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Learning to Be Kind to Yourself

by Rachel Johnson about a year ago in foster

A "real" mom's journey toward acceptance (Part One)

Learning to Be Kind to Yourself
Photo by Olivia Bauso on Unsplash

I’m a foster parent.

The only children I have had, or will ever have for that matter, are temporary. I’m not a “real” mom and, thanks to a bout with ovarian cancer, I never will be. I can hear you now, shaking your heads at me for my negative self-talk. It’s only been in the last year or so that I started calling myself a mother. Because my experience was so different from tradition, I felt like a fraud.

But here’s the thing: every single one of those kids has been mine, even the ones I didn’t get along with very well. I’ll admit that there were a couple who had me breathing a sigh of relief when they left. I mourned the sharp loss of others. We knew some would be leaving weeks ahead of time. I remember a set of siblings whom I adored that were moved without warning while I was out of town. I never got to say goodbye to them. I’ve had five kids at one time; at this moment, I only have one. I’ve had every age from baby to teen and every single one of my kids has taught me something new. I love them all in some way.

I worry about them. I pray for them. I hope for the best for each and every one of my 30-some kids.

Just like any other mom.

We are all so different. We all have very different experiences but we all share that title of “mother.”

I’ve had to remind myself of that! Even years into my foster care journey, I never considered myself a Real Mom. No matter how fiercely I loved these kids, I was just a shoddy stand-in for what they really wanted and needed. I think I was harder on myself than anyone else - and isn’t that a universal thing?

I’m writing this on World Kindness Day - at least, according to Instagram hashtags, it’s today - and it feels serendipitous. We see so many admonishments to be kind to each other and that’s good! We shouldn’t even forget that we all see life through different lenses and we all do things a little differently. Those are wonderful reminders.

But this is a reminder to be kind to yourself.

Remember that you are just as loved as your child. Remember to take joy in the little things. You are different and that’s okay! In fact, that’s more than okay. All those differences mean that we can learn from each other. I’m unable to have biological kids but my experiences as a foster mom could help other moms struggling with special needs kids, or moms trying to figure out how to handle their kid’s best friend who doesn’t have the best home life. Moms who have raised kids can help me along the way, when I struggle with knowing what’s age appropriate and what’s normal and what needs attention with the therapists.

I’m just a different sort of mom. So are you. We don’t deserve our harshest criticism.

So be kind to yourself!

(to be continued; this is a journey toward acceptance, after all.)


Rachel Johnson

Read next: Hidden in Plain Sight

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