I can’t believe it, but last week was the 25th anniversary of the show Friends. I remember watching that show growing up and thinking, “I want friends like that.” It got me thinking about my friends that I have now and how many friends I’ve gained and lost through our journey as foster parents.
We have all heard the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child.” When you become a foster parent, you quickly realize how true that statement is and how quickly your village will change.
We knew becoming foster parents would impact our lives and our family but we weren’t prepared for how much it would change our friendships. Throughout our years as foster parents, we have lost friends, yet gained new and invaluable friends.
The “Mom Gap”
Naturally, when you become a parent, you may experience slowly spending less time with friends and eventually losing touch altogether. I’ve recently learned about the MOM GAP. There are many reasons for this and it is completely normal. It may seem like you have less time but most likely you’re just choosing to spend your time differently. Suddenly, watching a baby sleep is so much more entertaining than dinner and a movie with your friends. You may also find that your friends stop inviting you places because they just assume you won’t be able to go or won’t want to go because you have kids. They might not understand you can no longer just pick up and go. You have to arrange a sitter, make sure the kids have what they need before you go and if you are lucky, plan enough time to get out of your yoga pants and messy bun.
So, you have now accepted this new life as a mom. You have navigated friendships, gained new “mommy friends” and accepted that your Friday night looks different but you love it!
Then you became a foster parent.
Suddenly you realize you are even starting to lose your “mommy friends.” A night out with friends becomes even more challenging. You may find that it is difficult if not impossible to find a sitter that can handle the behaviors of your foster child. Suddenly, your friends are “unavailable” to babysit.
Friends Don’t Always Understand Your Foster Child’s Behavior
If your friends are not foster parents, they may struggle to understand your foster child’s behavior. Remember they have not been in hours of training like you. They don’t know the child’s story that breaks your heart and helps you get through the tantrums. They may just see a “bad” kid. Your friends may be worried about the behaviors of your foster children affecting their kids. Other than behavior challenges, you may have friends that are worried about foster kids being a “bad influence.”
Even if your friends are understanding and can accept that you may have a foster child that bites, hits, kicks, or throws things regularly with little understanding as to what even triggered the behavior, you may find you just don’t want to put yourself in a situation to have to justify behaviors. You may find it difficult to enjoy time with your friends because you have to focus so much of your time and energy on managing behaviors instead of actually visiting with your friends.
So, what do you do? You can’t become consumed with your kids and forget to take time to rest, relax, and laugh. These three things are paramount to having a healthy balance and a happy family. Remember, if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. Ultimately, if you are stressed and tired you will quickly find you are not enjoying being a mom and those negative behaviors just seem to keep getting worse.
How Can I Have Friends As A Foster Mom?
I have put together a list of tips to help you overcome feeling isolated as a foster parent and help you adjust to this new lifestyle with your friends.
#1 Accepting the Mom Gap
The mom gap is more than just explaining why there is a gap in your resume. It also applies to friendships. You may find yourself scrolling through Facebook, to find your once close friends had a fun weekend without you. Naturally, you might feel jealous and angry that you weren’t even invited. If you really dig deep down, you’ll most likely discover you aren’t really upset about not going or even about not getting invited…you are lonely. You have to admit to yourself why you feel the way you do and commit to making a change.
It’s easy to be upset and blame your friends for not inviting you to go places, but you have to also remember friendship is a relationship and relationships take work. Don’t feel bad expressing your feelings with your friends. You can’t be so busy that you never reach out to your friends. Don’t expect your friends to be the only ones to reach out. Invite your friends over, call and text just to check in, and let your friends know when you have a sitter and that you are planning to have an adult night out.
I once found myself missing my friends and when I talked with them, I was told they felt bad and didn’t want to interrupt my family time. I had stopped calling and my friends felt I just didn’t have time for them anymore. You might have to try harder to keep those friendships if it is important to you. Communication is key in a friendship just like it is in a marriage. Social media has it’s down sides but this can be a great way to keep in touch and update friends and family on your ever changing family.
#3 Support Groups
There are many support group options for foster parents. I know sitting in a circle sharing your feelings might now be for everyone. That is ok. You can join social media foster parent groups which can be so helpful to vent, ask questions, or just connect with someone that understands what you’re going through. You can also look for local groups that meet for play dates or support group meetings.
#4 Foster Parent Association
Find out if there is a foster parent association in your county. They usually have monthly meetings that may include training, support groups and other events just for foster/adoptive parents. Here is a link to the Nation Foster Parent Association. They have a lot of information for foster parents. Their annual conference is held in a different location each year and is a great opportunity to meet many foster parents and get a lot of training hours in one weekend.
#5 Make Time For Friends
Just like I recommend planning regular date nights with your spouse, do this with your friends. Plan get togethers without the kids and stick to your plans as much as possible. You don’t want to get into a habit of canceling plans because you feel guilty about leaving. You need time for yourself in order to be a good mom. This could be for a few minutes, a few hours, or even a few days. If you can’t get away from the house, get creative and plan get togethers when the kids are napping or sleeping. Some ideas for friends dates include:
- Nap time lunch
- Wine night at your local Zoo
- Go for coffee
- Shopping (I don’t mean for groceries)
- Sip and Paint
- Movie Night
- Game Night
- Sing a duet at karaoke
- Go to a concert
- Spend a day at the beach
- Binge watch Friends or any other binge worthy show
- Take a road trip
- Read the same book
I want to leave you with this. Fostering is hard and you need a village. Don’t overthink everything like we moms like to do…commit to building your village and taking time for yourself.
In honor of the FRIENDS anniversary, I am having a sale on some of my items in my shop. Check them out here.