When we became foster parents, one of the most daunting parts was the feeling I needed to be perfect. No one ever imposed this on me – it was my own, unrealistic idea. When I think back to our first years of home visits, I can’t help but laugh. Our house was spotless, our kids wore dressy clothes and everyone was wearing a smile. We wanted our social workers to know we were good, competent parents. Somehow, we thought the way to show that was on the outside.
I spent a lot of time trying to be perfect. I focused on a perfect house, perfect parenting and a perfect attitude. Foster parenting is hard, emotional work. Imposing the idea of perfection on myself made my life so much harder. Foster parenting isn’t about being perfect – but it is about loving a child and wanting the best for them. Foster parenting is about working with birth families and professionals to help a kiddo achieve permanency. In time, I was able to give up the idea of being perfect, which allowed me to focus on the most important thing: taking care of my family.
The journey to giving up perfect was slow and sometimes painful. It started with the clean house. With three kids, two full-time jobs and countless appointments, cleaning the house before every home visit was impossible. At first, I would apologize to our case workers. “Oh, I am so sorry it’s such a mess.” Over time, I stopped apologizing. This was my life.
Next came ensuring our kids were perfectly happy when case workers arrived. Certainly, I didn’t want anyone to endure a tantrum from one of our kids. However, tantrums are a part of our daily lives. One great case worker told me that she wanted to see all aspects of our life. This helped me give up perfect.
Nothing about being a foster parent is perfect. The court system can be frustrating, challenging behaviors from kiddos can be overwhelming and the number of home visits can be draining. There are so many different moving pieces in the foster care world. All of these moving pieces are based on people. People are not perfect, but I believe that we are all doing the very best we can. It took me years to get to this belief.
Early in our foster parenting journey, I would get upset every time something went awry. Now, I try to remember we are all doing the best we can. And that I am the only person who expects me to be perfect.
– Abigail Collier, 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.