Do you love your partner more or less once you're fostering? I ask because St Valentines Day has just come and gone, and you may not have got a treat either.
I think it changes things between a couple. You're not short of something to talk about for a start. On the minus side, lots of little tensions worm their way into the relationship. One of you thinks it's time to put your foot down about something, the other wants to try softly softly. You give in and find the disagreeable half of yourself hoping your partner's strategy fails, which is shameful, but fostering can be mentally tiring, and carers can get frazzled. It doesn't last.
On the plus side, you get moments when you wonder how you managed to put up with the relative meaninglessness of your previous life. Moments like when you get a cup of tea made for you by a young person who couldn't use a fork when he arrived. Or when you realise it's been a month since the last time they came down for breakfast with a new scab on their arm.
Then there's what happens to your sense of humour;
My partner said to me at breakfast on St Valentine's Day; "I've got a bit of free time at work today, why don't you meet me for a morning coffee?"
I agreed, a bit annoyed, but don't think I showed it. Didn't seem much of a St Valentines gift; a coffee in a polystyrene cup in a works canteen.
I showed up, we bought our lattes, sat down and chatted. A woman down by the main door was setting up a stall selling roses for a pound. Another woman was setting up a bigger stall with leaflets and posters. Suddenly an ear-shattering burst of disco music cut short our small talk. All heavy breathing and whimpers. However the CD was scratched, so whatever we were being subjected to was stuttering like mad.
Partner said "Excuse me I'm just nipping to the loo."
Alone, I screwed up my eyes to see what the posters on the stall were about. Saw the word "Prizes" and underneath it what looked like... "Gon..." I guessed it was a romantic competition, perhaps based on love films like Gone With The Wind.
Partner came back. Music still blaring and stuttering. Partner shouts in my ear "The vicar was coming to the canteen to bless marriages, thought it would be nice. However he's held up, and I have to be back in five minutes" We air kiss and partner goes off through door to the workplace.
I go to the main door leading out to the car park. Woman asks me if I want to buy a rose. No thanks. I look at the poster. It's a competition alright. You get a prize if you can successfully identify the symptoms of the major sexual infections.
Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, Genital Herpes, and the rest.
The woman sidles up to me and shouts, over the night club music, "Would you like to brush up on your STIs?"
I go all Victor Meldrew: "No I would NOT like to brush up on my STIs thank you very much!"
I phoned partner and told the story.
Ever since, when things go slightly pear-shaped, we look at each other and one will say "Would you like to brush up on your...." Then roar with laughter.
Which actually, is more help than a vicar's blessing, to be honest.
The Secret Foster Carer