Foster Parenting: When Dad Is Doting And Mom Is A Moody Impostor

Parenting Styles: Parenting Tips For Foster Parents

I always knew I married a man who's a far better human being than I. "The Wee One" reminds me daily.

I've always known I married a man who is a far better human being than I. (My own father who loves and adores me actually told me this on my wedding day so you know it’s legit.)

It should therefore come as no surprise that The Hubs took to foster-parenting "The Wee One" like a champ.

It was freakish, really. Here's a man who, on our second date, practically high fived me when I told him "No marriage, no babies." (Yes, I'm aware I changed my mind about the whole marriage thing. For me, I cared less about the label and more about the Happiness Factor. And when I realized I didn't want to live without this man, I agreed to marry him.)

But I digress…

Here’s me as an #ImposterMom: Fumbling, bumbling, frustrated, resentful, tired, overwhelmed.

Here's The Hubs as an Instant Dad: Patient, calm, loving, nurturing, intuitive.

From Day 1, he cooked, cleaned, changed diapers, bathed, dressed, and doted on The Wee One like it was the most natural thing in the world. And he actually seemed to ENJOY his new role as Doting (Foster) Dad. And from Day 1, The Wee One loved him for it. They had — and continue to have — the most natural, beautiful, healthy bond. He's her Ouie (her version of Louie). And she's his Wee One. It is ONLY because of The Hubs that I was ever able to surrender my BS and open up to The Wee One. And while he instantly shape shifted to accommodate the new addition into our lives, I was more of a slow starter.

When I say slow starter, I mean it took me five months.

In my defense, I think there were two issues in my way. One: ME. I'll get to that in a moment.

The other: The Wee One is not my baby. And out of respect to my sister-in-law, I think I felt the need to firmly and vocally establish to myself and to the world on a daily basis that THIS. WAS. NOT. MY. BABY.

In putting up these emotional barriers and boundaries on my heart, my relationship with The Wee One was directly affected. Whereas she always reached out for her Ouie, ran after him when he left the room, and cried for him when he left the house, she NEVER — in the first five months in my care — EVER said my name.

And then one Sunday afternoon, five months into our life as Foster Parents, we went to pick up The Wee One at her grandmother's house where she'd spent the night on an approved weekend visit with Mama.

I remember walking through the front door, my husband and I. I remember The Wee One looking up, her face lighting up. I remember her running to her Ouie, jumping into his arms, and staring at him lovingly while she placed her little hands on each side of his face and tilted her own face back and forth as she sweetly whispered, "Ouie, Ouie, Ouie."

I remember the look of pure unconditional love that ran between them. And I remember thinking, "I'm not having that same experience. I’M missing out." There's nothing more humbling than taking a long, hard look in the mirror and owning up to the simple truth that YOU are the problem in any given situation. As painful as it can be to see yourself in the way, it's also freeing because it means you now have the opportunity to step aside and allow a healing to take place.

That night, after The Wee One was sleeping peacefully, I went to my husband and asked for his help.

"I'm not having the same experience you're having with The Wee One. And if I don't change, I'll miss out. Show me how to do what you do." And in that quiet moment, The Hubs kissed me, and said, "Babe, I've loved a lot of f***ed up women in my life. And I've learned how to love them even when they can’t love themselves." It was a simple statement, but I got it.

In the past, whenever The Wee One tantrumed, I walked away. Whenever she fussed, I put up a wall. Whenever she pulled anything remotely resembling a DIVA act (my perception, not reality), I did my best to out-diva her. After all, DIDN'T. SHE. KNOW. WHO. I. WAS? The answer was no. As long as I behaved this way, she didn't know who I was. Because I wasn't allowing her to see or experience me as a loving Imposter Mom. 

The next day, I shifted my behavior. When she cried, I held the space for her to move through her emotions. When she threw a tantrum, I patiently waited for her to be done. And when she resisted me, I didn't push back with resistance. Within 48 hours, The Wee One was running around the house, lovingly calling after me, "Sisa, Sisa, Sisa!" Our relationship was forever changed. And I am forever a better woman for having done the work to receive the beautiful reward that is her unconditional love.

In hindsight, I recognize how lucky I am to have a husband who can roll with whatever punches life throws at him, and re-balance himself with ease. I also see that had The Hubs taken MY approach to instant-foster-parenting, not only would The Wee One have missed out on experiencing the unconditional love of a good man (and eventually a good Imposter Mom), but our marriage would most likely have crumbled under the pressure of two Imposter Parents.

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