Our first foster placement was a 2-day-old baby boy. We picked him up from the hospital on a Friday evening and I went back to work the next Tuesday. Thankfully, I had found a daycare for him that accepted babies under the age of 6 weeks. My employer also graciously allowed me to bring him to work with me, when my schedule permitted it. Besides, EVERYONE in my office wanted to hold a baby! Even with these options, it was still incredibly hard to foster a newborn while working full-time.
I recall many times just collapsing into the bed once I got home and sobbing from exhaustion. Up all night, working all day and taking care of sweet little boy was, at times, seemingly too much. My husband and I both worked full-time, and I was a foster parent trainer (at night). When people asked me, “How do you do it?” The answer was “I don’t know, we just do.”
Here are a few tips to help you if you are fostering a newborn while working:
1. Pack a protein bar in the diaper bag or your purse. I know this seems silly, but I basically lived on protein bars when fostering. Often, “new” mothers forget to eat due to being so busy. Protein bars help tremendously.
2. If you can nap, do it. My husband and I really tried to make sure each other were getting enough sleep. If the baby was sleeping, we would lie down and try to fall asleep. If the baby was at daycare and I happened to get off of work a little early, I would run home and rest for a bit before picking him up.
3. Figure out a sleep schedule that works for the both of you. Since most foster newborns are formula fed, there is a way for both of you to get a few good nights’ sleep. My husband and I switched nights off and on. I would stay up with the baby one night and the next night, my husband took over. With this schedule, we were both guaranteed to get a good night’s sleep several nights per week.
4. If you are currently fostering in the US, you might hear the term, “Prudent Parenting.” This refers to the requirements for states to promote normalcy for children and youth in foster care. This also applies to newborns. One aspect of Prudent Parenting is that the foster parents are allowed more flexibility in securing their own childcare providers. Always make sure to check with your case management team regarding who you might choose to provide ongoing or temporary childcare.
5. Speak to the Human Resources Department at your place of employment regarding taking leave from work or utilizing FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) for your first six weeks after a newborn is placed. You may not choose this, but it is always good to check your options.
6. f you can arrange a flexible work schedule or have the availability to work from home, do it. The first several months are very important for bonding and if you are a new foster parent, you will feel a bit overwhelmed with meetings, court dates, home visits, parent-child visits, and taking care of a baby.
7. Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself. Taking care of a newborn is extremely exhausting, even without the extra pressures and demands of foster parenting. Remind yourself of the reason you are doing this–to love on a child, provide safety and to play a part in the bigger picture of helping others in your community.
Looking back on my years of foster parenting babies while working full-time, I really don’t know how I got through it. I did, however, choose to embrace the opportunity–as tiring as it was–to try and do better each day, to pour into other little souls’ lives, and to remember that this was what I had signed up for. If I could go back and do it all over again, would I? Yes, without a doubt. I would be so darn tired, and then, gaze into their little eyes and remember how truly blessed I was with the opportunity.
Fostering a newborn while working full-time is possible. Trying to keep it all together on very little sleep and a demanding schedule is hard, but remember, in life, the right, courageous or purposeful things to do are often not the easiest.