So it’s spring break 2016 and I am having a shallow pity party for one.
You see, I am at home once again, enjoying the light snowfall in April and the daily “Why didn’t we go anywhere?” barrage from my children. The constant Facebook posts of people relaxing on the beach with their feet in the sand, or all smiles on their zip-lining adventures, aren’t helping either.
The path less traveled
But what does all of this have to do with fostering? If I am being totally honest with you, plenty. As a foster parent, anytime we voice our complaints to others, whether it be a lack of sleep, rushing for time, tight finances or the lack of our feet in the sand, we are met with,“If you didn’t have all those kids,” and, “If you would stop taking in kids,” or my favorite, “Stop adopting.” Truth be told, if we had never fostered and adopted, my feet may or may not be in the sand this spring break. Yet my feet, as Robert Frost so eloquently wrote, “took the path less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
Dear foster parents, there will certainly be days or weeks where you will question your decision. You will look around and see the lives of others with better finances and more vacations (although it may just be the highlight reel and not the behind-the-scenes story). Envy may creep in, doubt may pay a visit, and endless questions may arise. Congratulations, you are a human being! This path less traveled that you have embarked upon has brought you many “feet in the sand” moments. Spring breaks will come and go and the tan will fade, but for me, I will always know the difference being a foster and adoptive parent has made in my life.
I am a better human being because of fostering
I have had to figure out how to really forgive and move on. I have learned how to put myself third and put God and the other person before myself. My faith is the strongest it has ever been in my entire life, and that is because it has been tested again and again and again through fostering. I know, without a doubt, how strong my love for my husband is because our marriage has been through some very tough times while fostering. My Sam and Gracie have grown up witnessing empathy, forgiveness, kindness, love and acceptance and have learned what it truly means to serve. I am a different — and better — teacher in my classroom.
The skills and interventions I have learned from my classes, other foster moms, and simply trial and error have impacted my students in a very positive way. The judgment I once threw out there about what families are doing or not doing has just about disappeared — let’s be honest, judgment does creep back occasionally — and I now work with my school families completely different. I have witnessed change in my extended family and friends because they see this life my family has chosen. I will never forget my parents asking my husband and me after our first very difficult placement if we were done — as though fostering was something on our bucket list that we could cross off and feel good that we did. I love my parents dearly, and I now understand that behind that question was a mother and father simply trying to protect their child, which ironically, is the same thing that as foster parents we do for a child in need.
Those same parents who first questioned us before have now been super-involved, loving grandparents to over 15 children. Those same parents now thank us, praise us and motivate us by telling us the difference we are making in the lives of children and their families. Through fostering I have met some of the greatest people ever. I have friendships today that I consider family and people I can call 24/7 who just “get it.” These amazingly strong women have made me a better daughter, sister, wife, mother and friend.
Spring break 2016 will come to an end, and all my vacationing buddies will return. I will listen to wonderful stories about food, fun times and the roads they traveled. Will some envy creep back in looking at photos and listening to fabulous stories? …“DuKatz? DuKatz? Pity party seating for one!” It may or may not, but I know the road our family traveled … the road less traveled — and it has made all the difference!!
– Betsy DuKatz, licensed foster parent
Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Community Services recruits, trains and provides support services for foster families. The need for foster parents in Wisconsin is great. Contact us to receive information about becoming a foster or adoptive parent, or visit our website to learn more.