A question that is often asked of foster parents or other caregivers is, “how can you do it?” or “is it worth it?”. There seems to be some bewilderment that surrounds the idea of raising children, in general, and it appears to increase exponentially when it comes to raising children that are not biologically your own.
It won’t come as a surprise to anyone involved in the raising of children that parenting is hard. From those early years that come with sleepless nights, constant crying, and the fear of not knowing what your child needs to those teenage years that come with sleepless nights, constant crying, and the fear of not knowing what your child needs. Parents and other caregivers are almost always in a state of self-doubt about whether or not they are doing the right thing for their child.
Then, of course, there are the societal pressures that seem to come in an endless barrage. These are the things that manifest in the snide comments from random people at Walmart about “kids these days”, the childless people who talk about the fact that “their child won’t act like that”, or the elderly people who say that “they would have never let their child get away with that.” (Foster parents don’t have the luxury of explaining the circumstances of their child and so those snide remarks and rude looks often go unaddressed.)
Parenting, with the explosion of social media in the past two decades, has essentially become a full-contact sport for which one must be prepared to take hits from all directions. With all the negativity and stress that comes with even the idea of parenting, it is understandable that people wouldn’t want to have anything to do with it. Because really, why would you intentionally set yourself up to struggle, feel miserable, and question your every move?
The simple answer is that it’s all worth it. Every tantrum. Every argument. Every moment of frustration and self-doubt is worth the knowledge that, as a parent or caregiver, you are showing that child that they are valuable—that they are loved. It is worth it to know that you are giving that child the tools that they need to build a successful life. Parents and caregivers of displaced children, especially, work daily to be the example and support and safety net that every child deserves but may not have always had.
It’s not easy. Some might even go as far as to say that it is the hardest job in the world. It’s exhausting and often thankless. And it might just be some of the most meaningful work a person ever does.