Everywhere we go, people ask our family versions of the same question: "What are you going to do if they go back home?" I rehearse my answer for hours, but I never can articulate the proper response when I'm put on the spot.
The answer in my head is never what I voice. At family gatherings, usually, while I feed the baby or tie our preschooler's shoes, I hear, "How will you be able to handle it?" Telling the truth in front of the kids is difficult. We try to shield them from as much as possible.
Because the truth is I don't know what I would do if they went home. I love being a mom, and they are my first babies. It kills me knowing that there may be a time when I don't rock the baby to sleep or rub my preschooler's head before bed. What if they move on from our home and their caretaker doesn't know their favorite things? In some foster care cases, the kids are in foster care longer than they lived with their biological family. I worry about them leaving, and I fear that their parents won't know how to soothe them.
Most of my fears are selfish. I don't want to lose them because it will hurt me. As a foster parent, I signed up knowing I might only be their temporary parent. It's not about me; it's not about how perfect our family feels — it's about the children and what is best for them.
So the answer I voice when asked about them leaving is, "We want them to be happy and healthy."
The answer I should be voicing is "We want them to be happy, healthy, cared for, and loved. Children need parenting wherever they live. Even if it hurts when they leave, I couldn't live with myself if I didn't care for them as if they are my own. It is going to hurt, but someone has to do it. Someone has to take care of these kids."
Our family and friends claim attachment as the reason they can't be foster parents. Some fear they could never recover if they parented a child and then lost them, while others worry that they could not love a child as their own if they didn't give birth to the child. But I know that bonding with the children living in your home is necessary. From everything I've seen and experienced, foster parents don't have hearts made of stone. In fact, I believe we set ourselves up for hurt and disappointment because we have to love these kids as our own. Even though I know the children will likely not be with us forever, the fear of bonding doesn't hold me back from my calling. In fact, I know I should develop an attachment to my kids because it's in their best interest.
I believe that all children deserve a healthy attachment to their parents — which is why I love my kids so fiercely. Of course, I will weep if they leave my home, but I will always love them as a mother because they need it. Their happiness and health will always be worth it.