Step 18 - The Differences
A few months before I welcomed the first child into my home, I slowly started to realize the many differences between welcoming a new child into your home through your vagina versus through foster care.
Initially, I was going to call this post “The Difference Is That You Can Drink” because one of the weird differences for me was the ability to drink. No matter how you bring a child into your life, the months leading up to it can be extremely overwhelming. If I were pregnant, I would not be able to drink to cope. I would recommend not using drinking to cope with anything, but there were a handful of times I used drinking to calm my fears the past few months. In those times, I definitely went overboard on a couple of occasions. It was so easy to say “I won’t be able to drink when my kid gets here so I have to do it all now!”
The next difference really is the exact opposite. Once they get here, you can’t drink. Now I understand that due to breastfeeding many women don’t drink right away when their baby gets here and that makes sense. On the other hand, many people drink when they have foster kids in their home. I’m really just talking about my experiences of course. In my home, all alcohol has to be locked up in order for me to keep my fostering license. I typically only drink cold beer/wine and while I do have a lock box in my fridge, it isn’t big enough for more than two bottles. This doesn’t lend itself well to drinking. Additionally, many of the teenagers in care are working through substance abuse, so watching you consume substances is not ideal. Plus, I want to strive to be the best role model possible, which for me does not include drinking every night.
Another difference is that when you are welcoming your children through foster care, loss is ever present. It is very possible for a child to come into your home for only a couple of nights or a couple of months. You love them with all of your heart and then they are gone. You can definitely experience moments of deep loss. More importantly, you need to be aware of all of the loss in your child’s life. Being placed in foster care represents in itself a great amount of loss. Loss of your family, your friends, your school, your normalcy. The most important concern for everyone helping a child in care is the child’s safety, which often means they lose many of the things they love. No matter how wonderful it is in your home and how much of a family you become, loss is a part of their life in a way that is different than it is for biological children.
One of the more predominant differences in my life was how my workplace treats the arrival of biological children compared to how they treat the arrival of foster children. This summer, we learned that one of my female coworkers is pregnant. At the same time, we learned that one of my male coworker’s wives is also pregnant. It is the first baby for both couples. Financially and logistically, there is the huge difference of maternity and paternity leave. When my male coworker’s baby was born, he had a couple of weeks off to spend with his wife. My female coworker will be taking six paid weeks and six unpaid weeks of work off for her baby’s arrival. My company does offer maternity leave when you adopt, but not when you foster, so even though there are many things to do - enrolling them in school, taking them to appointments, bonding, etc. - there is no time off to do those things. I’ll tell you that I’d definitely love a paid week off to bond with my daughter and get her situated.
The other difference at work has truly been nagging on me for a while. When my other coworker’s announced their baby’s anticipated arrival, we celebrated. There has been no celebration for me and my new family. For my male coworker, we all pitched together for a card and a gift. He received a $250 gift card to the store they frequent the most. For my female coworker, it was so much more grand. We all pitched together to get a card and a gift. Then, one of our coworkers had us all write well wishes on an electronic card that she is going to print on poster board. They are also having a baby shower for her in the office. Tonight.
I guess I can’t really describe my feelings on the office differences even though I have lots of feelings about it. I guess unsupported comes to mind, but I am blessed with so many wonderful coworkers who consistently ask me about my journey all of the time and always want to know how it is going, so I am actually incredibly supported. Uncelebrated might be more accurate. I didn’t start this journey for people to celebrate me, but I do wish that my workplace publicly celebrated the new addition to my home in the same way that they celebrated it for biological additions. This was one difference that I did not expect and one that I would love to see changed over time in workplaces across the world.