Foster parenting is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. And that’s understating it by a lot. It’s also just about the best thing I’ve ever done, which is even more of an understatement. I simultaneously feel both of those things every day.

Sometimes I feel like I’m not allowed to feel both. Somehow there is a feeling that because I chose foster care, these kids, these issues, I’m not allowed to really feel the difficulty I’m faced with in walking alongside them. Or, because I wouldn’t have it any other way, that means I’m not allowed to feel the weight of it. I’m not sure if this expectation comes from inside of me, or from the many (unsolicited) comments I receive as foster/adoptive mom.

Either way, this is not truth. So, here’s some encouragement to foster and adoptive parents (myself included) on the hardest days:

Dear Fellow Foster Parents,

This journey is long. Some days are marked with progress that will put you on top of the world. Probably more days will be filled with struggle, worry, paperwork, behavioral issues, and thoughts of “What the hell are we doing?!”

In all of those moments, all of those thoughts and feelings are OK. Don’t let anyone, including yourself, make you think that you aren’t allowed to feel all the things that come with loving children who once were strangers to you, who experienced trauma they have no way of processing.

Yes, you chose this path. You chose this because you love these children, even when you don’t know who they are. And these children need that love. So badly. But don’t let that fact guilt you into pretending you aren’t struggling sometimes. Because some days are a struggle, and that’s okay. Other days aren’t, and that’s okay, too.

Your parenthood may look different than others, but it’s real. It’s so very real. Don’t allow yourself or anyone else to convince you that you’re somehow a half parent or that you don’t understand what parenting is really like. You’re in the trenches with these children–your children–every day. You’re fighting their battles alongside them, or, in many cases, for them. If that’s not parenthood, I don’t know what is.

Allow yourself to feel the weight of the struggle you’re facing, but also take a step back often so you can see the progress, and revel in that. It’s there. On a particularly hard day, a friend told me that progress is not going to be a straight line. It definitely isn’t, and that means that you’ll only be able to see it by looking at the big picture. Take the time to see it.

This journey is long, filled with struggle and so much sunshine. Through all of it, keep on keeping on.

With love,