I can't see myself fostering for more than about ten years. I wonder if anyone should be doing the same job, whatever it is, for more than than ten years.
Funny word "Career". On the one hand it's something you achieve by carefully going up a ladder one rung at a time. On the other hand it's something you achieve by going downhill out of control at breakneck speed because the brakes have failed.
Being a parent is the only job for life. I was down at the finish of the London Marathon once, my other half was running. It was very early, I wanted to get a place right on the barriers by the finishing line. Standing beside me was a small wiry man with a creased face. We started chatting. He said he was here to see "My boy finish the marathon." He was a Northerner. I asked him about being a father, he said "I've watched every game of football my boy has played, every game of cricket. Never missed my boy play."
I had to ask him; "What age is your boy now?"
That's parenting; it's unique like that. Well human parenting is. When I watch David Attenborough I'm always amazed that most animal parents don't bother much with their offspring after they go off.
I met a police officer when I did voluntary youth work, he used to turn up at the club in uniform smiling and serve behind the refreshment bar. His thing was that kids should come to see coppers as being on their side. He told me he hoped to get out of the force by the time he was forty, because when you're a copper you can end up despairing for the human race. Suspecting everyone.
I met a teacher who said people should do ten years on the outside before going into teaching. Then teach for ten years then get out. She said any teacher who tells you they've had thirty years experience in teaching hasn't. They've had one years experience thirty times over.
My brain tells me ten years of fostering will be enough.
Sometimes I find myself in the company of acquaintances, people about my age who I've met a few times, and everybody seems dead keen on swanking about their lifestyle. If someone says they went on a spa weekend recently someone else will top them that they had a weekend in Normandy.
If I'm totally honest, there are times when I'd swap fostering for a shallow life, where I could concentrate on Pilates, my wardrobe and botox.
I picture myself waking up on the boat moored in some Mediterranean harbour and slip over the side for a wake-me-up dip as the sun starts to go from orange to white. Then mosey along to a cafe for granola and a presse orange. I fantasise about being what my dad used to call a "Waste of food".
So, yes, fostering is hard graft and there are times when you need a clear picture that it's not the rest of your life.
But I've met several people who've left fostering, and you know what? They aren't doing cartwheels. They are all over you with questions about the kids and how you're dealing with them. They tell you about their times, maybe how one or two of their looked-after children are staying in touch.
I can't picture myself picking up the phone and saying I'm getting out of fostering, although the day will come.
Fostering isn't the rest of your life. When you're fostering it's most of your life. It may turn out, when you look back, to be one of the best things of your life.