Before fostering I had a job which meant I shared an office with 3 women all of whom had grown-up children. Every Monday morning they all tried to make out to each other they'd had the best weekend. The minute you walked in, before you'd hung up your coat you'd get asked "Did you have a nice weekend?". Sounds like a harmless question I know, but actually it meant "Ask me about my weekend" and off they'd go.
None of them spent a moment from Friday evening to Monday morning doing anything mundane like cleaning the toilet or finishing last night's leftovers for lunch. Oh no. Their weekends were end-to-end swanky things like being in the audience for "An Evening With Cilla", or having their very successful son and his wife over for dinner where the canapés matched the wine.
It wasn't as if their telling of the story of their weekend was any good.
They seemed to think they had to list every little detail in order that they happened.
They didn't seem to know the difference between something interesting and something uninteresting. So you had to listen to;
"Well on Sunday afternoon we drove down to the National Trust Bird Sanctuary next to Lady Whatmore's estate, the car park was only 45p for two hours which is very reasonable these days and we went for a lovely walk; we saw a cormorant which was amazing and then we managed to get a harbour-side table at the thatched pub right on the estuary, it was so lovely we shared a crab salad and watched the sun go down, the crab salad was served with crusty white bread rather than slices of brown which actually worked quite well and it was only £5.99 I had a glass of wine with it and we forgot the time and our ticket had nearly run out but we wouldn't have got a fine because everyone was more bothered about the man they pulled out of the water who needed mouth-to-mouth, and we got home just in time for Downton Abbey."
Yawn. None of the other women ever listened anyway, they were busy mentally rehearsing their story.
I used to stay out of it, this competition to see who had the swankiest weekend. After all, how would I win with this:
"Bill took our eldest to his school football match, I had to stay home because our youngest is refusing to come out of her bedroom because someone is picking on her at school. The football went badly so Bill treated him to a new Man U shirt on the way home which only upset youngest when she she found out he'd had a treat and they had a big argument and Bill and I nearly had an argument because I said you can't treat one and not the other, but by this time youngest was milking it and refusing being taken to the cinema because she was happy being the victim. Bill yanked the fridge door too hard and it came off meaning more expense and a fridgeful of milk going off..."
But as time went by I began to realise that the office women weren't having much of a weekend. What was actually going on was that their children had left home and everything was empty. Their home, their weekends, their whole lives. For twenty years their lives had been a rush of children. Suddenly they're idling round the supermarket with a small trolley instead of the family size one. They have to get to know the stranger on the sofa they share a house with. They feel like they must have earned some selfish pleasures. They figure that going to the New Forest and hiring two bikes or going up to town to ride the London Eye before seeing a show must be rewarding, it's what people do in magazines.
One day our children will be other people, that's life.
But Bill and I have agreed we will stay in fostering. Not for us the lying in bed on a Saturday morning in a silent house racking our brains to find ways to fill the void. You'll never find us dressing up in hired costumes for a steam train ride with a hundred other lost souls. Nope.
Fostering has taught us the difference between interesting and uninteresting, that's for sure.
In fostering you end up with hundreds of stories to tell, but you only tell them to your social worker. You share the experience with your partner, it strengthens the bonds.
Are there times when I wish I could turn over and go back to sleep? Or better still, wake up in a 5 star hotel in St Moritz? Yes, obviously, that's normal.
I'm not going to beat about the bush; fostering gives your life a whole lot more meaning than anything I can think of.