How often does the average foster carer think about giving it up?
Quite often, if they are anything like me. Obviously, you think about it more often when something is going badly at home.
That's when your brain rekindles your favourite fantasy. In my case a fantasy where I've not only packed it all in, but gone off to live in the sun. I see myself lolling all day on one of those mahogany 4 berth yachts moored in a Mediterranean marina.The local Deli delivers a crate of wine every week and a hamper of luxury food; duck pate, stuffed olives.
The longer I have to daydream, the richer the fantasy gets; I'll be driving up into the mountains for lunch, and a secret rendezvous with a very attractive neighbour from 3 yachts along the jetty. All my old friends from as far back as school are arriving at the weekend for my birthday party...
Above all, I have nothing to do. No obligations or responsibilities. Bliss.
That's about the point where the daydream ends. Why? Usually because someone's locked themselves in the toilet and won't come out until I've changed their Social Worker, or somebody phones from school to say there's been an incident. Or, even more likely, the washing machine pings that it's finished or several emails have accumulated.
Just for the hell of it, about ten minutes before writing this post, I kept the fantasy going. I'm lying on the yacht. A trifle woozy from last night and the sun. It's half past eleven. I'm bored. I turn on the radio, but it's some French station, and I'm wondering what's going on at home. I won't see anybody until the afternoon, so I've only got myself for company. I notice the veins on my shins and remember that time gets us all. I pick up my book, but it's not as interesting as my old life used to be. I'm going to a dinner party on Saturday with a new bunch of bores, and as usual I'll regale everyone with stories from my time as a foster carer.
Before I knew it I wanted to be back in the thick of it, honestly, I really did. Try it yourself and see. You'd go numb with tedium. It's like combat veterans who talk about finding themselves walking towards the sound of gunfire.
I remind myself that every ordinary job I ever had before fostering, I used to daydream about packing it in. And yet every time I had a break between jobs I couldn't wait to get back in the saddle. It's the same, maybe even more so with fostering. With some children, their troubles are nine parts of the joy. Some children, let's be honest, you're relieved to see them move on. But when the door closes behind them, the peace and quiet is an emptiness.
Thinking about packing it in is normal. If the voices get loud, we're told to talk to our Social Worker or other carers. Maybe that would help, I don't know. I talk to myself, and my thing is this; that time gets us all, and I don't want to fritter it hiding behind the sofa.
Nor do you, I suspect, especially if you're a foster parent.
That said, I thought about the yacht at least ten times over the weekend, dammit.
The Secret Foster Carer