Keeping your marriage strong through foster parenting
Foster Care can be really hard on your marriage. You have to have a strong solid foundation before entering into foster care because trust me, foster care will test your marriage in ways you didn’t even think possible.
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I am not perfect with this. I am not claiming to be the perfect wife. I have failed. I will continue to fail but after the relationship with the Lord, my relationship with my husband is the next important thing in my life. We know each other well but there is always more to learn.
We have fought, we have hard days but the one thing I can share with you is that without a doubt our marriage is stronger than it ever has been.
Before you become foster parents
I want to start at the beginning and that is getting your spouse on board. I get this question very often from women who want to foster or adopt but their husband has worries or reservations.
You have to really both be ready and fully committed this is not just wife really wants to go to volunteer in a soup kitchen, husband doesn’t really want to but he does it to make her happy.
This is so much more involved. Foster care affects every part of your marriage, and these are children’s lives. This affects your schedule, your time, (think the time for intimacy, cooking, cleaning, working etc) your emotions, your future, your vacation plans, your biological children, schooling choices, possible house move, friendships, family relationships.
I hope you can see what I mean about how being foster parents affect literally every part of your life. Which is why many are so hesitant to do it. It seems like a lot of sacrifices. And it is. But I promise you the reward of helping these little ones far outweighs any sacrifice you give.
You are changing a child’s world. Whether you are fostering are adopting or both you will change the life for a person. There is huge value in that.
So let’s talk about getting your hubby on board.
Pray. Pray for God to change his heart. You cannot force this, you cannot will this, he needs God to change his heart.
Share stories but be respectful. Get to know foster parents, share the need.
Statistics if he is a numbers guy, or the hard stories if he is emotional. There are 153 million orphans worldwide. There are thousands of kids sitting in DCFS agencies all over Canada and the United States. Kids that need someone to say yes. Kids that need a shot at a good future. Kids that just need someone to care.
Do not nag him or not talk about anything else until he gives in. This is not the right approach at all. A lot of the time it’s just not something ppl really think about, people do not understand the GREAT NEED.
For myself, once I knew the need it was really hard to turn my back on it.
Address emotions about infertility.
This was not what brought us to foster care and adoption but I know it is for many people.
This is also something that will come up in your homestudy. Foster care and adoption are not about gaining a child for your family but more about giving your family for a child. (Jason Johnson Blog) When you look at it from that perspective it changes how you look at foster parenting.
You have to be selfless. Parenting kids with trauma is hard. Parenting kids with attachment issues is hard. Parenting kids who have relationships with bio family can be hard.
I am sorry that you have struggled. It is a pain and loss I cannot fully relate to but I am empathetic. I have seen it in women close in my life and I know it is so hard but when you compound all the emotions of foster care and infertility it can be a bit of a storm. It will test your marriage so please see a therapist, counsellor whatever you need to accept and address your feelings around infertility.
This is one area most every marriage struggles with, including us. I have said yes to a new child before, assuming my husband was just on board.
We had a sibling set that was a really hard placement for our family. I was stressed, I was on edge a lot but my pride refused to let me accept that 4 kids under 4 one with a lot of aggression was a really tough place to be. My husband saw it and he was trying to protect me from it.
He is fully onboard to accept a child into our home and even in some cases sibling set but I just kind of assumed that meant he was always fine with our house being full (meaning both our approved two spots being filled.)
I said yes without consulting him on our second placement when we already had one medically fragile little guy, I was still working then and he had a lot of the responsibility and it actually led to me having an emotional breakdown.
I said yes to our current foster daughter when he didn’t want to. We actually got in a fight over it and didn’t talk for a few days which was probably the last fight we had. (Thankfully we are very in tune with each other and don’t fight much) now he, of course, loves her like crazy and couldn’t imagine life without her but he thought our hands were full with our other foster daughter we had at the time, who had a lot of emotional needs and trauma trigger reactions.
I looked at it as, I quit my job to foster, it gives my life purpose to help these kids. Having only one placement especially now that both my bio kids are in school doesn’t seem like I am doing enough.
He looked at it as, 2 extra kids is a lot of work, it is very hard on my wife. We are helping one child, let’s do that well.
It’s a big part of the reason why Rosie has been our only foster child the last year. After sunflower left, I wanted to help another child and I still do but I needed to respect his decision because I don’t want to hurt our marriage.
Now our spot is on hold due to a possible adoption (agency rules), so we can’t take another placement even though I want to and I am sure he would be ready as well.
I share that to remind you to make sure you are both on board. Talk beforehand about situations you are willing to say yes to so that way if you get the call and he isn’t available and you need to give an answer you know you are both fully on the same page.
Communicate about everything. When the realities of paperwork, court dates, training and trauma parenting takes over it is easy to just live life without fully communicating.
Talk about the foster child and children, are you able and capable of parenting these kids well? Talk about how it is affecting your bio kids. Talk about what kind of support you need from each other – my hubby knows I need to hang out with my best friend once every week or so, he knows I need to go to zumba a couple times a week, he knows I need him to take over at bedtime often because some days I am just done. I know he needs time with his guy friend, or to go out and volunteer in other ways. (I married a man with the most giving and selfless heart)
Make time for date night
OK so, to be honest, we suck at this. We don’t have a regular babysitter, we don’t have the financial means to do a dinner and a movie every week or a night at a hotel. We live simply and are trying to pay off debt and save money for our future. But we do make the time after the kids are in bed to read a book together or watch a movie or just eat together alone. We try atleast once or twice a year to get away for a night. So we need to take this advice too because I know how much better our marriage could be if we made sure to make more time for this.
Be a team.
Don’t let kids divide you. This can be hard especially when for example you are caring for a child that has been abused and is terrified of men. In everything you do, present a united front.
Talk about non foster and adoptive things.
It starts to consume your life it can become all you talk about so make that commitment to each other to just not talk about anything foster care or adoption related for a night every now and then.
Be quick to listen and slow to anger
Again another area I struggle. I am impulsive and I tend to think I know whats best for our kids. I am always telling my husband ways he can do things better, what he is doing wrong, how to parent with trauma in mind (I go to training while he stays home to watch the kids.)
Identify each other’s strengths and weaknesses
He knows and does better at making life fun for our kids. I am so worried about correcting behaviour and sleep schedules and making sure our kids know how loved they are but I am not great at dropping everything and going to the park or to ride some rides at our local mall. Or initiating a game. He is. His strength is my weakness. My husband is very quiet natured and observant. He is very slow to anger and he hardly every gets angry where I stuggle with yelling and being snappy with the kids. I feel like I am always the one correcting behaviour and he gets to be the fun parent but you know what. We are a good team because we both have different strengths and weaknesses and we both bring valuable parenting skills to the table.
Celebrate each other’s success
When you see an emotional break through or a relationship form or constant patience with difficult behaviours, celebrate that in your spouse. Thank them for it.
Let each other be emotional
Some days as a foster parent are really really hard. A new child comes to you with brusies all over their body, covered in filth and smelling something awful. A failed adoption of a child you love. Saying goodbye knowing a child is not going back to a good place. Hard broken awful stuff. Emotional stuff. Stuff that brings out anger, rage and deep sadness. Typically men and women process things very differently. Let that be. Allow it, accept it and talk about it after.
Give each other breaks.
My husband goes to baseball once a week and mens group at church. I never complain if he stays “too late” or that it interupts some plan of mine, I just respect that he needs that time to check out as do I.
Know each other’s love language
For me its acts of service – when my husband does the dishes I fall in love all over again. Its a chore I hate and he knows it makes me so happy when he takes the initiative to do it without me asking.
For him its physical touch and being close to him. I love being alone. Especially at the end of a long day and he knows this and respects it but when I take the time to sit close beside him or do what the married folk do lol he falls in love all over again.
Always love your husband more than yourself
Put his needs above your own. This is hard for everyone, it’s human nature to put our own wants and needs first. This is not about letting your husband walk all over you, this is a mutual decision in a good marriage. Your marriage will be better for it.
Remember foster care is hard but you are doing something so good together. Celebrate that you are on the same page about being committed to these kids and their families. You are difference makers, world impacters, kingdom futherers!