we take the naps, we do the shopping. He is joy packaged into a tiny busy body and I am lucky to have had a first row seat to that show.
It has been an 8 weeks of giving myself lots of grace and of talking through this with some amazing mama’s who are walking the same or similar walk. It has also been 8 weeks of preparing myself for what comes next. I am hoping to start volunteering at a local organization soon. Our littlest may be starting preschool in January and I know I will need to fill the time that will suddenly be less loud and busy.
So please raise your coffee mugs with me in memory of the years of tiny humans and awkward mom moments and in honor of the years of slightly less tiny humans and perhaps finding myself again that is coming. May we all figure it out as it comes and put a little less pressure on ourselves to already know the things that can’t be known yet.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 There is a time for for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.
Today we took pastries to our son’s former caseworker. She not only placed him in our home but she also walked us to the finish line to finalize his adoption. It was her birthday and we wanted to see her before we move. I will never forget the first time I talked to Alison on the phone. She called to let me know she was picking up Benton from the hospital and would be at our house later that day. I could tell in her voice she was worried about him. We were new foster parents, unknowns to her and she cared about this little baby so much already. When she arrived at our house with him tucked into his car seat, she came in my door and put his seat on the table. I couldn’t believe how tiny he was and I just burst into tears over the weight of what we had signed up for. That night, his first night in our home, I accidentally butt dialed her in the middle the night as I was waking him up to feed him.
At 3am she called me back. “Is he okay?”
“He is. I’m so sorry. I’m just getting him up to feed him. We are good. I promise.”
Over the coming months we would see her at least once a month and talked more often than that. She would update us and let us know when visits were on and when they were cancelled. She made us feel like we were a part of the process but more than any of that, she never gave up on his birth mom. She had tough love conversations with her. She got her resources to begin her journey to wellness. She didn’t quit on her. Because of this, I have stories to tell my son about how hard his first mom tried to be with him. He had several months of regular visits. Because Alison never gave up, I have a notebook of letters that his first mom and I wrote back and forth to each other over those months that I will one day give him. Those are precious gifts to me and to our little boy.
I would imagine that being a caseworker is an exhausting job. I would also imagine that it would be very easy to let that exhaustion compromise the important work you do or become callus to the despair of others. But I will tell you this, when we came in to see her today. She cried as my son played and laughed and counted and chatted with people in the waiting area. She has not been made hard by this work. She may be tired but she isn’t running from the hurt of the job she does. She is brave.
As we left children’s services today, I looked at Benton and said, “Miss Alison got to hold you before Mommy. She is an important part of your journey to get to us. She kept you safe until you got to me. Do you understand?” And just like he responds to almost everything right now, he said, “I doooooo.” But one day he really will. There needs to be a word bigger than gratitude because that word, that is what we feel.
It’s been a minute or 957,600. I have started numerous blog posts and published none of them because we were swimming in the trauma, exhaustion, blessing, joy and grief that is foster care. To say that it has been a roller coaster doesn’t do it justice. The highs along the last couple of years have been so high and the lows have been devastatingly low. We have experienced the unbelievable blessing of adoption and the unusual grief that accompanies that. We have dealt with the post adoptive blues which I was totally unprepared for and will talk more about in another post. I have experienced the heaviness of working in child welfare while doing child welfare in my home. Our compassion has grown immeasurably. Our family has grown by two little and very busy feet.
Each year that passes, I look back and think, that was a little insane. Next year will be calmer but that isn’t true. In the last 12 or so months, I started a new job, lost 70 lbs, ran a literal marathon, finalized the adoption of our son, supported my husband in a job search and we are now finalizing the sale of our home and the purchase of a new one as we move out of state. Needless to say, not much has happened since we last spoke (insert eye roll). As I think back over the last several years they are all full of change and excitement and craziness and I’m certain it will continue like this. Moving forward means facing change and we Gabbards are moving forward.
I hope you will join me again I share about our family, our adventures and the lessons we learn along the way.