Sunday, June 11, 2006

Hard Times

Burnout. Complete and total. The Wife has had to deal with "Angel" all day, every day for months now. I've helped when I can, but I've had my own issues with a very hectic work schedule and haven't been as much help as she's needed. "Josie" has actually been some help, but not THAT much.

Much help has been promised by many people, but none has actually quite gotten here except that Mom and Dad have been great in giving us at least a tiny respite now and then. It was actually a treat Friday night to leave the house and check in to a hotel a few miles down the road so we wouldn't have to drive so far to our foster training all day Saturday.

It's beginning to affect our relationship with each other, never mind our relationship with the kids. We're both irritable and probably not much fun to be around. We didn't sign up for this kind of thing.

The good news: it sounds like the PCA services might actually be arriving starting Tuesday. I'll believe it when I see it, but it actually sounds like help might be on the way. Further good news: we've arranged for respite care Tuesday through Friday, and The Wife will get to go out of town (back to that city I blogged about earlier) and visit old friends. She should have a good time. I have to work, but it will still be heaven to be able to come home to a house empty of all but mutts.

When that starts to look like heaven, ladies and gentlemen, you have reached foster burnout.

The Wife is feeling a bit better about things tonight after Mom helped us decide we had to have a break at all costs and arranged these things. My jury is still out. I'm going to wait until the week of July 4, when I have the week off. I'll probably have at least part of that week off by myself at the lake cabin, where I will have work-free time to relax, think, and maybe do a little plotting for the future.

I've reached the point where I not only am doubting whether fostering is for us, but whether any sort of parenting at all is really within my abilities. I've been getting too angry too quickly. I dread going to work, and I dread coming home from work. "Angel's" screaming and tantrums have turned from cute--or at worst mildly annoying--to just plain ugly.

I've gotten annoyed more quickly with The Wife, and I'm sure she would not only affirm that but enthusiastically put forward the idea that she's gotten annoyed more quickly with me. Both of us probably have good reasons...but we just had to do something before this started to put permanent or semi-permanent scars on our still-pretty-young marriage.

Mom says (noting herself that she was speaking only with 20-20 hindsight) that we have just tried to do too much through too many changes too quickly to be able to absorb it all, and maybe didn't spend enough time tamping down that pesky little marriage relationship thing. I suppose she's probably right, annoying as it is.

Most people who foster seem to have been married much longer than us before they start, and also most of them seem to have had their own kids for awhile. We have some pretty unique qualifications that mitigate the former issue. The latter issue being impossible for us, we forged ahead and the Devil take the hindmost. I guess the Devil finally got his cut, huh?

Well, I suppose we're not the first to hit a rough patch, and this rough patch maybe won't be the last for us. But a rough patch it is, and it's probably the main reason for the reduced blogging lately. It's hard to feel like writing when you feel like I have the last couple of weeks.

We've got a mini-break this week as I described, and next weekend I'll be hoisting shingles to the roof at the lake cabin, which sounds like work but will really be fun doing another project with Dad (nice Father's day activity if you ask me) and some much-needed manual labor to work out aggression. I have a week off work next month and another week the following month. "Josie" has started a job which gives us a little more of a break now and then. We'll just need to give ourselves and each other as much TLC as we can, and hopefully we'll get out of our tailspin and back on track.

End of griping for now. Thanks for listening.


At 8:26 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Dan, My wife and I know exactly where you are at right now. We've been through that route many many times. You mom is right. It's time to slow down and absorb all the changes. Only handle things as fast as your comfortable and try not to take too much on your plate. Smart idea on the respite so you and "the wife" can "rest". I wish we only thought of that a year ago ourselves. Take care of yourselves...

At 9:28 PM , Blogger Beth said...


From my perspective you are right on schedule.

After doing care for about six months I rather suddenly found myself in a friend's kitchen crying. I called the social worker and told her I had to have a weekend off. She said, "Good for you" and arranged it.

Later the family developer told me that it is at about six months that they figure out who is going to make it and who isn't. The ones who make it are the ones who are asking for help.

It is draining work, you have to pace yourself. I had a girl, I mention her fairly regularly, that was too much for me, at least while I have any other kids in the house. I have had to learn what sort of child I am ready to parent at this point in my life.

I am giving respite to a family who regularly takes "challenge" kids. They schedule respites far in advance. I have girls from her house for about a week at New Year's, in June, and usually for a long weekend in the middle of fall and spring. They have learned not to wait until they need it. They always know when their next break will be.

You are going to make it.

At 6:36 AM , Blogger Tamara said...

We get so incredibly tired - and all we have is one baby. Having my MIL this week was such a blessing. In spite of the challenges a MIL in your home for a week brings, it was a welcome break just to have the support. Wyld and Beth are right - we will make it.

On a side note, earlier than 6 months, I sat in the bedroom sobbing after baby cried nonstop for HOURS and told my husband that we needed to call the SW and quit because I couldn't handle it anymore. My DH said to give it a week - and I did. I'm glad I didn't jump too quickly. I just needed sleep - and that's what he gave me.

At 7:33 AM , Blogger Julie said...

Dan- Thanks for writing all this out- I am a new foster parent- single and have had a placement for about 2 and a half months. I have not hit the wall yet but am glad to hear from you and the rest who have commented that it is coming and to watch out for it. I still can't believe they haven't provided the help they promised when you took Angel that is what sucks the most as it would not wear you and your wife out so much if you had the help you were suppose to be provided. This is where the system makes me so mad!! Lack of follow through- among other things. Ya'll hang in there. You have done so much for Josie and Angel- I would hate to see you not be able to continue with them or provide that same love and care for other children who need it. Praying for you guys!!!

At 6:29 PM , Blogger Dan said...

Thanks you guys. You know, however things turn out, 10 years from now when I look back on this it will look like the best time out of the whole thing. When we took ourselves to the edge and gave it our best shot.

It's like looking back at college and taking the most pride in the quarter when I took 26 credits and got A's in all of them, or the stormy friendships and relationships I had back then that have stuck with me to this day.

At least I hope so. Otherwise I've watched 101 Dalmations 398 times for nothing.

At 8:57 PM , Blogger Mary said...

My husband and I were only married nine months when we got our three kids. Talk about a life change! I completely understand what you're experiencing and can tell you that you do need that time away with one another. It took a little bit but my husband finally understand the importance of maintaining our relationship first and foremost; as a healthy couple we can be healthy parents. I'll keep you in my thoughts ....

At 8:38 AM , Blogger FosterAbba said...

Hang in there, Dan. We have just started our journey into foster parenting, so I can't offer any practical advice other than to push back on your social worker and demand that you get promised help.

Hang in there, buddy, and know you are in our prayers.


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