I struggle with friendship.
I can be a pretty insecure friend. I can be a careless friend. I can be a friend who feels hurt and doesn't do anything about it. I'm jealous of those who have tell-anything, text-anytime friends.
But I do have friends. I am friends with caring and loving people who make me laugh. They're imperfect like me.
Some of my friendships have been growing apart a little anyway. Our kids go to different schools now. They play with different neighbor kids. We've changed churches, so our church friends have changed, and that takes time.
But there is also a foster care factor.
Sometimes it's hard when friends don't bond with your foster kids. They don't ask about them. They don't ask after they leave. If you don't get together very regularly, their kids don't see them as a part of your family either. They don't get used to them, and other kids always leap to talk about their misbehavior, even tiny things, because they're the outsider. I know, they're just little kids. But it's hard.
Sometimes it's hard when they've agreed to be cleared to take care of your kids, but you don't know how many times you ask if it becomes a burden. And what about when they are pregnant or have newborns and you should be helping them, but you're still burdened yourself. It's hard to ask.
Sometimes it's hard when your parenting decisions are made up for you. Yes, I'd like to nod along and let my kids run free-range. But I can't risk losing them. Yes, I'd like to be laidback about my messy house. I really hate saying no to something because I have to clean. But I can't trust that my caseworker isn't picky about vacuuming.
Sometimes it's hard when fostering just has you overscheduled. First, I increased my work hours so I'm not nearly-stay-at-home like I used to be. I work three full days per week, partly because the stress of foster care and intensity of fostering toddlers led me to seek more work time. It sounds a bit cold, but it is absolutely the right decision for us for me to work more. Add in visits. Add in sibling visits. Right now we're working hard for Crocodile to have more time with his sisters, and you know when that happens? During the times that we would have invited friends over to our house. Once again, absolutely the right decision, but it does have a cost. I recently talked to Cricket's granny, and she is at Cricket's brother's foster family's house every other weekend. I have to imagine that's a big change in her schedule, too. And I haven't even had foster kids who have a full schedule of appointments.
Sometimes it's easier. With a few people who will never be extremely close but are wonderful listeners and make time for our friendship. I try to honor that time and commit to it, and it's good. And sometimes it's much easier because they are also foster parents or parents who adopted from foster care. We can just say, "Oh man, how were YOUR holidays?" and they know. We can say it's all making us mad, or sad, or confused, and they know. We can call and rant. I only have a few, but I am so grateful for them.
We can't do this alone. But building that community doesn't come easily, and it doesn't come automatically from my existing friendships.
How has fostering affected your friendships?