On Mothering and Foster Parenting for Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day and Foster Parenting Awareness Month coming together kind of makes me reflective – though not reflective enough to type through the exhaustion of Mother’s Day evening! It might have been the four hours of shadeless, 92 degree sun while the boys practiced and played flag football that got to me. Yes, that is what mothers do on “their” day, apply SPF 70 sunscreen to survive the brutal battlefields of youth sports. And yet, when I turned to the mother beside me and said, “This is what makes mothering fun – watching your kid run and jump and cheer and smile,” she smiled and nodded in agreement.

And these rare moments are a good thing because those little beings don’t always make you proud to be their mother. Take their recent rock launching incident at a friend’s house, for example. Or the kicking out of the stained glass window! Or a host of other ways they torture mothers!

Mothering is one of life’s biggest challenges and it starts right from the beginning. For some, mothering appears suddenly, unexpectedly with cheers or big sighs. For others, it might be the joyous moment at the end of a long wait or years of careful planning. It might stop and restart to the dismay of the expectant heart for some.

Or it might putter down the long road of foster parenting. “Hi, I’m his foster mom,” is the awkward phrase that tries to encapsulate one’s care of and affection for a child and yet a distance that is forced to exist. The foster mother has all the responsibility for caretaking of the child – feeding, clothing, bathing, sleeping, getting homework done, reading, worrying, laughing, crying and treating the fevers. Yet the mother has no true responsibility in terms of decision-making. The foster mother asks for permission to take the child on vacation. She asks for medical decisions on his/her behalf. She can’t speak up in court to inform the judge on what’s really in the best interest of the child. When it comes to what will really affect the child’s future, the foster mother is silenced. “Love her, but don’t get attached.” “Treat him like he’s your own child, but don’t make any decisions.” It’s a hard space to be in and sometimes it doesn’t feel at all like mothering. But to the child – it is everything that is important. And for 27,419 children in 2012 – the foster family became the forever family.

Yes, mothering is a journey. It is not an arrival. The path is pretty wide and there’s a lot of leeway for stumbling along and doing things your own way or for trying something new. There are smooth parts and bumpy parts and lots of hiccups along the way. There’s singing and dancing and laughing and crying. And there’s certainly a great deal of pain ground deep within the furrows of the path. There’s distractions and dead ends and wrong turns and celebrations. So it’s pretty important to travel along in the company of other women. Sometimes, they’ll help you carry some things to lighten the load. Sometimes they’ll jostle you a bit to get the smile back on your face. And sometimes they’ll pull you back onto the path when you’ve gone a little over the edge and you reach back for a strong hand. Travel among the women. It’s your only hope.

So whatever the type of mother – bio mother, adoptive mother, step-mother, his mother, her mother, tiger mother, tired mother, lax mother, strict mother, helicopter mother, world’s best mother – take care of yourself, take care of each other, and hang on. The road continues on.

The Moments of Mothering

What I don’t do anymore                                           What I do:

  • Fly to Italy for a long weekend to celebrate a friend’s wedding
Dread long weekends of entertaining five young boys
  • Wonder at the beauty of long walks under a moonlit sky
Fall asleep at 7:30 while putting the kids to bed
  • Sleep in on a Saturday and enjoy a delightful morning run
Pretend to be sleeping yet with heads near my head guarding against “pows” from rambunctious boys
  • Play Rummikub on a Sunday afternoon while sipping hazelnut coffee and nibbling freshly baked scones
Watch boys play flag football while alternating between freezing under an umbrella or frantically searching for sunscreen
Dream of sitting around and doing nothing!
  • Go out for Happy Hour, take in a play, relax at the symphony, enjoy lectures at the Carnegie
Build Lego aircraft, join orange Matchbox tracks, wash clothes, wash dishes, wash boys, repeat
  • Be spontaneous.
React spontaneously
  • Borrow other people’s children to play with or take to visit the zoo
Get smothered by tons of love, kisses, hugs, joy, laughter, giggles, bubble juice, slobber, drool, sticky fingers, sticky faces, mud, dirt, stains, sweat, tears, bruises, and whatever else a little boy can find.



What I do now is let a huge crocodile tear escape from the corner of my eye as I whisper to Super Tall Guy the other night – “You, boy….you are the one that made me a mother. Thank you.”

You see….don’t be fooled by this mothering business.

You are not going to “love” every moment.

But you are going to love having had “the” moments.