My husband works for an airline and, as a result, is often gone many days each week. At the beginning of this year he was hired at a new airline which required an eight-week training schedule…in another state.
We have three biological kids and currently one eight-month-old foster babe. Life always gets a little hectic when adding a new baby to the mix, and it is no different this time around. And just when I was feeling like I had a hold on our daily lives, my husband had to leave us for an extended period of time.
So I set about my pre-planning before he left, rescheduling appointments that had already been made, making sure I was available to be everywhere I was required to be at certain times. I stocked up on frozen foods that I knew would come in handy. And I prayed.
Our baby was still not sleeping much at night and I was developing anxiety over thinking about how much sleep I wasn’t going to get. I didn’t know how the next two months would look but I was nervous yet filled with hope that I could make it work.
Within just a couple of weeks I was starting to feel the stretch that life was asking from me. I had already been flexible, but even rubber bands are known to snap.
There was a shift in our visitation schedule that added more time to my commute. Baby P was only getting one (read that, one) morning nap a week. Something had to give.
I had already cut the fat, but now other obligations had to go. My situation is only temporary but nevertheless I was reluctant to give up these things. It became apparent very quickly that I had to cut more out of our schedule.
These were “obligations” that had to be sacrificed for the sake of keeping the home in one piece. Wouldn’t you know, that week after getting multiple morning naps, Baby P slept through the night for the first time! Can I get an “Amen!”? I knew it right then…this was our new schedule.
I learned a few other things as time went on such as what works for each day in terms of getting kids out the door, getting meals made, or which days I could carve out some time for me. I’m still learning.
Being A Single Foster Parent
So you might be wondering if being a single foster parent can work for you. Perhaps you’re military with a spouse who is gone for several months at a time. Maybe you are single. Or, maybe you’re like me, someone whose spouse travels for work and most of the time it’s you who runs the house while they’re out.
Because fostering is already a full time job, should people who don’t have a 9-5 job and a spouse that’s home every night really be foster parents? The short answer to that is – yes!
There is no cookie cutter mold that you must fit into before becoming a foster home. However, wisdom would also tell you to consider how it can be done.
From other single foster parents or military wives around Colorado, I have compiled practical ways to make life work, and work well, while you’re running the home by yourself.
Practical Tips For Being A Single Foster Parent (or Managing Your Family When Your Spouse Travels)
The foster system is no stranger to single parents. Even when a spouse is home the task can be a stressful…and daunting one. But being a single foster parent is completely possible.
The most important thing is having a set schedule that allows room for flexibility. This is how you will get through each day. Here’s a list of things that singles/military spouses do to run their home:
This means pre-planning meals, groceries, and your schedule as best you can. Some moms make freezer meals ahead of time, knowing which nights they will be cooked. Same goes for crockpot meals.
To limit dishes, get the crockpot cooking bags and paper products. I’ve gone through a few hundred paper plates already. I find this to be better for the trees than taking my stress and an axe to the trees outside.
If budget allows, set aside nights where you go out to eat. You can find a list of places that offer free or discounted kids meals here. Make sure to enter your own city to find the latest deals and always call ahead to confirm.
Take anything off your plate that can wait. Do you volunteer for an organization or otherwise give your time to things you’ve signed up for? Do you have obligations to lead sports or teach Sunday School?
While these things appear on the surface to be time you can’t cut…you can. Find others to step in and take over your roles that pull you away from your house and children. Remember, there won’t be someone around to help with bedtimes or transportation. Right now your kids need you first.
Make like Elsa and let it go. It’s easy to get laundry or dishes done when someone else can make the lunches or load the backpacks. Some of those chores can wait another day…and another.
Expect the house to be a little extra messy and for clutter to build. You’ll eventually get to it, I promise. For me, I made a goal to clean one small spot in the house a day. That may have been the counter by the sink, the dining room table, the toilet (not the entire bathroom), or any other small space.
You know what habit developed? I found that having a clean sink at the end of the night is the only thing that mattered. That counter still has Valentines Day clutter staring me in the face. I’ve even spoken to it. “I see you looking at me,” I say to an inanimate object. Then I give it the stink-eye and move on.
You know what also happened? My son started folding laundry! There’s no other choice to but to recruit my young kids to do those chores that I once did myself. He folds laundry like he’s jumping on the trampoline in a hurricane, but it gets done and I feel better about having the task completed. It seriously doesn’t bother me. Just let it go.
Be Honest with Yourself:
Know your limits and where you need help. Sometimes this develops through time.
Are you an extrovert? Then make sure you plan ahead on how to get time with others. Call your girlfriends to set up a happy hour date night once a month (or week).
Know what fills your tank and make a physical plan to make sure it happens. I am not an extrovert. I need time alone and quiet. For me, getting in some mild exercise like a walk, or mindless TV while sipping a cup of tea is what best fills my day.
Gather a list of babysitters and respite care providers. Be open and honest with your home supervisor about what’s going on in your house.
Murphy has a law, and that law says the worst will happen while you’re alone. The stomach flu stops by for a visit, someone breaks a bone, or heaven forbid a family member passes. This is NOT the only time to use respite, but it sure is a good time to have people lined up ready to help.
The number one piece of advice I got from the women who offered ideas was to ACCEPT HELP. Don’t be afraid to ask and stop declining offers that are made. Let people make you a meal or come watch the kids so you can nap or go to the store alone.
Use Click List, Grocery Delivery Or Amazon Fresh.
Instead of spending an hour or two shopping with 4 kids I just scheduled a pick up time and my groceries were ready and waiting for me. If you shop at any of these stores you can simply have them do it for you! This will save you a lot of time and frustration.
This really should be first on the list. USE RESPITE! There are foster care providers out there that only offer respite for these very reasons.
You need a break. You need help. Life happens, and it can happen in an instant! Don’t be afraid to ask around and see if there is a night or two that your foster kids can be watched so you can take a break, take a nap, or go to the store alone. Respite is the best thing to happen to foster care.
Be a respite provider: Maybe as a single person you don’t think you’ll have the time to be a full-time foster parent. Consider being a respite provider! We need you! You’re still a certified foster home, but you’ll help provide those breaks to other parents who need them. Check out ReNee’s store here.
Yes, you can be single and a foster parent!
To sum it up for you, yes, you can be single and still be a foster parent. You can be a military spouse and still have foster kids in your home.
Just as each family is different, so is each foster home. Working within your limits and knowing how to make your schedule work will set you up for a successful experience. There will still be hard days and nights, but as long as you are open and honest with your home supervisor then Hope & Home can help.