A Mother's Extraordinary Love - But He Is Not My Child

Being a mother is tough.  It is a life-long responsibility.  Being a mother to a child who is not your own is even tougher, especially when you have your own child(ren) as well.  At times, you don't know when & where to draw a line.  You wonder whether you have done too much for 1 party or whether you have done too little.  I know the struggles, because I am an adopted child.  I lived with my adoptive parents until they passed on.  And they had their own biological daughter.  We (all 4 of us) lived under the same roof for at least 15 years.  I sensed my parents' struggles in 'proportioning' their love, I sensed the emotional imbalance that my older sister went through.

It is very hard to take in another child & attempt to treat him/her like your own when you already have your very own.  It takes A LOT of courage & A LOT of love to do that.

I spoke to a mother who took on fostering, even though she already has 3 sons.  I know she is passionate about fostering.  I know her conviction in fostering.  She shares generously about fostering in her blog on this.  But I am still curious why she would want to do it despite holding a job, having 3 schooling boys & having no maid.  How did she find time?  How did she manage the boy's demanding school work? How did she prepare her boys on fostering?  Let's hear what she said.

Elisa's 3 boys & the foster baby

Elisa, your 2 older boys are in their teens so they are, I guess, more mature & able to under your intention to foster a child.  But you also have a young one who is 8 this year, how did you assess if he is ready to accept another person to the family?

We spoke to all the children before we applied to be foster parents. For the older ones, they shared their reservations, & I gave them time to ask questions & come round to the idea. Samuel, my youngest, has always been rather independent. He is also a very sociable boy & he enjoys being with friends. His older brothers, being 5 & 6 years older than him, are often occupied with their own things & he would feel rather lonely sometimes. He therefore really looked forward to having someone to play with him, & seriously, in a family of 3 children, everyone is already used to sharing space & things. 

I understand from your previous blog posts that Samuel has his own set of learning struggles, how did you manage your time to coach him in his academic work, care for the family & an new addition, especially a baby?

As I work part time, I am allowed to place the baby at an infant care centre in the day. In the mornings & some of my non-working afternoons, I will coach Samuel, & do some housework (I have a part-time helper who comes once a week to iron the clothes & wash the toilets). My husband & all the children chip in to help, especially in the evening - our busiest time. In the evening the older ones will help wash the dishes while Samuel will help dry/wet mop the floor. I will bathe the baby & while he plays in the bath, I will quickly pack his stuff for the next day at infant care & keep the clothes that have been hung out to dry since the morning (the children keep their own clothes). After dressing up the baby, he will play in the living room & whoever is free will play with him. I will check Samuel's bag, give some instructions to the older boys & finish some housework in the meantime. Sometimes when the baby is needy, & I will carry him while I do my stuff, or play with him on the floor & bark out the instructions (not recommended!) or get my audience to come to me (lol!). 

When I put the baby to sleep, Samuel will take his shower, make & drink his milk, brush his teeth, then join me in the room. By that time, the baby would have finished his milk & would be playing on his own in the cot. That is when I would read & pray for Samuel. After that it would be lights out for the younger kids, & I will stay in the room with them till they sleep. Then, I will come out to help the older boys with their school work & finish up the rest of the housework with my husband. Sometimes we even get to go jogging together!

My children are all at the stage where they are fairly independent & can even help with the care of the house/baby. What makes it possible for us is also that the children are very willing to do it. On the part about Samuel, the time I have with him is sufficient - mornings & some afternoons, because it is diagnostic & focused. 

The hardest part is when the baby is ill, & he cannot be placed at the infant care. That will be when my husband has to take leave, or I have to ask for my friend (my respite carer) to help take over, as it is difficult for me to take leave from my job. So far, that has not happened & we pray each day for the baby's good health!

Wow! Sounds like all of you have more or less settled down to a routine.  Prior to this, how did your family adjust to the new addition?  Maybe you could share with us your children's emotion, your time management & your attention/energy on the family.

It has been a very tough 3 months, because we sent our lived-in help back about 3 weeks after the baby came to us. It was a time of stretching, & I really saw everyone (including myself) grow. I must say that I am very proud of my children - they are handling it better than we expected, & even better than I am handling it sometimes. 

The children love the baby. I don't know how else to describe it. They just love him. I had hoped that they would love him, but the degree of love & the level of acceptance I saw were beyond my expectation. The baby can be difficult sometimes - he would throw tantrums & cry for as long as 10 minutes when he does not get what he wants, & the children simply bear with his crying!  They had never commented that he was naughty for being that way, or expressed irritation at how he was disturbing them. 

After 3 months, we are settling down into a nice daily/weekly routine, & I am getting more sleep, & getting things (e.g. blogging!) back on track. 

Did your relatives comment on this matter?  What were their comments? Any negative ones you could share & how did you tackle them?

Most people were very impressed & commented about how kind we were. Some were very quiet. There are some who said we were too free. Some said we did not even have enough time for our own children & ourselves. I can't say that my ways of tackling negative comments were the best - I think my husband does that better! But I think the best response would be to politely smile, & assure them that we will be fine. Most negative comments stem from their concern for us & there is no way to convince them except through our actions.

For those who may be keen in fostering, would you like to share some tips?

Ensure both husband & wife are committed to this. It is physically & emotionally draining. If the foundation of your marriage, & parenting (if you have your own children) are not strong, then don't do it. It won't be fair for your own family, or for your foster child. Of course, you will never really be ready, e.g. even though I felt compelled to foster, it was still very difficult just before I said "Yes", so if you are committed to this, & that your children are ready, just take the plunge & ride along.

Foster parents need to do this with lots of graciousness. The difficulty of fostering does not just come from within your own family, you may also face problems with the bureaucratic system. This is because the child may come from a complicated background, so there are things which may come in the way of you caring for the child. It can therefore be very frustrating because some things which seemed straightforward may take a long time to resolve. But for the good of the child, just be patient & work it through & continue to be there for the child.

Most importantly, be ready to let go. The child does not belong to you, & no matter how much he is thriving under your care or in your environment, he would need to go back to his own family. If possible, think of how you can help the biological parent(s) of the child eventually. As foster parents, our goal is the restoration of the whole family.  

The baby may never know what we have done for him. If he returns to his parents within the next few years, he would probably have no memory of us. He would never know all the emotional turmoil & physical tiredness I went through to provide him a home these few months/years of his life. But I know that our family has been changed by him, & we will always remember him. - Elisa

* Elisa blogs at www.loveourchildrennow.sg.  If you would like to know more about fostering, please click here to read what she has written about this.


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