When you and your spouse started talking about foster care, you probably had an idea of how your home would be affected - new children, increased volume, schedules being rearranged to accommodate visits and appointments. But did you consider how your marriage would be impacted? The call to parent kids from hard places can be a strengthening experience for your marriage, but it can also put a unique kind of strain on it. Communication will look different, the available time you had for date nights and quality time may become nonexistent, and the never-ending work of parenting can consume you even when you are on a “break”. The demands you were already experiencing do not fade when you bring foster children into your home, but rather continue as you add more and more to your plate.
The goal of foster care is to provide stability and security for these children and youth, and in order to do that you need to be able to nurture and tend to your marriage to keep your home stable. In other words, to serve the children and youth that are in care, you need to also serve your home and do the hard work to ensure your relationships do not get overlooked in this new, exciting, and sometimes overwhelming season of fostering.
Here are a few things to consider to be intentional with your spouse as you embark on this journey together.
- Make Time Together a Priority – Utilize your support system, take your caseworker up on an offer for Respite Care, and do not be afraid to ask for help. The concept of continuing to date your spouse is crucial here because the time will not just come on accident. You will have to make the time to spend together, and you will have to guard it with intentionality.
- Talk About More Than Foster Care – It is easy to fall into the trap of spending those rare moments alone to catch up on your feelings about the case, or about a new parenting technique you want to implement. While it is important to talk with one another about how you are doing, feeling, and what your needs may be, there is still more to life than just your role as a foster parent. Take time to listen and encourage each other, and let the conversations go deeper.
- Serve One Another – Stay aware of one another, and support each other by offering breaks and encouraging times to rest and relax. Do not be afraid to go out for a girl’s night, or to ask for a chance to sleep in on Saturday morning. Taking breaks will help give you some energy, cool down if you are emotionally escalated, and spend time with your support systems that can encourage you and offer advice.
There is so much more that needs to be done to ensure a healthy marriage while navigating something new, and I hope you take the time to sit down and discuss what will work best for you before that first placement comes along. Need more ideas? Ask your Foster Care Advocate to get you connected with families that have been fostering for a while, and ask what it took for them.