Fostering Thoughts

It’s not often I listen to Esther Perel’s podcast Where Should We Begin? It’s a brave podcast. Well, to be more accurate, the couples who are on the show are brave. Perel is a couples therapist, and each episode the audience listens-in on a session with a couple.

They are very intense and emotional and also, not my problems, so I don’t listen too often, but when I do, I find that I do learn something about communicating. The other night I listened to one about a woman who can’t have kids with her husband who desperately wants to be a dad.  Apparently she is older than him, and when they tried in the past she miscarried. Over time, she came to realize that she actually didn’t want kids at all, and now she struggles with guilt.

Through listening to them, Perel makes the woman realize that it’s not actually that she doesn’t want to have kids, but that she feels inadequate for not being able to have her own, and as a coping mechanism she convinces herself “well, that’s fine, I’m getting old and don’t want them anymore anyway”

To say that hearing this was a revelation is an understatement. I cried in the car as the therapist made this woman realize this because, it’s my story too. I can’t have kids. Not kids of my own. Over time I have come to truly appreciate my freedom on its many levels, and I am all too aware of how taxing it can be to be a parent, even when you have a partner to help share the challenge. My additional excuses are finances (those little buggers are expensive), logistics (who would watch them while I was at work? If they got sick, I’d be the only leaving work), and of course, the reality that stares me in the face every day – I am alone, and what I want is the team.

This did get me thinking however about the idea of fostering a child. It’s not just movie drama that paint foster life as shitty. I believe it is in fact true that many foster homes are horrible places that take kids in for the money and treat them like crap. I know I would be a good parent, and I know I could make an impact on another human being in need of something impactful. A home.

I am no fool however. Fostering a child would be just as much work as having my own or adopting, and possibly even more work because foster kids come with their own complicated histories. I’d have all the same challenges plus extra unknown emotional variables. Pretty scary.

Not to mention I do not want to give up on romantic love. Not just yet. And if I wanted to keep pursuing that, having a foster child would make that very difficult. You can’t exactly leave the kid, foster, adopted, or natural, on the couch while you go on a date.

I compromised and decided with myself that when I’m 50 and all grown up, I would revisit this idea. When I told my friend Dori about this “I’ll be a grown up when I’m 50” idea, she laughed both because it’s funny and also because she knows the feeling of thinking of herself as a non-adult and in some weird way incapable of accomplishing certain things just yet.

The idea of having a kid alone is scary. The idea of taking one in with baggage is terrifying.

Letting this percolate, I came up with another idea that I’m comfortable with and plan to move forward with – to be a Big Sister in the Big Brothers Big Sister program! Once the holiday chaos is over, and the new year is here, I will be signing up to volunteer with BBBS in Boston.

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