I find it fitting that Mother’s Day, Foster Care Month, and Mental Health Awareness Month are all in May. While Mother’s Day is loudly announced with gift guides, fantastic sales, e-mail reminders, and commercials that make me cry every dang time, Foster Care Month and Mental Health Awareness Month are quietly ushered in with less fanfare - cause really, it’s more fun to celebrate and what’s to celebrate about them?
Don’t misunderstand me - Mother’s Day is a much-needed and much-deserved celebration of all the amazing women raising up tiny world changers and I will certainly celebrate and thank my Mom and mother-in-law this Sunday because they deserve all the recognition and more.
But this Mother’s Day, our gaze is turned towards the Other Mothers in our lives - the Moms and their children who will spend this Sunday apart because of foster care.
Some of the most common comments we hear when people talk to us about foster care are:
Don’t those kids come from really bad homes?
Oh, what did their parents do?
What’s up with reunification? Do their parents really deserve them back?
Do their parents hit them?
Those kids deserve better.
It’s a fact that kids end up in foster care for a reason. There’s abuse and there’s neglect and there are many reasons that children should be removed from a home for their protection. There are cases where the children should not ever, ever, ever return to the caregivers they were removed from. We’re not denying that. It’s a fact and we don’t dance around it. We just wish more people knew - and understood - that reunification can work and there are families whose children are in foster care who deserve to have their children come home.
It’s not an easy process. Once your child is taken by DCF, it takes work. It takes check-ins and compliance and training and honestly, it takes humility because a million people know your problems and are watching every step you take. They know we know. We know they know we know. And it’s awkward and hard because I know I would die if they new my own failures, but yet, I get theirs written on papers and handed over with their children.
Some raw honesty for you: Ethan and I only survived our difficult moments with all of our littles because of our support system. My Mom came over every Saturday morning with Little Ninja to give us a small break. Ethan’s Mom babysat for us multiple times, ran to Target when I couldn’t stand the thought of another shopping trip. Endless friends answered texts, brought food, brought clothes, brought playmates, rocked the baby to sleep, offered to rock us to sleep, and on and on and on. I can say with confidence that if we had been without back up - mentally, emotionally, physically, and financially - that I would have completely lost it.
I won’t go into details, because my soapbox isn’t right for this post, but I will say this: if it came down to paying for mental health treatment - counseling, medicine, and more - or paying your bills and feeding your children, what would you choose?
We never had the privilege of meeting Little Ninja’s mom, but y’all - she was doing so many things right.
Little Ninja loved his mom so stinking much that we couldn’t help but love her, too.
“Hiccups make you grow,” he explained when he started hiccuping in Target one day, “That’s what my Mom told me.”
“You have to do the funny voices,” he would say during bedtime book time, “That’s what my Mom does.”
“I LOVE STRAWBERRIES,” he shouted when we passed the produce in the grocery store, “My Mom and I ate them all the time together!”
“Fire people and police people are the best people in the world,” he whispered when we saw an officer in uniform, “That’s what my Mom says.”
Mr. Marvelous and Baby Shark came from a family literally walking through hell on Earth, and still their parents fought for them. We met their parents in the worst way possible, invited into what should have been a sacred space because we were legally required to come along with their babies, and still they showed compassion to us - offering us their food and their chairs in a room and a situation where they should only have had to think about themselves.
On Thanksgiving this year, the kids were allowed to go home for a few hours. We left dinner and drove across town to their family, and when we pulled into the driveway, their Mom burst out of the front door in a full sprint to scoop up her babies. If I’m being honest, we wanted to take the law into our hands and just leave them there for forever, and it took all the self-control we had to follow the rules and drive into the driveway again a couple hours later to pick them up. This was a time when our home wasn’t the best home. Our parenting wasn’t the best parenting. Our arms weren’t the right arms. And knowing all this, still their Mom tucked Baby Shark into our car seat, hugged Mr. Marvelous and told him to be good for us, and let us drive away with pieces of her heart, knowing that someday, they’d be back.
We’ve thought a lot about those two, our last placements until after medical school, and wondered whether they’re home yet. I’ve especially thought about their Mom, and Super Spidey, Tiny Captain, and Little Ninja’s moms - wondering where they are, how their stories are being written, and whether their arms are full again. I also think about SO many people I know who are waiting to be mothers (or mothers to more) - specifically through foster care and adoption - who are taking the world on their shoulders for these kids who so desperately deserve to be able to celebrate this day, too.
So on this Mother’s Day, we’re loving and remembering and cheering and advocating for all those Other Mothers. The ones who wait with empty rooms and empty arms and more full, but more broken, hearts than they might ever show. We love and see and support you guys. You’re not forgotten. You’re fully worthy. You’re a freaking fantastic mom, whether your kids are home with you or not. From our family to yours - Happy Mother’s Day, and Happy Other Mother’s Day, too.