I love fostering and being a foster carer.
It is without doubt the most satisfying and fulfilling thing I have ever done. Fostering has opened so many doors to experiences I never thought I’d have, and I’ve made a wide circle of friends as a result. I’ve broadened my education and attended very interesting training courses.
The best part is the children and young people that have come into my life. Every one of them has touched me, even if they were only with me for 24 hours.
As I write this, I can see it could come across as all sunshine and roses, and that I wake up every day full of warm snuggly feelings. That isn’t the case.
For the past 12 months, until recently, I had three children under five plus a teenager. This meant I was up in the night, often with more than one child and woken at the crack of dawn by a four year old wanting to make cupcakes. If by some miracle all three slept through the night, then my teen kept me up worrying where she was and why she wasn’t answering the mobile phone she was surgically attached to!
Two of my little ones have just left me, moving on to adoption together. They were a lovely sibling pair but not without their triggers and concerns. The youngest, at two, presented with developmental delays and the social care team had concerns about her ability to attach whilst the eldest had trouble trusting adults and had been placed in a care giver role by the circumstance surrounding his neglect.
At four, he knew how to change his little sister’s nappy and wanted to oversee her care. Taking them to where they are now has been a joint effort by Hubby and me; giving them consistent care, love and stability with an emphasis on a therapeutic parenting style.
It worked, and they left us with the ability to attach and love their new parents. We shed plenty of tears when they left but also acknowledged how tiring having three little ones (our 2 year old daughter included) had been.
Rosie, my Supervising Social Worker, spoke to me regularly during the last placement to ensure I took time for myself when I could and to look after my emotional needs. I’m normally quite good at acknowledging that people in a care-giving role need to take time for self-care but recently I’d let that slip. Self-care is important, not just to feel human but also to be able to give your best to the children in your care. Getting to an exhausted physical level or hitting compassion fatigue is a pathway to feeling burnt out and is unsustainable.
If I’m going to give serious consideration to becoming a Nexus 360 carer then I’m going to have to revisit my self-care check list and start practicing what I’m preaching!
I’m a firm believer in doing something special every now and again, such as having a massage, spa date, movie night out with friends or whatever helps you put the stresses of life in a box for a while.
However, I think it’s the everyday self-care which makes the most difference. It might only be 10 or 15 minutes but it can make a huge impact on your day. I’ve been trying it for the past two weeks and have been pleased by the noticeable positive effect it’s having on how I feel.
My 10 minute mind cleanse fits into my life and I squeeze it in when I can: I turn off all electronics and the TV and breathe deeply while I try to clear my mind and focus on my breathing. I’ve been known to do this in the toilet as sometimes it’s the only quiet place I can find!
Whilst I focus on my breathing, I mentally work my way up my body and try to relax each muscle in turn. This helps my mind to stop wandering off but it doesn’t work for everyone. Some people find that the very act of trying to clear their mind makes every worry or stress pop up. Find something that works for you.
Self-care is about reducing stress and taking time out when you need it (if you can) or setting aside time for yourself. It’s also about eating well and having regular exercise. Taking time for yourself is not about being self indulgent or spending money on expensive spa treatments, it’s about recognising that your emotions need attention as well looking after your body. The team behind Nexus 360 understands this which is why as part of the package having time to talk to a therapist is included as standard as well as increased respite time so the 360 carer can recharge their batteries.
Self-care used to have a hippy or new age feel to it, but the business world has really caught on and understands the benefits of employees taking time for self-care and even Hubby’s stick-in-the-mud traditional company has started including it the working week. Call it ‘me time’, mindfulness or self care, I’ll be a better foster carer because of it!