My hubby and I were really busy this week making sure our home was in great condition to show our new, temporary FAD worker (our caseworker, not for the kids) who was (finally) coming to get the show on the road for #16’s siblings. Everyone in this case is concerned about finding a long-term home for these kids, members of a large sibling group, and that is difficult to do. They have been concerned from the beginning about whether our home with 6 children 6 and under would be acceptable. Everyone has shown concern for my husband and I and whether or not we are indeed happy, not just ok, with this move. That is one reason it has taken so long to get the kids here with us.
As we moved through the house cleaning room by room it was painfully obvious that some organizational things had been ignored. There were several areas that had become dumping grounds and though the house was generally clean and safe for all of us, it just wasn’t as functional as it could have been because of the abundance of clutter in some of the rooms. Things just needed to be put away.
…things like Christmas decorations. I’m not sure if I already mentioned this but we didn’t put our Christmas decorations away until St. Patrick’s Day (and by away I mean most, not all, in boxes). These boxes were left scattered in the office with things I’d purchased after Christmas for next year in bags or just left on the floor. It was a mess. Hence – we didn’t go into the office. Not going into the office means not putting boxes in the office away. It wasn’t going to get fixed that way. The media room was equally in shambles. It had 3 beds in there and had been turned into a fort by the kids, where they had stored a bunch of toys and books from the playroom.
As my hubby and I finished up our cleaning (which we finally DID accomplish), we looked at each other and shook our heads. Could we believe we were finally putting the boxes away into the attic?
I made us stop for a second. Yes, I could believe it.
The day after Christmas we welcomed a new baby into our home. This new baby came straight from the hospital and was days old. We had no knowledge of him prior to the call around noon on the 26th.
I had to remind my husband and myself that we need to give ourselves a break. In reality, there are very few parents out there who suddenly have a baby they had no knowledge about dropped on their doorsteps with only a couple hours notice. Most moms giving birth have somewhere around 40 weeks (or at least 5-6 months) to plan for the arrival of their baby. They’re able to get a nursery ready and purchase the things they need and wash the clothes and all that jazz. They’re able to research childcare if mom is working, which wouldn’t start until 6-8 weeks or so after the baby was born because mom would get to take time off, often paid by disability or savings that had been saved during pregnancy. Grandparents or other relatives are able to plan to arrive to help the family with the new baby since they too had some knowledge. Friends and family setup meals for those first few weeks and sometimes lend other support like cleaning the house or what not to help the mom adjust to the new baby.
None of that happened for us. We got a new precious baby on Thursday. I had already planned to take the next 5 days or so off for the holidays before going back to work. Thankfully I was able to extend to 8 days or so pretty easily, but I went back to work with a 10-day old baby (whom, remember, I hadn’t planned for…). He was too young to take to childcare so we’d hurried to find a private nanny at $100 per day (for 5 weeks). Do the math – that was just one of our children and not reimbursed by foster care childcare payments – we were on our own. Speaking of childcare, I had to use those 8 days to hurry to find a childcare location that took state funding with a spot open for him when he was old enough – I hadn’t had the time to put ourselves on a waiting list months in advance. To help curb the cost of the nanny my hubby agreed to take full responsibility of the baby a couple days per week. Those days were usually his days off when otherwise he would have taken care of things like taking down and putting away decorations or fixing the fence that blew over during a windstorm. (Yes, that happened during this time too). We had no provided meals. No help from grandparents (this is not a slam – just the truth – they had just visited a couple weeks before and it’s unreasonable for us to think they could drop everything and pay outrageous last-minute airfare during the major holiday traffic time!). It was just us, our little family with support from my sister who lives nearby (but also is a foster parent with her own brood).
But it didn’t stop there. Did I mention the ground was unusually covered with snow when the baby arrived? Two days later we accepted 2 more kiddos who didn’t speak English. These two attended a school different than the one the baby would attend weeks later. A few days later we learned about the siblings. 5 weeks later I had to travel for a week for work and my hubby maintained the fort at home with 5 kids by himself. 3 weeks later our older two left. 2 weeks later another older two joined as a potential adoptive placement. 4 weeks later they left.
In other words, since Christmas not only have we welcomed a surprise newborn but also 4 other children who have since come and gone (not to mention the emotional roller coaster of waiting for #16’s siblings for the past 4 months).
Yes – I can believe we let the media room, which has a closed door and is separated from the main living area of the house, be built into a messy fort for 3 months or so. Yes – I believe we didn’t put away the Christmas decoration boxes into the attic until May. We’ve also done some really important things for real-live human beings who needed a safe, stable (and fun!) family. I know this was right. On the other side I don’t think we’re going to hear “shame on you for leaving your Christmas decorations out a few extra months”. Nope.
Lest you see this as a complaint let me acknowledge that we did, indeed, sign-up for this. This isn’t a rant about not having support from friends and family when we welcome OUR kids into our home. There is NO bitterness there at all. WE could have said no. We didn’t have to accept any or all of the placements we accepted in the recent past. The point is not to say “Woe is mie – feel sorry for us”. I would tell you we are FAR more blessed because we walk this road than the amount of work we have on our plate.
Instead – my point is to encourage you. Stack of dishes in the sink? It’s ok. That too-full closet you don’t want to open? You can get to it later. Are your Christmas decorations still out? (come on – don’t leave me hangin’ here…). It’s not the end of the world. Did you miss the church volunteer day because your kid was in the hospital for a week?
Give yourself a break. Really. Keep on truckin’ and take care of it when you can but never forget that the road you are walking has impact far beyond whether your rose bushes were pruned well this past winter.
Dr’s Orders: Go on – pause. breathe. carry-on….