Original post from ryanabilello.com
My wife, Andrea, and I were together for almost four years before we got married. It took me about three years to realize I wanted to marry her. Andrea only needed about three months. She’s a pretty patient woman. The biggest hurdle for me was believing I was ready to commit to a life long journey with one woman. I grew up in a family where divorce was practically non-existent and I wanted to be confident that I could commit to living my whole life with Andrea.
But there was one area I didn’t spend any time really thinking about as I considered marriage; children. And not just my own biological children, all children. I didn’t fully comprehend what was going to happen on the other side of the wedding day and I certainly didn’t expect divorce to be a part of the picture.
But that’s what happened. We got married knowing we wanted to do foster care and hopefully adopt some day. But once the children arrived I was shocked to realize divorce was a part of the packaged deal. It started off somewhat quietly, the sense of loss, realizing things weren’t going my way, getting frustrated that I couldn’t see the ending. But as the kids became more comfortable in our home the idea of divorce got louder. It finally reached a point that where I could no longer just listen to it but had to take action.
And that’s partly why I’m writing what you’re reading right now. The action that needed to be taken, I realized, was to divorce myself from my perfect, self-centered plans I had for my life. Back when I was contemplating marriage I was thinking through whether or not my wife could fit into the plans I had for myself. However, the complexity of having children in my home, especially who weren’t (legally) ours, added a dimension to my life I had not experienced before. And it’s required a change in my life.
Which is why I want to encourage those of you who are foster parents and challenge those of you who are considering doing this. Be ready to separate yourself from what you think you have planned or what you think you’re going to do. Let me be a little more direct, if you’re going to have kids in your home, for extended periods of time, who are not your own, plan on having your life focused on them.
Caring for children, specifically those who come to your home because they were experiencing some sort of trauma in their own home, requires a whole life commitment. Not whole life in the sense of until the day you die, but in all areas of your life. You can’t compartmentalize them. And that may mean certain life goals or aspirations may need to be put on hold for a while or at least be seen in a new perspective.
Caring for children is a great adventure that I think all people should experience at some point. And for those of you who dare to venture out into the world of caring for children who are not biologically or legally yours, plan on divorce being a part of the picture. Expect to separate yourself from some of the comforts you experience (a quiet house) without children. Know that it will be hard at times (kids bullying their younger siblings). Plan on things taking longer than expected (really, it takes a four year old 30 minutes to get dressed).
But be ready to see unconditional love. Prepare yourself for lots of hugs. Schedule in spontaneous free time to connect with kids amidst your busy schedule. And get ready to experience life in a truly fulfilling way; together.
Above is just a little bit of what I’m learning as a foster parent. I’d love to hear your thoughts below. If you’re a foster parent—what’s the greatest joy you’ve experienced so far, and if you’re considering foster care—what thing are you worried or fearful of most?
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